Written by: Remi Se
Bellator’s biggest event ever followed their recent history of focusing on nostalgia, but the spectacle may have laid out a truly interesting path for fighters involved. The title fights did not live up to expectations and the legends fights went about as well as expected. MMA’s hottest prospect got a hard lesson along the way as well. In spite of some strange events in the ocatgon though, this mega event did set up some very interesting future bouts and may have established a couple of fighters to a fan base that tends to tune in to watch old favorites more often than up and comers.
Douglas Lima outstrikes Lorenz Larkin to defend his belt:
Douglas Lima faced off with one of the Welterweight division’s most impressive strikers and came close to pitching a shutout. The fighters’ skillsets forced a somewhat of a stalemate at times, where the threat. Larkin spent most of the fight trying to find a rhythm while simultaneous protecting himself from Lima’s power punches. When Larkin did try to open up and put pressure on Lima, he was knocked down by a counter left hand. For much of the rest of the fight, he fought more cautiously having been nearly stopped by a strike that could have mirrored Lima’s Koreshkov KO. Lima also seemed to do more damage with leg kicks, slowing Larkin down somewhat and never allowing him to stay comfortable for long. The fact that both fighters had to fight with caution made it a bit of a letdown. There were very few attempts to really take control of the bout outside of that second round knockdown. That said there were some tense exchanges, but for the most part neither fighter took big risks.
Lima walked away with the clear decision victory. He’s coming off wins over Larkin, Koreshkov and Daley; three high level strikers. Lima is now set to face Rory MacDonald for his next title defense. In spite of having faced great competition, MacDonald may be Lima’s stiffest test since his loss to Ben Askren and to some fans Rory’s an even tougher opponent. This is a title fight fans should really mark their calendars for. The Bellator welterweight division is full of intriguing match-ups for the foreseeable future.
Zach Freeman stops Aaron Pico before he ever gets started:
Aaron Pico came into Bellator 180 as the hottest prospect in the sport and that is likely why he was sent out on the biggest stage possible to face a 10 fight veteran in spite of never fighting professionally before. Unfortunately for Pico, the bright lights and excitement paid off for Zach Freeman…Pico’s opponent. As soon as the bell rang Pico rushed into the pocket and went for an exchange. Freeman stood his ground, landed a big upper cut that staggered his young opponent. Smelling blood, Freeman quickly locked a staggering Pico up with guillotine finish. Pico never got a chance to show off the skills that made him such a big prospect.
For Freeman, this becomes an opportunity to build his name. The MMA world was awash with articles talking about Pico’s potential (my own included) and all but ignoring that there is nothing comparable to stepping into the cage against a pro. Freeman shut all of that down and likely positioned himself to get a decent push of his own, having won in impressive fashion on such a big stage. He warrants a tough opponent and a chance to really prove that he’s ready to make noise. Ricky Rainey is a legitimate opponent who wouldn’t represent being thrown straight to the wolves but would be a valid test for Freeman’s standing among his peers.
Brent Primus defeats Michael Chandler after an unexpected injury:
At the outset of Michael Chandler and Brent Primus’ title fight, many assumed this was simply a showcase bout for one of Bellator’s most notable fighters. Instead, MMA fans were reminded that virtually anything can happen on a given night. Early in the bout, Chandler rolled his ankle so badly that he could no longer put weight on his foot. Primus peppered some leg kicks toward the injured foot but did not rush for the finish. It was an incredible sight to see Chandler hopping on one foot and still trying to win the bout. With severely limited mobility but unbelievable toughness, Chandler did manage to score a knockdown but collapsed on the weight of his bad foot as he rushed to try and score a desperate finish. Primus meanwhile seemed tentative after being caught with the strike and witnessing Chandler’s desperation but the ref had had enough. Having seen Chandler collapse under his own weight a handful of times, the refs stopped the bout and Primus was crowned the new champion.
This was a freak loss for Chandler. Primus didn’t get a chance to chase submissions like he has in previous fights and was hurt when Chandler did land a strike. The result is disappointing but sets up an obvious rematch as long as Chandler’s injury does not take an extended period to heal. If anyone gained something out of this, the image of Chandler refusing to quit may be the most memorable aspect of the bout. Primus is a big lightweight however and in an extended fight is almost certain to look to force some grappling. The odd situation may have thrown both men off of their gameplans and for the time being, Bellator has a new champion.
Matt Mitrione finishes Fedor in a quick but exciting match-up:
Few fighters have been as feared as The Last Emperor, Fedor but time is undefeated in the octagon. Matt Mitrione entered the biggest match of his career and scored an early knockout of the MMA legend. The fight was fast. Both men stepped in and landed right hands simultaneously that caused a double knocked. Mitrione recovered faster than Fedor, jumping up and landing ground and pound that shut Fedor down quickly. The finish came fast, but the excitement of the double knockdown was a nice consolation for watching another MMA legend look like a shadow of his prime self. The fight was not so much a disappointment, as many felt this result was likely but it is tough to see a legend go down in such devastating fashion.
Matt Mitrione is a powerful striker and a great athlete, albeit an aging fighter himself. He is riding a three fight win streak and deserves a test with a top quality opponent. The newly signed Roy Nelson would likely lead to an absolute fire fight matched with Mitrione. If Coker would like to use a fighter with fights under the Bellator logo however, Cheik Kongo is riding a five fight win streak.
Chael Sonnen wrestles his way to victory over Wanderlei Silva:
Chael Sonnen didn’t have to rely on versatility to take Wanderlei Silva down repeatedly on his way to a unanimous decision victory. Wandy plodded forward and tried to land his trademark power punches, landing a couple of hard shots but leaving himself wide open to Sonnen’s signature double leg takedown. Any time the two had distance, Silva would square up and look to unless his typical frenzy only for Sonnen to shoot under the strikes with the power double and carry the Brazilian to the cage. With little room to fight to his feet, Wanderlei mainly tried to stall for a stand-up while Sonnen worked ground strikes that were not very threatening but kept the fight from standing up. That was it for this one. Chael laid on top of Wanderlei for almost the entire fight and was hurt all of once or twice over the course of a three round sleeper.
Chael likes to call out his next opponents and in spite of a fairly lackluster win, he did not waste his microphone time. Sonnen launched into a WWE style speech in which he claimed to have stopped Tito Ortiz for some reason, bragged about his win over Wanderlei and then appeared to call out the just knocked out Fedor Emlianenko. Oddly enough, a match-up with Fedor makes a semblance of sense. Both men are still draws, Sonnen hasn’t looked great and Fedor could use a grappling opponent instead of another striker if he chose to continue fighting. It wouldn’t be the most exciting fight on paper, but the ratings don’t lie and these match-ups between legends have drawn more eyes than any other cards.
- Phil Davis vs Ryan Bader looked remarkably similar to the last time they matched up. Neither fighter found a way to take over, which meant a lackluster bout. Just like last time, Bader took a close decision.
- James Gallagher captured the most impressive victory of his career over Chinzo Machida. He was cautious on his feet, exchanging volume for feints to keep his striking phenom opponent off balance. Once Gallagher got Machida to the mat it was a textbook performance to the submission victory.
- Heather Hardy, the undefeated professional boxer, made her debut in MMA with a TKO finish over Alice Yauger. She is far from a finished product but her punching accuracy was impressive. She showed plenty of toughness as Yauger was a game opponent and overall Hardy is a promising prospect worth watching.