Bellator 55 took place last night (October 22, 2011) from the Cocopah Resort & Casino in Yuma, Arizona. The upstart promotion once again had the night to themselves but instead of delivering the typical highlight, the night was filled with close decisions, upsets and a bit of controversy.
Look no further than the main event of the evening, a semifinal matchup in the Bellator bantamweight tournament pitting Olympic bronze medal wrestler Alexis Vila against two-time world champion Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner and WEC veteran Marcus Galvao.
Vila, the smaller man with a significantly shorter reach, had issues finding his range early in the fight, and Galvao was equally concerned with the Cuban defector's power as both men engaged very little in a tentative first round that could have been scored either way.
Things began to open up at the midway point of the fight as both men began throwing punches and kicks more aggressively. Galvao found a home for his leg kicks while Vila tried worked hard to get inside and land his punches. The 40 year old American Top Team product also shot in repeatedly for takedowns but was stuffed time and time again by the Brazilian, Galvao.
In the final round, Galvao turned it up, pushing the pace, landing his kicks and really opening up with his punches as well as Vila began to tire out a bit, no longer bouncing around with frenetic energy like he did early in the bout.
With how close the first two rounds were and how decisive the last was, many felt Galvao had done enough to win the fight and were not surprised when the first judge's scorecard was read 30-27 in his favor, but then the next two were announced 29-28 Vila to give the former Olympian the victory and a place in the tournament finals.
This was the second time Marcos Galvao had lost a controversial decision in Yuma, Arizona, having previously been on the receiving end of an undeserved decision loss to Bellator featherweight champion Joe Warren earlier this year. Apparently at the post-fight press conference, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney awarded Galvao his win bonus this time around and guaranteed him admission into the next Bellator bantamweight tournament.
The rest of the main card showcased some entertaining back-and-forth battles including one match that made Bellator history.
In the other bantamweight semifinal bout, season three tournament finalist Ed West took on top-ranked Brazilian prospect Eduardo Dantas. This bout was decided by range. West looked to land his kicks from the outside while Dantas tried to explode forward and get inside with his punches.
Dantas dropped West in the first round with a lunging hook combination but West would bounce back, surviving the pouncing ground and pound, getting to his feet and then staggering the Brazilian with an uppercut of his own later in the frame.
This bout was incredibly hotly contested but it was Dantas who landed the more damaging blows in the first two rounds while West tried to pick him apart from a distance. The problem for West was he couldn't keep Dantas on the outside and he repeatedly allowed the Brazilian to close the distance.
The pace of this bout was very fast and both men tired a bit in the third round. When it was all said and done, Dantas was awarded a split decision victory, much to the dismay of West, who had a stunned look on his face.
In "superfight" action, Bellator light heavyweight champion Christian M'Pumbu took on massive MMA veteran Travis Wiuff in a non-title affair. Wiuff was at least 30 pounds heavier than M'Pumbu, as the champ does not cut weight to make 205 pounds and it cost him.
Wiuff took M'Pumbu down in rounds one and two and the champion could not get to his feet either time, being forced to remain on his back and eat occasional punches from above for nearly the full duration. In round three, M'Pumbu hurt Wiuff on multiple occasions with punching combinations but could not force a stoppage and Wiuff recovered by taking him down and riding out the remainder of the bout to earn a unanimous decision victory. It was the first time a Bellator champion has lost a non-time bout.
Expect to see the veteran Wiuff in the next light heavyweight tournament.
In the opening bout of the evening, top Brazilian lightweight prospect Ricardo Tirloni took on tough American jiu-jitsu blackbelt Steve Gable. Tirloni controlled the bout with his knees as Gable repeatedly tried to clinch and take the fight to the ground but was unsuccessful every time, even getting reversed and taken down himself during some of Tirloni's sprawls.
Eventually, Tirloni wore Gable down and overwhelmed him with punches on the ground. When Gable turned away from the strikes, the Brazilian pounced with a slick rear naked choke that forced a near-instant tap from the collegiate wrestler.
For complete Bellator 55 results and detailed round-by-round commentary of all the televised fights click here.
So what did you think Maniacs?
Who did you felt won each close split decision in the bantamweight tournament semifinals last night? Does Christian M'Pumbu losing a non-title bout to Wiuff devalue the Bellator title?