Bellator MMA inaugurated a new era for the promotion last night (Fri., Jan. 16, 2015), and shed its history of "seasons" and "tournaments." The focus has now switched to monthly cards with a big build and a compelling main event.
In terms of featherweights, they really don't get bigger than the four men in the spotlight, including two former world champions and the current world titleholder. The main event on Spike TV saw Patricio "Pitbull" Freire make his first title defense since beating Pat Curran last fall, battling the man who Curran himself beat for the title, Daniel Straus.
Straus controlled the action early as the more aggressive striker, forcing Freire to defensively go for a late takedown he couldn't get. Each man committed one accidental foul: Straus via headbutt and Pitbull via groin kick.
Multiple accidental fouls in round two forced referee John McCarthy to stop the action and deduct one point from Straus. Freire ended up on top on the ground in every takedown and went for several subs, so it looked like a 10-8 round.
Straus rebounded strongly in the third round with an arsenal of kicks and strikes, and with "Pitbull" backpedaling for most of the five minutes, it appeared that Straus had avenged the second round and tied things up on the scorecards.
The fight came to a halt twice in the fourth round. The first time Straus fell backward in pain from a kick to the cup. McCarthy gave him time to recover and restarted the bout, but Freire mistakenly believed he had won the fight. The second time was the legitimate finish as Straus got taken down and submitted via rear-naked choke with 11 seconds left in round four.
Freire spoke to Jimmy Smith after the fight via translator. "I knew he was going to come out striking, he's one of the best fighters on the planet, but I stuck to my gameplan."
Smith brought Georgi Karakhanyan into the cage. "He showed he's a real champion. I'm here to fight the best, get my revenge, and fight the champion." They squared off for the cameras.
Zombie Prophet with footage of the finish.
The co-main event was a search for the new contender to the title. Bubba Jenkins came into the night riding a four-fight winning streak since dropping to featherweight, while former World Series of Fighting (WSOF) featherweight champion Georgi Karakhanyan was looking to make his case that he's a better fighter now than when he left Bellator on a loss to Patricio Freire.
Karakhanyan made the statement in his return that he was looking for. Karakhanyan went for a guillotine on both takedowns from Jenkins, and the second time it was in so tight that Jenkins went out cold.
Referee Herb Dean saw the arm go stiff and thought it was Jenkins trying to push out, so he waited a few extra seconds before pulling Karakhanyan off (see the replay here).
"I'm the king of all guillotines," said Karakhanyan. "I wasn't going to let it go."
Commentator Jimmy Smith informed Karakhanyan that by order of Bellator President Scott Coker, he'll get the winner of Pitbull vs. Straus. "I came here tonight to make a statement. Everybody that came to support me, thank you. Riverside!!"
Smith then interviewed new Bellator signee Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson after the quick end to the co-main event. Ferguson stated his desire to fight in prime time again on Spike TV. "I'm still hungry, and I haven't got my fill yet. Whoever steps up to the plate, they got to bring it."
Bellator MMA also brought the fans an anticipated rematch between Houston Alexander and Virgil Zwicker. Alexander and Zwicker fought to a draw last year in Council Bluffs, and "The Assassin" had nobody to blame but himself for the outcome.
Both men vowed not to let it happen again.
This time there were no accidental fouls during the fight. Alexander had Zwicker second-guessing the takedowns throughout the first round and opened up a cut on Zwicker's face with knees, "Rezdog" outstruck Alexander in the second round, and the third was anybody's game until both men tried to slug it out with 10 seconds left.
Zwicker may have thought he had Alexander rocked, but that gave his opponent the opening for a very late takedown.
The judges ultimately rendered a decision of 29-28 Zwicker, 30-27 Alexander, 29-28 Zwicker by split decision.
The opener was a crowd-pleasing affair for the Temecula crowd as hometown favorite Fernando Gonzalez stepped into the cage to face former DREAM welterweight champion Marius Zaromiskis. Could "The Menifee Maniac" pull off his third straight upset in the Bellator cage?
Zaromskis tried to rush forward and make it a slugfest right from the opening bell, but Gonzalez was giving better than he received, and by the second round had swelled Zaromskis' right eye shut. Even though "Whitemare" would try to side step along the cage and reset for a head kick or a spinning backfist, he never found his mark, and Gonzalez pitched a 30-27 shutout from the three judges scoring cageside.
The televised bouts were paired with exciting preliminary action that aired exclusively on Spike.com. Check out our live streaming results RIGHT HERE to see who else made a name for themselves inside the cage at Bellator 132 in Temecula.