Bellator and Rizin kicked off their two-day NYE special in Japan with Bellator 237. It was an event that pitted fighters from both promotions against each other, and was headlined by two MMA legends that made their names fighting in the very same venue and country.
Fedor Emelianenko: The 43-year-old MMA legend had enough in the tank — at least a lot more than his opponent — and he just absolutely picked apart Rampage. He landed power punches and flurries that he’s been known for, but he also mixed in some good kicks that kept Rampage guessing as well. It was a completely one-sided affair capped by a one-punch walk-off KO. Retiring after that flawless performance at the Saitama Super Arena would actually be the perfect way to end his legendary career — but this is still combat sports, where storybook endings are rare and people compete a lot longer than they should.
Michael Chandler: He again displayed that power, cracking Sidney Outlaw with that right cross for a pretty quick KO win. It was a nice way to rebound from the Pitbull loss for the former Bellator champion.
Michael Page: MVP got another highlight reel win, dismantling Shinsho Anzai and finishing him with a nice counter shot. This marks three straight wins for Page. Anzai was already a a bit of a step up compared to his last two opponents, but it was still a pretty clear mismatch style-wise, and the 32-year-old striker should really get a much better opposition at this stage.
Lorenz Larkin: Larkin just slowly busted up K-Taro and got a pretty dominant win. The fact that it went to a decision is testament to Nakamura’s toughness, because Larking looked terrific.
Goiti Yamauchi: Not that it wasn’t predictable, but that part where he kicked off the cage to get Cruickshank’s back and choke him to sleep was just beautiful. Interestingly enough, this was also the Japanese-Brazilian fighter’s first bout in his home country, and he could’ve gotten some new fans with that nice performance.
Bellator and Rizin: The promotion vs promotion match ups was always an interesting concept, and this two-day NYE special could really boost the profile of both Bellator and Rizin. It’s interesting to note that outside the main and co-main event, Bellator went 3-1 against Rizin on the main card bouts.
PRIDE fans: Not only did two of the biggest stars from PRIDE fought on the main event, Bellator and Rizin also cranked up that nostalgia factor with the production value. Rampage walked out to the PRIDE theme song on his return to the Saitama Super Arena, and Lenne was also there screaming out introductions.
Quinton Jackson: Rampage weighed in the heaviest he’s ever been, and looked in terrible shape physically. He fought exactly like how he looked too, slowly plodding and just getting completely picked apart by Fedor, who looked much faster and in much better shape. Rampage also shook his head when he got knocked down, basically forcing the referee to stop the fight, then immediately complained about the stoppage right after. He wasn’t able to do anything on the completely one-sided bout. Hopefully they both got paid well, because honestly, between the two fighters, it looked like Rampage was the one who needs to hang up the gloves more.
Keita Nakamura: He showed a lot of heart and a tremendous chin, but it speaks volumes if that’s one of the very few things you can compliment about his performance. K-Taro survived but he was absolutely battered and busted up for a good chunk of those three rounds against Larkin.
Sidney Outlaw: I would’ve put him on the “neither” column since he really had nothing to lose after stepping up on relatively short notice against a former champion, but that finish was just so brutal, it’s impossible to not have consequences from it.
Shinsho Anzai: Same as above. He probably took more damage too.
Fans: Bellator catered to their broadcast partners and the US audience at the expense of the Japanese MMA fans, who had to go to that iconic arena very early in the morning. At the same time, the post-lims wasn’t available to the US audience too. Just weird broadcasts and timing overall for this event.
Daron Cruickshank: He again lost to a far superior grappler, and it was pretty predictable too. But this loss shouldn’t be too bad for Cruickshank’s career. He didn’t take much damage, and he will still keep his niche spot in Rizin, as he is always a pretty reliable action fighter — with a sellable character/gimmick — that they love having.