Bellator 157 "Dynamite 2" came to Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo. last night (Fri., June 24, 2016) with a live card on Spike TV. This was another hybrid show combining mixed martial arts (MMA) and kickboxing fights culminating into one explosive night.
The final bout of the post-Dynamite kickboxing card pitted Keri Melendez of the Skrap Pack against the newcomer Sarah Howell, who was making her professional debut.
The experience advantage was almost painful in this one as Melendez used precision striking to wilt Howell for two-straight rounds, landing almost every combo and making a mess of Howell's left leg with kicks, causing her to stumble and wince in pain. Melendez dominated the third and the scorecards to the tune of a unanimous decision win (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Melendez spoke to Chris Algieri after her dominant performance:
"I knew that she jabbed a lot so I wanted to parry the jab and come over with a high kick. I didn't throw the kick hard enough but it landed!"
Next was a battle between Raymond "The Real Deal" Daniels and his experienced GLORY opponent Stefano Bruno. Daniels won his Bellator Kickboxing debut with a 30 second KO, but Bruno would be a tougher test.
Daniels looked like the kickboxing equivalent of Michael "Venom" Page in this fight, flying all over the ring with spinning strikes until the final blow was a spectacular heel kick to the liver that doubled Bruno over and made him turn his back to the fight, causing referee Mike Bell to wave it off at 1:45 of the first round by TKO.
Daniels spoke to Chris Algieri afterward:
"First and foremost I'd like to give thanks to God because without him none of this would be possible. I'd like to thank Bellator and Spike TV. He's a really strong fighter, I did a lot of research on him, he comes forward with a lot of hard shots but he keeps his hands really high. So there's a really little small pocket that you got to have pinpoint accuracy but I wanted to make sure and put on another highlight reel. I want to dedicate this fight to two people -- the late great Kimbo Slice and also one of my idols Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest fighters of all time. Believe it or not I had the honor of having GSP as my primary sparring partner for this entire training camp. Everybody give my man GSP a hand the greatest fighter to ever step into the ring."
The first fight of the Bellator Kickboxing "St. Louis" card was between Hisaki Kato and Joe Schilling, with Schilling looking for revenge in a style more suited to his strengths.
Schilling was aggressive all throughout the first round and seemed to have Kato on the ropes during the second, but a miraculous last second spinning backfist floored Schilling and caused John McCarthy to wave it off at 2:59 of the second round.
Chris Algieri spoke to Kato after the fight:
"Yeah he was quicker than me, he's a better kickboxer than me, but he was really aggressive and even if I just touch him a few times every time I touch him he was hurt. It feels great. I'm happy to have accepted that challenge. It was a really big challenge for me. Maybe I'm gonna stick with MMA."
The mercurial Quinton "Rampage" Jackson was welcomed back into the Bellator MMA fold by way of Satoshi Ishii, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist in Judo hailing from Japan. Did Jackson keep his four fight win streak or did Ishii throw Jackson to the ground and pound out an upset?
Ishii had a great first round throwing and tripping Jackson to the ground repeatedly. The next two rounds were much closer. Ishii pressured Jackson into the fence but Jackson was responding with some good knees and dirty boxing, so it was possible for him to win either of those rounds even though Ishii looked like the aggressor.
The surprise of the night was that one judge saw all three rounds (!) for Jackson. Another gave him 29-28 and the other judge gave it 29-28 to Ishii, rendering Jackson the winner by split decision.
Jackson spoke to Jimmy Smith after the fight:
"Well first before I say anything I want to thank my heavenly father the most high God for allowing me to continue to do what I love for so long. This the oldest I've ever been in a fight and I'm still doing it. I apologize that I didn't get the outcome that I wanted but Ishii you can't take anything from him. The guy's a gold medalist at judo and he out-judo'd me! I think it was really close, it could have went either way, so much respect to Ishii. Ring rust is a real thing and I had to learn how to try to get the advantage so I could beat him. He stayed close so I couldn't knock him out and LORD KNOWS I WAS TRYIN'!! I got a surprise for all of you Bellator fans back there. I'm taking a short vacation then I'm going BACK to Huntington Beach to train with Tiki, and I'ma come back stronger and keep kicking ass!"
