Bellator returned to Canada last night (Nov. 2, 2012) as mettle was tested, heart was measured and cardio was killer on a main card that featured a wide variety of stoppages and very entertaining fights.
No fight had more ups and downs in a short amount of time than the main event, a season seven heavyweight tournament semifinal bout pitting former light heavyweight finalist Richard Hale against former heavyweight tournament finalist Thiago "Big Monster" Santos.
With both men gunning to return to the finals of a tournament, something had to give.
In Hale's pre-fight promo video, he mentioned that he wasn't impressed with Santos' technique and that he "stopped believing in monsters when he was five," but it looked like he was getting killer flashbacks in the opening seconds as Santos landed a series of heavy punches and swarmed him in the opening minute.
The Brazilian took Hale down and looked like he might be running away with the fight but after Hale got back to his feet and both men were clinching, something very interesting happened.
After the reset from the referee, Santos stepped away and walked to the complete opposite end of the cage, actually having to be approached by the referee to see if everything was right. When they actually began fighting again, Santos dropped to the ground after the first exchange of punches and simply turtled up as Hale began swinging wildly with punches from above until the ref's hand was eventually forced.
It turns out that while clinching, Santos had removed his mouthpiece manually only to watch one of his own teeth drop out of his mouth to the cage floor. A combination of fatigue and the shock to his mental state seemed to have completely shut him down.
In the co-main event of the evening, two featherweights with the fastest hands in the division were pitted against each other as Minnesota striker Mike Richman took on Russian kickboxer Shahbulat Shamhalaev. It was evident in the opening seconds that both men were quick to the draw as Richman set the pace while Shamhalaev looked to counter, flashing punches that were so fast the cameras were having trouble keeping up with them.
Richman's lack of respect for Shamhalaev's stand-up skills would come back to bite him as he stepped forward with a heavy left hook body punch which exposed the entire left side of his face for a brief instant. That was all Shamhalaev would need as the Russian capitalized with a lightning quick counter overhand right which clocked Richman and sent him to the canvas.
After an extra punch or two on the ground, the ref was forced to step in and put a halt to the proceedings, handing Shamhalaev a slot in the featherweight tourney finals.
In non-tournament action, season five welterweight tournament winner Douglas Lima stepped back into the cage for the first time since failing in a title shot against Ben Askren earlier this year. In his path of destruction was southwest fighter Jacob Ortiz, who, while game, was completely outmatched.
Lima showcased superior hand speed, technique, defense and power throughout the fight, repeatedly scoring with straight left jabs and following up with power as Ortiz seemed intent on switching stances and keeping his hands near his sides.
"The Phenom" methodically picked Ortiz apart for nearly three rounds, turning his face into a bloody mess until the final 15 seconds of the bout where Lima blasted his opponent with a head kick which sent him reeling. After a follow-up knee, Lima swarmed Ortiz with heavy ground and pound which stopped the fight with just 10 seconds remaining in the third round.
Lastly, the main card was opened up with another showcase fight featuring expected 2013 welterweight tournament hopeful Ryan Ford against gritty Virginia-based fighter Kyle Baker. Ford laid into Baker with a torrent of punches, kicks and knees in the opening round, a dominant showcase of his skills, but Baker refused to say "uncle" and forged on despite likely losing a 10-8 round.
After such a solid first round, Ford's offense slowed down in the final two frames, still landing the occasional power shot on the feet and wobbling Baker but he was never nearly as dominant as both men scrambled on the ground successfully but Ford did enough to win exchanges on the feet and for the most part stay in top position on the canvas to ride out a pretty dominant decision victory.
Afterwards, he stated that Baker was hands down the most durable opponent he'd ever faced and it wasn't difficult to disagree based on the punishment his opponent had absorbed yet kept moving forward.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Who impressed you the most last night with their performance? Who came up short? Do you think Hale or Shamhalaev have good odds of winning their tournament finals later this year?