Bellator 64 continued the Bellator Fighting Championship's sixth season last night (April 6, 2012) from the Caesar's Windsor in Windsor, Ontario. After such a strong start to the season, the upstart promotion was due for a dud. That just so happened to be last night's event.
On a night filled with razor close decisions on the main card, none were more dominant than the headlining bout, a welterweight title fight between champion Ben Askren and season five tournament winner Douglas Lima.
Lima had advanced through last year's tournament on the strength of his striking and jiu-jitsu, but Askren never gave him an opening to unload his power, quickly closing the distance in each round and dumping the young Brazilian on his back. It was a clinic on how to neutralize someone's powerful striking.
For five straight rounds, Askren dominated from top control, occasionally fending off sweep and submission attempts from an increasingly exhausted Lima. He was clearly getting into Lima's head because by the third round, Lima wasn't even circling in the stand-up, just moving straight backwards until he was pinned against the fence and dumped onto the canvas.
In the end, the judges scored unanimously with a 50-45 sweep across the boards in favor of the "Funky" champion Askren, which allowed him to retain his title for the second time.
The rest of the main card featured some of the closest decisions in Bellator history.
Both man had a considerable amount of respect for each other, perhaps too much as neither was able to put forth a consistent amount of offense over the course of the three round fight. Bezerra was looking to counter in the first round and gave way to Sandro's aggression. The second round was much closer as both men battered each other with leg kicks and neither really took the initiative.
In the third round, Bezerra finally turned it on, pushing for takedowns and landing his best strike of the fight, a powerful right hand which briefly dropped Sandro although the Nova Uniao fighter was able to quickly recover. The bout was up in the air and hinged on the extremely close second round, but in the end the judges sided with Sandro, awarding him a split decision victory, much to the dismay of the clearly dejected and emotional Bezerra.
The Bellator bantamweight tournament also kicked off on this card, with two quarterfinal bouts. The most surprising of the evening was a match between current top 10 ranked 135-er Masakatsu Ueda and regional superstar Travis Marx.
Marx was the prohibitive underdog in this fight, but he didn't act like it one bit, lifting Ueda up over his hand and slamming him to the canvas in the first round and attacking the Japanese veteran with his wrestling and grappling skills.
Neither fighter was exceptionally gifted in the striking department and the closest either man ever was to landing any real damage were some occasional body kicks from Ueda.
Almost all of the interesting action took place on the ground as both fighter worked for sweeps, submissions and occasional strikes on the canvas. Ueda came out with more of a sense of urgency in the third round, but it was not enough to offset Marx's strong start to the fight as Marx came away with the decision.
Lastly, opening up the night was another bantamweight quarterfinal between Japanese veteran Hiroshi Nakamura and 20 year old undefeated Brazilian Rodrigo Lima. Lima held a striking edge, but his constant forward aggression created openings for easy takedowns from the Japanese judoka in the clinch.
Lima was put on his back repeatedly, and was extremely active on the ground, constantly throwing up chain submissions attempt after submission attempt. It was a whirling tornado of armbars, Kimuras, omaplatas, triangles and leg locks from the Brazilian, but he was never able to actually threaten the finish as Nakamura remained very composed from above, working his way out of danger and then dropping occasional punches.
Another factor in the bout was the fact that Lima had a point deducted in the second round after landing his second low blow of the fight. When his pace slowed down in the third and Nakamura was finally able to put forth some decent offense from top position.
The fight could have been scored anywhere from 29-27 Lima to 30-26 Nakamura, but the judges unanimously decided 29-27 in Nakamura's favor as the Japanese veteran judoka advanced to the semifinals.
The biggest highlight of the night actually took place on the undercard as hotshot prospect Mike Richman absolutely starched IFL veteran and Team Tompkins product Chris Horodecki with a brutal first round knockout after a nearly perfect combination of strikes.
For complete Bellator 64 results and detailed round-by-round commentary of all the televised fights click here.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
With all the decisions on the card, was this event a major letdown for you? Did you find a diamond in the rough during the evening?