The second Bellator MMA event of 2015 was the much-anticipated "Shlemenko vs. Manhoef" card, also known as Bellator 133, taking place last night (Feb. 13, 2015) on Spike TV at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California.
The main event was a middleweight showdown with slobberknocker potential. Dutch kickboxing veteran and MMA power striker Melvin Manhoef was looking to rebound from a stinging knockout loss to Joe Schilling. His opposition Alexander Shlemenko was in a similar position after losing his middleweight title to Brandon Halsey back at Bellator 126.
In the end only one man could get back to their winning ways in the Bellator cage. The Russian was all nervous energy early, throwing lots of strikes that missed before falling into a comfortable rhythm of throwing a spinning attack before following with a takedown attempt. Shlemenko didn't get Manhoef down, but he did push him into the fence and grind on him to wane his energy.
Ultimately, "Storm's" strategy paid dividends in the second round as he caught "No Mercy" with a brutal spinning backfist just over a minute into the round that knocked Manhoef out cold, but left a jubilant Shlemenko hot to talk to Jimmy Smith and their respective boss: "Scott Coker please, I want my belt back. I made a mistake. Halsey I'm coming for you!"
See the highlight-reel stoppage courtesy of Zombie Prophet below:
There was also a lot at stake for the featherweights in the co-main event on Spike TV. The streaking German fighter Daniel Weichel hoped that a fourth straight Bellator win could earn him a title shot, while two-time featherweight champion Pat Curran was looking to use Weichel as a stepping stone back to his former throne.
Weichel had other ideas, out striking Curran in the first round, and forcing him to work from the outside as the German was the aggressor throughout - even managing to trip his American counterpart to the ground a couple of times in the process. The best Curran could muster in the second round was a takedown with a little over a minute left, but not before Weichel did enough damage standing to see Curran's left eye start to swell shut.
The former champ seemed desperate in the third, fainting a jump knee to try and fake Weichel out for a takedown, but Weichel was threatening with takedowns of his own. They largely ended up neutralizing each other in the wrestling department, leaving it up to the judges in Fresno to decide. Two out of three judges thought Weichel was the better man at 29-28, and one seeing it the opposite way for Curran. While Weichel seemed pleased, Curran seemed resigned, and neither had anything to say afterwards.
Second from the top was a pair of Bellator debuts in the women's featherweight division; a largely uncharted territory outside of Invicta MMA stateside, but a division that Julia Budd knows very well. "The Jewel" was prepared to face the undefeated Brazilian prospect Talita Nogueira, but a late injury scratch gave Budd a bout against Gabrielle Holloway instead.
Holloway looked severely outmatched in the first round as Budd took her down at will. Holloway's lone bright spot occurred on an attempted scramble to land on top that lasted mere moments before she let it go as Budd threatened with an arm submission. The second was more of the same, with Holloway's only method of survival being to give up her back and let Budd throw knees until she could find an opportunity to stand up - and be taken down again.
It was ultimately a matter of size, will and skill - Budd was just too big and strong for Holloway to ever find an opening. In the third round she looked like a snail retracting into its shell to avoid being bitten by a hungry predator. Budd could never quite crack that shell, but she still made it a one-sided affair with a dominating 30-26, 30-25 and 30-24 win from all three judges. There was nothing to say to Jimmy Smith afterward - the scores said it all.
For the fans at home as well as in attendance live at the Save Mart Center, Bellator kicked things off with fireworks in the welterweight division. Edinboro wrestling sensation Chris Honeycutt vaulted from the prelims to the televised fights with a late second round stoppage of Aaron Wilkinson. "The Cutt" would need more of that power facing Clayton MacFarlane, a little known fighter with a lot of power and technique, ending three of four wins in under 75 seconds.
MacFarlane couldn't find a fast finish in the first round against Honeycutt. In fact, he wound up having to defend off his back as Honeycutt reeled off multiple takedowns. Honeycutt didn't get off many power strikes but he dominated the offense early. Honeycutt turned it up in the second round with an early body kick that had MacFarlane in trouble, and he pounded away on any takedown when he had an opening.
There was desperation on MacFarlane's face as the third round got underway and he came out swinging, but he only managed one good right hand when Honeycutt broke free from a takedown attempt. After that it was Honeycutt imposing his wrestling will, taking a full mount, flattening out MacFarlane when he gave up his back, and pounding away at the ribs until Jason Herzog stopped it at 4:16 when MacFarlane was not intelligently defending himself.
Honeycutt spoke to Jimmy Smith afterward: "I apologize I didn't get the slam but I certainly got some ground and pound in. Honestly he was a lot tougher than I expected him to be. After I landed the third (body shot in round three) I heard him say something and I think his will finally broke. This is my home now. I love Fresno!"
Zombie Prophet provides the highlight below:
The televised bouts were paired with exciting preliminary action that aired exclusively on Spike.com.