Yoel Romero’s Bellator MMA debut did not go as well as he’d hoped.
In the main event of Bellator 266 in San Jose, the former UFC middleweight title challenger struggled to generate much meaningful offense and was thoroughly outwrestled in the third round against Phil Davis. For some wild reason, a judge scored this fight for Romero and it was so bad that the pro-Romero crowd booed it and Yoel himself seemed to gesture that he didn’t win that fight. Thankfully, the other two judges had sensible cards and Davis was the victor by split decision.
If the 44-year-old Romero was largely selling out for home run swings looking to knock out a foe who has seldom been rocked his entire career, Davis stuck to the fundamentals and was just the busier striker. Romero had a difficult time dealing with Phil’s leg kicks and he was caught on a couple of 1-2 combos. The Cuban’s best success came early in round two when his calf kick buckled Davis and caused him to back up and then shoot for a takedown, which Romero stuffed. Apart from that, Davis did enough on the feet and then dominated the 2000 Olympic silver medalist with a late takedown in round two and then four more of them in the third frame. It was a wrestling clinic from the former NCAA Division I national champion and Romero’s scrambles were only met with more takedowns.
Post-fight, it looked as if Romero thought this was a five-rounder instead of three rounds. I don’t think things would’ve improved from there, Yoel.
Davis (23-6, 1 NC) gets back in the win column after his title fight loss to Vadim Nemkov in April, while Romero (13-7) has dropped four straight and this was his clearest defeat throughout this losing skid.
Phil Davis def. Yoel Romero by split decision (30-27, 28-29, 30-26) - Light Heavyweights
Neiman Gracie def. Mark Lemminger by TKO (punches) at 1:27 of round 1 - Welterweights
It’s not often you see a Gracie winning by KO or TKO, but that’s what we saw in the co-main event. Neiman was comfortable standing with Lemminger and it was a right uppercut that rocked Mark badly. Gracie unleashed a slew of punches and really it was only the cage keeping Lemminger up. A big barrage of power shots and that yielded a standing stoppage win for Neiman Gracie. It’s his first ever knockout win. Bet you didn’t expect that specific outcome, did you?
Alejandra Lara vs. DeAnna Bennett - Women’s Flyweights (130 lbs catchweight after Bennett missed the flyweight limit)
Lara had a bright start on the feet, but in the first exchange on the ground Bennett looked to control the Colombian and Lara tried to prevent her from taking her back.That avoidance failed and Lara was flattened out. Bennett threatened a rear-naked choke, bailed briefly and threw some punches in hopes of softening her foe up and then going for the submission. The punches persisted as Lara tried to escape. She was able to get out of back mount but that top position from Bennett continued and she poured on the ground-and-pound against the one-time Bellator title challenger. Lara did extremely well to return to her feet but no doubt who on the opening round.
Bennett cracked Lara with a left and right hand early in round two that caught Lara’s attention. This was a striking-heavy round, although Lara stuffed a couple of Bennett takedowns. It looked like Bennett got the better of most of the exchanges. Round three was more even with the striking, and in the closing stages Lara caught a Bennett kick and took her to the ground and got top position. It didn’t mean much as she got zero meaningful offense in and ate a couple of upkicks. Lara spent the final seconds trying to generate fight-changing shots but no dice. The win for Bennett has an asterisk for missing weight but the 36-year-old nevertheless gets a huge W over Lara in her hometown.
Saul Rogers def. Georgi Karakhanyan by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26) - Lightweights
Rogers showcased sharp striking and secured an early takedown against Karakhanyan. He dropped some elbows in Karakhanyan’s guard and while he never seriously hurt Georgi, his control time and effective offense easily gave him the opening round. The theme of Rogers just overpowering Karakhanyan with his physicality and relentless wrestling and ground-and-pound continued into round two. However, Karakhanyan jumped for a guillotine and scrambled his way back to his feet. From there he went on a striking onslaught with a flying knee and a combination of punches that stunned Rogers. As the crowd roared, Rogers was able to return the fight to the mat and he badly needed it.
Sure enough, Rogers’ takedown attempt in round three was met with a weaker guillotine attempt and otherwise it was all Saul as he notched a decision victory. The crowd booed as Rogers just wore down Georgi and left him tired and largely helpless.
Ben Parrish def. Christian Edwards by KO (punches) at :38 of round 1 - Light Heavyweights
The ‘Big Tuna’ got himself a big upset with a heavy left hand that put Christian Edwards down. Edwards had just switched stances to southpaw moments before the knockout and he paid the price. Right hand hammerfists from Parrish sealed the deal for someone who closed as a +750 underdog. What a way to get your first ever knockout!
Preliminary Card Results
Alex Polizzi def. Grant Neal via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Anthony Adams def. Khalid Murtazaliev via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Bobby Seronio III def. Socrates Hernandez via unanimous decision (29-27, 29-26, 29-26)
Abraham Vaesau def. Albert Gonzales via KO (strikes) at 2:17 of round 1
Shane Keefe def. Rhalan Gracie via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Edwin De Los Santos def. Jon Adams via TKO (strikes) at 3:29 of round 1
Jesse Delgado def. Joshua Dillon via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)