The fifteenth Bellator MMA event of 2015 featured "Kato vs. Manhoef" -- also known as Bellator 146 -- which took place Friday night (Nov. 20, 2015) inside WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma, and streamed live on Spike TV.
The main event was a clash of Middleweight contenders with different career trajectories. Hisaki Kato was trending up thanks to a highlight reel knockout in June, while Manhoef hadn't won a fight in over a year.
Did Manhoef end his skid, or did Kato make his bid to fight Rafael Carvalho for the Middleweight title?
Manhoef proved the old lion isn't giving up his status in the pack just yet. Kato was targeting the liver with body kicks, and was faster with his hands in the exchanges, but any advantages vanished with just one left hook that made Kato fall backward and his eyes roll up. The official time was 3:43 of R1.
Manhoef spoke to Jimmy Smith after the fight's explosive end.
"When he was unloading he was throwing everything with his left hand and I had to hang in there. I said this was going to be a war for a few seconds and then I will come over again and I did - it worked out. This is what I want. This is why the people know that if I come, I come for a fight. It doesn't matter, win or lose, I'm gonna give my all for you guys. Thank you very much I appreciate it."
Brandon Girtz had momentum on his side with two straight wins at Lightweight, including a main event domination of Melvin Guillard. 'Ill' Will Brooks has no shortage of challengers, but a win over Derek Campos would give him three in a row and put him on the list.
Girtz made quick work of Campos with pinpoint precision accuracy on his feet, following a solid left hook with a skull rattling right that faded Campos before he could throw a second. Girtz dived on and Herzog waved it off after only a couple of seconds on the ground, awarding him the knockout 37 seconds into the very first round.
Girtz spoke to Jimmy Smith after the lightning quick finish.
"I told you I was going to come in here and make a statement that I'm not the same man I was the first time I fought Derek and I thought I showed that tonight. I wouldn't say (the knockout) was my intention it was just there man. Everything's just coming together perfectly. I'm a changed man lately - the lightweights need to watch out. I'm gonna start taking 'em out one by one."
Josh Thomson spoke to Jimmy Smith to promote Bellator 147 on Dec. 4:
"I'm not even the champion and I've got Will Brooks calling me out. That lets you know that everybody's looking to try and beat me because I've been around the sport for so long. I've been ranked top ten in the world since 2000, 2001. I've been the best for a long time. Everybody wants the chance to try and beat a name."
Second from the top was another fight with ranking potential, pitting two Featherweights with wins in their last Bellator appearance head-to-head - Bubba Jenkins and Jordan Parsons.
Thanks to Daniel Straus finally knocking off Patricio Freire, the door was wide open for new match-ups for the Featherweight title, and one of these two men could be the first to go through it.
It was a close war from bell to bell, and there were times Parsons seemed to have the advantage standing, while Jenkins had the advantage with takedowns. The whole fight may have turned on one big head kick by Jenkins.
The judges were left to render the verdict and saw it 29-28, 28-29 and 30-27 for Jenkins by split decision. Jimmy Smith spoke to Bubba Jenkins (with his mirrored shades on) after the fight.
"Where I'm from, city of Virginia Beach, talk is cheap son. We come, we bring it, we do it, we get it done. Talk is another thing that another man can say. Something that a man can do is what I'm all about. Tonight was a big night for me to show I can go three rounds. When you get your footwork right and you can dance on your feet, it makes the fights a lot better. I'm looking to be the best in the world, not just the best at 145, and eventually be legendary and the best ever."
Bellator 146 also featured the promotional debut of Chidi 'Bang Bang' Njokuani against Ricky Rainey in a Welterweight war. It would be a stretch to say either could challenge Andrey Koreshkov, but one could at least move closer to a shot.
Njokuani arguably had more of the two to lose -- but he didn't fight like it. Rainey had a flash knockdown in the first round and hurt Njokuani several times in the second, and Njokuani's only moment of victory was an elbow that busted Rainey's right eye and swelled it shut.
Even with the tactical advantage of a partially blinded fighter for Njokuani in R3, Rainey still bullied his opponent into the fence and scored a takedown for ground and pound late. The judges saw it differently and awarded a 29-28 X3 to Njokuani. Tellingly there was no post-fight interview after this gift decision.
The opener was on paper a pure slobberknocker between two guys known more for their power than their defense or their ground game - 'The Assassin' Houston Alexander and Brazilian brawler Guilherme Viana.
Other than the first minute of the first round this was a one-sided affair favoring Viana, who had a clear size and power advantage in every exchange. Alexander was wobbled two minutes in and it never got any better for him.
On sheer heart and toughness Alexander managed to stay in the fight for two full rounds, though late in the second round it was clear he was winging shots wildly because he couldn't see. Between rounds the doctor took a look at a nasty cut on Alexander's right eyebrow and decided to call for a stoppage. Viana wins at 5:00 of R2 by TKO.
Viana and his translator spoke to Jimmy Smith after the fight, but Viana answered in broken English anyway.
"I love what I do. I love to fight. I train with the baddest, Glover Teixeira. I want to come back and pay some bills."
The televised bouts were paired with exciting "Prelims" action that aired exclusively on Spike.com.
Check out our live streaming Bellator 146 results RIGHT HERE to see who else made a name for themselves inside the cage last night in Thackerville.