Bellator 155 "Carvalho vs. Manhoef" took place May 20, 2016 at CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho. The show was headlined by a Middleweight title defense pitting Rafael Carvalho against Melvin Manhoef.
Carvalho won the vacant title at Bellator 144 last October in Uncasville, Connecticut, with a second round liver kick that shut down "Bull" Brandon Halsey. Melvin "No Mercy" Manhoef hoped to stun Carvalho in similar fashion after knocking out Hisaki Kato at Bellator 146 to earn his title shot.
Was Carvalho successful in his first title defense or did Dutch MMA and kickboxing legend Manhoef win another title in the same month he turned 40 years old?
Let's not mince words -- this may have been one of the worst title fights in Bellator MMA history. The entire first round could have been scored 10-10. Neither man lifted a finger. In the second round Carvalho landed a low blow, refused to break when McCarthy stepped in, and landed an elbow to Manhoef's head. This drew a F-bomb from "Big" John that was censored on live TV.
The third round featured multiple warnings to Carvalho for fingers to the eye but no points were deducted. The crowd loudly and repeatedly expressed their displeasure at the lack of action from both men. At 40 years old, Manhoef was the more active fighter -- but not by that much. At the end of the fourth round both men walked back to their corners before the bell, ignoring that they had a few seconds left to fight.
The commentators seemed sure that Manhoef had won the title after another round where he seemed to do incrementally better than Carvalho on the feet, and actually managed to hit a couple of takedowns of his own in response to the champ's repeated attempts to get it to the ground. Despite the effort by Manhoef the judges rendered a split-decision victory (48-47, 48-47, 47-48) in favor of Carvalho.
There was no post-fight interview but Jimmy Smith said all that needed to be said on commentary.
"I am disgusted for the sport right now. That's all that I can say on TV."
The best shot of the entire fight came 2:15 into the first round, when Curran dropped Karakhanyan with a counter left hook.
Karakhanyan shot for a takedown early in Round 2 and wound up on his back for three minutes and change as a result. In the third round he got a takedown when Curran threw a knee in the clinch, but Curran effectively stalled all submission attempts until time ran out.
The judges scored this one a unanimous decision victory (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) for Curran, who spoke to Jimmy Smith post-fight about how tough Karakhanyan was.
"Oh absolutely. He had a smart game plan. He went for the takedown in the second and turned it into a grappling match. My hat's off to Georgi and his team - he's a hell of a fighter. To tell you the truth I'm not happy with this performance. I'm very disappointed in myself but it's going to make me stronger and I'm going to be even better the next time."
Powerful but inconsistent Heavyweight slugger Dan Charles also sought out the chance to establish himself in a division which recently vacated its title, but to do so he'd have to beat undefeated Brazilian import Augusto Sakai.
To begin the fight, Sakai threw two errant kicks to the cup in the first round, doubling Charles over in pain each time and forcing John McCarthy to give a one point deduction after the second blow to the groin. Despite that Sakai seemed to get the better of Charles throughout the fight, throwing almost nothing but kicks for all three rounds.
One judge actually saw all three rounds for Charles, leading to a stunning 30-26 score. The other two judges favored Sakai, but thanks to the one point deduction their 28-28 scores left this contest as a majority draw.
Marloes Coenen was originally set to fight Julia Budd for the inaugural Women's Featherweight title, but would have to settle for a non-title bout with former UFC fighter and late replacement Alexis Dufresne instead.
Dufresne missed weight by over five pounds, which led to drama at the weigh ins when Coenen refused to shake her hand. It may have seemed like Coenen had the advantage going into the fight, but the bigger Dufresne showed no fear of Coenen's legendary submission skills, taking her down with a leg trip quickly and avoiding several submission attempts.
What may be more surprising is that when Coenen successfully secured a sweep and gained top control, Dufresne threw up her legs for a triangle and Coenen left her arm vulnerable trying to pull her head out, leading to the stunning upset when she tapped out to Dufresne at 4:33.
Dufresne spoke to Jimmy Smith after the fight.
"Honestly, the disrespect from yesterday, getting in my face not shaking my hand -- thank you. That was all the fuel I needed. I can't wait to go home and see my baby -- I miss him. I want to thank my mom for always helping me out, I love you mom, my team thank you for believing in me."
This fight was much more tactical and measured than you might have expected from the two big men. Gormley seemed to be banking on slowing Beltran down with body and leg kicks and used them effectively in the first round, but Beltran seemed to steal back Round 2 with a late flurry of big strikes.
After a very close third round it was left up to the judges to decide. Their scores led to a split-decision victory (29-28, 29-28, 28-29) in favor of Gormley.
A top contender's fight headlining the prelims at Bellator 155 saw two former opponents of Will Brooks square off against each other a second time. Dave Jansen and Marcin Held each hoped to move one step closer to the currently vacant Lightweight title in a highly-anticipated rematch.
Jansen seemed to be hoping his effective leg lock defense that worked the last time they fought would be enough to get the job done this time around, but what he didn't count on was being out-wrestled by Held, who seemed to get takedowns at will. A well timed kick by Held in Round 2 split Jansen open behind the ear, turning it into a bloody affair.
Despite two judges awarding Jansen one round, Held would go on to capture the unanimous decision win (30-27, 29-28, 29-28).
The televised bouts were paired with exciting "Prelims" action that aired exclusively on Spike.com.