The revamped Bellator MMA put on its first show of Season 11 last night (Fri., Sept. 5, 2014), with President Scott Coker assembling quite an entertaining card as the promotion went head-to-head against Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in the sweet state of Connecticut.
Bellator 123: "Curran vs. Pitbull 2" took place from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., and in the Spike TV main event, Patricio Freire edged Pat Curran to take home the Featherweight championship in an astounding rematch.
The fight started off rather slow, mainly because both opponents had a boatload of respect for each other. The first round was uneventful, besides "Pitbull" scoring a quick takedown. He couldn't capitalize on a rear-naked choke attempt, since he was too high on Curran's back.
Utilizing his leg kicks well, Freire started to string together his combinations a little more efficiently and dropped Curran, but the American was back up in no time. As Curran gets back up, he laces "Pitbull" with a monster punch of his own, which showcased both chins early. "Paddy Mike" did a better job by throwing a lot of punches in his combinations, and late in the second round, Curran landed a huge flying knee, but didn't have enough time to follow up and put Freire on Queer Street.
Sporting a cut, "Pitbull" stays calm and decks Curran with another punch that drops him. Searching for a finish, Freire couldn't capitalize on his blow, and Curran showcased a lot of heart by recovering well.
In the championship rounds, the American was a little more active, backing up his Brazilian counterpart. It's not that Curran wasn't landing, but Freire's shots looked a little more significant, regardless of volume thrown. In the final frame, Freire scored a significant single-leg takedown seconds into the round, however, Curran swept beautifully to counter position.
After being dropped again, Curran went for a flying knee, and "Pitbull" staggered him with a right hand. They trade ferociously in the final seconds, with Freire almost putting Curran away. The bell sounded, and despite the judging call being a tad ambiguous, the rematch was awarded to Freire, who broke down in tears when Coker put the belt around his waist.
Rubber match, anyone?
After an impressive "dick-riding" promo, where Bellator got behind Muhammed Lawal and took serious shots at former boss Bjorn Rebney, "King Mo" beat Dustin Jacoby in the co-main event and went full heel (as if he wasn't already) by flipping off the fans and directing them to do unceremonious things to his crotch.
Lawal began to engage against Jacoby in a methodical way, and his striking didn't look too far off from the fight against Quinton Jackson. After scoring a takedown over the Glory Kickboxing veteran, Jacoby survived a sloppy-meets-tactical first round between both fighters.
In the second round, Mo had Jacoby in trouble after hitting him with solid right hand, and after both fighters did their best hockey fight impression, Lawal dropped Jacoby and pounced on him with punches. "Big" John McCarthy thought the Glory veteran wasn't protecting himself from the blows, so he stopped the fight.
Other main card action saw Tamdan McCrory return to action for the first time in five years, scoring a massive knockout over Brennan Ward in the first round.
The former Bellator middleweight title challenger was making his welterweight debut, and the moment he was summoned to the center, Ward was swinging wildly and looked to land bombs. After getting decked with a two-hit combination, Ward was staggered back, but continued to throw caution to the wind. McCrory certainly made him pay for his lack of focus, drilling the "Irish Bad Boy" with a big shot before numerous lefts and rights sent Ward crashing down without even realizing what had happened.
With that victory, the "Barn Cat" looked as if the last time he competed was four days ago, earning the biggest win of his career with a 21-second knockout.
The first heavyweight fight on the main card featured the return of successful pro wrestler Bobby Lashley, and it turned out to be a successful night for the Bellator debutant, submitting power-punching Josh Burns in the second round.
The TNA World Heavyweight Champion scored the takedown early in the first round, and kept on going for an Americana. With all due respect, it looked as if he had no idea how to close out the submission, and didn't move his hips accordingly. He did, however, lacerate his heavyweight opponent with multiple elbows that opened up a few cuts.
Burns didn't really storm Lashley like he should have, presumably because he was petrified of the takedown. After sending Burns to the mat again, Lashley was more active with his strikes, and after bloodying his foe a little more, secured the back and sunk in a rear naked choke while Burns was trying to get up.
It was a good performance from the former WWE superstar, but it remains to be seen how he'll do against competitors that aren't pitted across from him in order to give him a favorable match up.
Cheick Kongo scored his first submission victory in over four years, tapping Lavar Johnson by rear naked choke, too.
"Big" Lavar came out swinging right off the bat, and even drilled Kongo with a big right hand. After the former Bellator heavyweight title challenger rushed Johnson and got him to the ground, the European patiently worked with strikes until his opponent gave him his back. Without even properly sinking in hooks, the Frenchman slapped on a rear naked choke and secured the tap moments later.
One of the under card highlights was Josh Diekmann, who completely bombed the living crap out of Mike Wessel, knocking out the latter in just under a minute. That's eight stoppages by knockout or technical knockout in his past eight victories, which should be enough to either enter the last heavyweight tournament ever, or find himself in a curtain-jerker on the main card.
And obviously, because it's Bellator, a number of prelims were scratched due to time constraints. I'm not sure what they were thinking trying to cram seven bouts in two hours, but Coker definitely needs to fix this problem moving forward.
But, all in all, the season debut was pretty satisfactory, except for a ridiculous face-off between Tito Ortiz and Stephen Bonnar, where the "American Psycho" brought in freaking Justin McCully as a masked man to confirm how Ortiz wronged him in the past.
After some remarks about Jenna Jameson putting up with Tito, Ortiz took the mic, called both of them drug addicts, and stormed Bonnar. A staged brawl erupted (watch it here), and as excited as I was for Coker's plans, my faith has since plummeted.
BELLATOR 123 MAIN CARD:
Patricio Freire def. Pat Curran via unanimous decision (48-47, 49-46x2)
Muhammed Lawal def. Dustin Jacoby via TKO (strikes) at 1:13 of R2
Tamdan McCrory def. Brennen Ward via knockout (strikes) at 0:21 of R1
Cheick Kongo def. Lavar Johnson via submission (rear naked choke) at 3:27 of R1
Bobby Lashley def. Josh Burns via submission (rear naked choke) at 3:54 of R2
SPIKE.COM "PRELIMS" UNDER CARD:
Rico Disciullo def. Marvin Maldonado via unanimous decision (30-27x3)
Steve Garcia def. Kin Moy via split decision (27-30, 29-28x2)
Josh Diekmann def. Mike Wessel via knockout (strikes) at 0:47 of R1
Dan Cramer def. Perry Filkins via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27x2)
Mike Mucitelli vs. Mark Griffin
Phillipe Martins vs. Pete Rogers Jr.
Brandon Fleming vs. Blair Tugman
Scott Cleve def. Matt Bessette via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28X2)
For complete Bellator 123: "Curran vs. Pitbull 2" blow-by-blow" coverage, click here.