Bellator Fighting Championships returned to Atlantic City last night (Dec. 7, 2012) for what was expected to be a solid show from Caesar's Atlantic City featuring a featherweight season seven tournament final and two former champions facing stiffs tests.
Things didn't exactly go as planned.
Instead, the main event between featherweight finalists Shahbulat Shamhalaev and Rad Martinez was cancelled just minutes before it was supposed to take place as the promotion announced that the Russian Shamhalaev had suffered food poisoning and the commission had taken note of his vomiting backstage.
The fight was off and rescheduled for next week, but at least fans had one thing to remember the event by.
And that one thing was Jessica Eye, an up-and-coming female flyweight out of Ohio who was facing her most difficult test of her career as she took on Bellator women's strawweight champion Zoila Gurgel at 125 pounds.
Let's just say she passed with flying colors.
Both ladies exploded out of the gates, throwing heavy leather, but it was Eye who scored the big blow, knocking Gurgel down with a big right hand during the opening exchange. Instead of pouncing, she grabbed a body lock on Gurgel as "The Warrior Princess" popped back to her feet and quickly sunk in a standing arm triangle choke.
After some initial resistance, Eye finally locked it in and Gurgel's arms went limp while she remained standing. After the referee intervened, it was all over except for the celebration.
Also on display was former Bellator bantamweight champion Zach Makovsky as he battled 25 year old WEC veteran Anthony Leone, who was making the cut down to 135 pounds with hopes to resuscitate his career.
Leone's gamble paid off as he was bigger and stronger than the undersized Makovsky, repeatedly winning grappling exchanges and even reversing perilous positions to find his way on top throughout the fight. On the feet, while he didn't exactly put Makovsky in much danger, he was constantly moving forward which neutralized most of "Fun Size's" offense.
In the deciding final round, Leone was in top position for nearly the entire frame, forcing Makovsky to stay in guard on his back and riding out to the final horn. It wasn't pretty but it was effective as the ringside judges scored the fight for Leone via split decision.
Lastly, a fight that wasn't even scheduled to make television ended up being the de facto main event as lightweights Darrel Horcher and old school UFC veteran Chris Liguori duked it out. Horcher was a top prospect for the promotion with a penchant for knocking foes senseless while Liguori was the hometown hero, training alongside Frankie Edgar and trying to get a signature win.
Horcher was all over Liguori early, battering him and nearly finishing the fight on multiple occasions, but Liguori's wrestling kept him in the fight enough to keep referee Greg Franklin barely at bay. Horcher easily won the first two rounds with significantly superior striking and damage dealt, but Liguori actually took over a bit in the final round, taking an exhausted Horcher down, although he couldn't get the miracle comeback finish he needed as Horcher would win a unanimous decision.
It was a strange night of fights with several unexpected results.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Were you disappointed that the featherweight finals didn't take place? Who impressed you the most of the few fighters that received TV time?