The third Bellator MMA event of 2015 was the "British Invasion" of America, also known as Bellator 134, taking place last night (Feb. 17, 2015) on Spike TV at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
The main event pitted the always underestimated light heavyweight champion in "The Hardcore Kid" Emanuel Newton against one of his most dangerous opponents to date - the tall, lanky and undefeated UK sensation Liam McGeary.
At 6'6" tall with an 81" reach, McGeary's stats rival that of UFC's light heavyweight champion Jon Jones (6'4" with an 84.5" reach) and were tailor made to give the compact but powerful Newton trouble (6'1", 75" reach). What can never be dismissed though is Newton's will to win, including two title defenses in a two month span last fall. Who prevailed here?
It was a wild affair right from the opening round, and over the course of five rounds, McGeary set the Bellator record for submission attempts in a fight, going for well over ten and often times two at once. The first round saw Newton surviving danger that most men would surely have tapped to. At one point "The Hardcore Kid" attempted a powerbomb to escape a triangle, but it only sunk the submission in deeper. Incredibly, the resilient Newton popped his head free and lasted until the bell.
Despite the evident danger the tall and lanky McGeary presented, Newton wasn't afraid to go back to the well over and over again, taking every opportunity that presented itself to get a takedown. As the fight wore on the submission attempts were less and less effective, but McGeary still looked like the man with more chances to finish the fight. By the fifth and final round it seemed clear that Newton hoped that judges would remember failed submission attempts don't count.
Newton's strategy did not pay off. One judge had it 48-46, the other two saw it 48-47, and by the narrowest of margins your NEW light heavyweight champion is Liam McGeary. He spoke to Jimmy Smith after the bout.
McGeary: "It was definitely a very close fight. I don't stop attacking, I don't stop hitting, I don't stop moving. That dude is a slippery mother----er."
The co-main event was an unusual heavyweight match-up pitting the naturally larger Cheick Kongo against the self-described "moneyweight" fighter in "King Mo" Lawal. Lawal would have to rely on his highly touted wrestling background to make up for the size disparity facing the former UFC turned Bellator veteran.
Lawal's key to victory was wrestling as predicted. It was not a popular fight with the crowd in Connecticut, but Lawal used takedowns effectively to keep the bigger man on his back, where he was unable to generate the striking power he needed to change the outcome. Unbelievably, one judge actually scored the bout a surprising 29-28 for Kongo, with the other two seeing it 30-27 and 29-28 in Lawal's favor. Post-fight Lawal finally decided to respond to the crowd's displeasure.
"Y'all can boo me, it's cool. I had to what I had to do to get that win. Boo me. Connecticut y'all some garbage, straight up. Boo me. I'ma tell you somethin' - we got a problem here right now. I'm the top dog at 205 and didn't get a title shot, now I done beat one of the top dogs at heavyweight. I want two title shots. I know Tito over there said he can't wait to fight me, so I just think I should skip him. He should fight somebody else."
Tito Ortiz said at cageside making a motion with his hands to indicate that it was all talk (Credit to Zombie Prophet).
Kongo came over and tried to wrestle the mic away from Jimmy Smith.
"Okay so tonight I made a mistake. He did a really good performance tonight, so you know what? This sport is about respect. Whether you do not like him, or you love him, show him some respect like you did for me. Thank you guys."
That only made Connecticut boo both men MORE.
In the third-from-the-top fight the Nottingham man with dynamite in his hands, Paul Daley took on the Brazilian Bellator import in Andre Santos. Santos fared well in his Bellator debut against James Terry, but Santos had yet to taste the power of a man like "Semtex," who had dropped and stopped the likes of Martin Kampmann, Scott Smith and Duane Ludwig thus far in his career.
This one turned into a wild and at times sloppy affair, with Daley landing lots of power shots and bloodying his opponent (particularly in round three), but Santos was able to recover after being wobbled numerous times and get a number of takedowns. It was ultimately up to the judges to determine who was the more effective man in the cage - which went the way of Daley 29-27 and 29-28 times two. Daley spoke to Jimmy Smith afterward.
"It feels good. I was a little bit rusty. I spent most of the last year fighting kickboxing. This guy was so tough. It took me time to adjust to fighting MMA again. He wasn't quitting. The guy has a lot of heart. It was a very tough fight to come back to. He was dropping but I just couldn't finish him with the ground and pound. I just couldn't put him away - he's a very very tough guy. I think Scott Coker should get his checkbook out and do 'Fight of the Night' for me and Santos!"
To fill a little TV time Jimmy Smith spoke to Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson and Ken Shamrock about their big showdown on June 20th. Ferguson had little to say but "Man I'm super excited," so Shamrock did all the talking when Smith asked why he should put himself through a fight camp at the age of 51.
"Why not? Put myself through what? Getting in the ring, throwing down, fighting, entertaining the fans and getting it on like I love to do. That's not putting me through anything but doing what I love to do."
Earlier in the night multi-promotional MMA veteran Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou took on the former No. 1 light heavyweight contender Linton Vassell. Vassell was hoping to rebound from his loss to Emanuel Newton last year, while the durable Sokoudjou wanted to string together his third straight Bellator win and be able to call his own shots in the promotion.
Sokoudjou was unable to stop the relentless pursuit of Vassell in the first round, who got him off his feet and kept him there, forcing the long-time fighter to fend off one attempt after another at a rear naked choke.
Sokoudjou survived the early assault, but in the second round Vassell decided to simply take Sokoudjou down, flatten him out and pound away from behind until Dan Miragliotta warned Sokoudjou to fight back. The TKO came at 3:18. The visual is courtesy Zombie Prophet.
Jimmy Smith spoke to "The Swarm" after the bout.
"I still feel like I could have done better. I wanted to finish him in the first round. It feels great representing my country, and to come in and fight in front of all of you American fans, it's a great honor."
The televised card opened up with late replacement Brennan Ward stepping in for Michael "Venom" Page in a middleweight showdown against Curtis Millender. The playing of the national anthems for the UK and US combined took longer than this fight.
Millender landed a shot that dropped Ward to one knee in the first 30 seconds. Ward was ultimately able to respond in kind and floored Millender with a right, took the back, and quickly tapped him out. The official time was 1:37 of round one. A video clip of the finish is below.
A pumped up Ward spoke to Jimmy Smith after the official announcement of his win.
"He knocked me down with a punch I had to knock him down with a punch bro! I went 0-2 in my last two fights. My friends and my family had my back regardless. I do this for them. I do this for Connecticut! Let's go! Let's go! Let's go! PS: Michael Page - heal that eye up baby I'm waiting for you."
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 134 in Uncasville.