Bellator Fighting Championships returned to Hammond last night (Dec. 14, 2012) in what was expected to be a night of title fights and tournament finales, but after four huge fights were scheduled, only one, the season seven heavyweight tournament finals, was left standing.
Earlier in the night, shocking news broke that the lightweight tournament final between Marcin Held and Dave Jansen was off due to the Indiana gaming commission not allowing Marcin Held into the Horseshoe Casino to compete.
The problem? He was just 20 years old and despite the fact that he's fought 17 times professionally and was just one month away from his 21st birthday, he was not legally allowed to enter the casino, even if he had no intentions of gambling.
It was a horrific oversight from Bellator, which has really dropped the ball these past two weeks with three tournament final fights falling apart at the last minute due to illness, scheduling conflicts and now even age requirements.
Back to the fights that actually happened, the main event heavyweight tournament final between 24 year old Russian Alexander Volkov and former light heavyweight tournament finalist Richard Hale was actually for the title as former champion Cole Konrad had vacated his belt earlier in the year.
Both men were tentative out of the gate, wary of each other's skills on the feet and holding identical 81 inch reaches. It seemed both were looking to counter each other, which led to several moments of hesitancy. Volkov surprisingly worked a trip takedown after closing the distance, but couldn't do much with the position. After getting back to his feet, Hale landed a massive right hand, nearly dropping Volkov and giving him the first round.
From that point on, Hale's offense evaporated. Volkov settled into a groove and began using his reach much more effectively than Hale, popping a left jab often and countering every attack Hale sent with either a sharp left or right hand while also mixing up his offense with occasional kicks.
Whenever the fight went to the ground, it was Volkov who initiated the offense and even with Hale's corner screaming at him to let his hands go, he couldn't penetrate Volkov's range after that first round. "Drago" cruised in a bit of a lackluster affair to win the final four rounds, $100,000 and the vacant Bellator Heavyweight Title.
All the other fights on the card were bumped up in the aftermath of Held's issues with the commission.
In a battle of middleweight prospects, Daniel Vizcaya utilized strong wrestling to hand Swedish fighter Jack Hermansson his first professional defeat. This fight was one way traffic as Vizcaya attacked with takedowns and constant pressure, never giving Hermansson an opportunity to breathe. Hermansson was able to outstrike Vizcaya but he could never keep it on the feet long enough to make a true impact.
A female strawweight rematch featured foxy Felice Herrig against Patricia Vidonic and history repeated itself. The Team Curran fighter was aggressive on the feet, outstriking Vidonic badly and fending off nearly all of her takedowns. Vidonic waded straight forward without moving her head during her attempts which gave Herrig an easy target.
Even when the fight went to the ground, it was Herrig who usually wound up on top, dropping some punches and staying relatively active. On the feet, it was all about Herrig's straight punches and occasional kicks which easily helped her win a unanimous decision victory.
Last but not least was the opening bout of the night featuring UFC veteran Joe Vedapo taking on former Strikeforce headliner Louis Taylor. Vedapo had a submission named after him in his last bout, but he could not find success this time around as Taylor took him down and went to work on the canvas.
After landing some initial ground and pound, a sharp right from within Vedapo's guard stunned the veteran and a follow-up blow put him to sleep, handing Taylor his second straight victory under the Bellator banner.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Did Bellator drop the ball with Held's age issues heading into the tournament final? What do you make of the new heavyweight champion Volkov?