Second from the top was a fight to crown a new Lightweight champion. Former title holder Michael Chandler looked to be the favorite going in, but Patricky "Pitbull" Freire sought a little revenge in a rematch from Bellator's earliest days. Who prevailed and took the title?
It only took 2:14 of the first round to determine a new champion and it only took one right hand by Chandler to finish the fight. The accuracy and the power of the shot were as good as gold - the Lightweight gold strapped around Chandler's waist.
Chandler spoke to Jimmy Smith after the big knockout:
"It feels so great. I had a great opportunity here, I had a phenomenal double camp for this one fight. I've been down with the Blackzilians for literally the last three and a half months. Every single one of those guys made me better. I moved there for one reason and one reason only -- he's the big man right there named Neil Melanson. He's the best ground coach in the world and it turns out I've got a phenomenal striking coach in Henry Hooft, an amazing group of guys. I'm just extremely extremely excited and I can't wait to defend this thing."
Chandler was asked about the possibility of fighting Benson Henderson:
"I would love to step in here and be his huckleberry. I do have some unfinished business with Josh Thomson. I think that's a fight fans want to see, that's a fight Bellator wants, it's a fight I want. Either of those guys -- I'm ready and nobody is going to take this belt from me."
In another Bellator Kickboxing bout, "The Soul Assassin" Kevin Ross faced off against MMA fighter turned kickboxer Justin "J-Ho" Houghton.
The experience advantage of the multi-time world champion Ross was evident in this fight. He used leg kicks to set up his overhand rights, and body kicks to set up his combinations. Houghton tried to fake a shot to the groin in Round 3 but Ross wasn't buying it and the ref didn't either. Ross knocked him down with 10 seconds left for a mandatory eight count.
Ross, who captured the unanimous decision win (29-28, 29-28, 30-27), then spoke to Chris Algieri after the fight about his overhand right:
"That's just one of my kind of go to moves. I knew it would be there. I was trying not to throw it too much and I was getting a little heavy with it and out of position but I knew it would be there. This is becoming my home and I love it man. I can't wait to put on an even bigger show next time."
Benson Henderson spoke to Jimmy Smith and Sean Grande on the broadcast about his future.
"I'm good to go. I'm feeling great. Back in the gym, all the youngsters in my gym keeping me on my P's and Q's. They've thrown me some pretty good whippings. There's a lot of great match-ups at 155, I think I want to test that next. I'm pretty sure talking to Mike Kogan it'll be 55 next.
A highly anticipated battle between the flyin' Hawaiian submissions of Ilima-Lei Macfarlane and the gritty wrestling of hometown favorite Rebecca Ruth was also set for Bellator 157.
The first round favored Macfarlane, who used aggressive and relentless takedowns to frustrate Ruth. In the second round Macfarlane got a quick takedown, sunk in both hooks, and went for one rear naked choke after another that turned Ruth purple. Ruth's biggest mistake was standing up and giving Macfarlane her neck.
Macfarlane had a lot to say to Jimmy Smith after her impressive finish:
"I knew she was really tough. I could hear her choking the entire time but I knew she wasn't going to give up so I had to soften her up with those punches and elbows to kinda distract her, then I was finally able to sink it in when she stood up. Props to her. This is amazing -- it was the best experience of my life. My head coach Manolo is in the hospital right now so I knew I had to fight for him. This fight was dedicated to him. That was for you Manolo, I love you, I'm gonna come see you right after this."
A kickboxing bout during the "Dynamite 2" portion featured a veteran against an upstart -- Dutch striker Denise Kielholtz against the up-and-coming Gloria Peritore -- with the latter fresh off a knockout in her Bellator 152 debut.
An impressive 43-2 record might suggest Kielholtz could overwhelm the less tested 12-3-1 Peritore, but the two women fought as best as they could have over three rounds. Peritore had her nose bloodied, but she landed some very well timed head kicks and was the fresher fighter, bouncing on her feet as Kielholtz plodded forward.
Kielholtz seemed stunned and dismayed when two of three judges scored it 29-28 for Peritore, with only one finding her the winner 29-28, resulting in the third loss of her career.
Fresh off a questionable loss to Travis Browne in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Matt Mitrione looked to prove himself inside the Bellator cage, but the hard hitting Skrap Pack prospect Carl Seumanutafa stood in his way for a Heavyweight war to open the Spike TV broadcast.
Mitrione was in trouble early when he got nailed with a big right hand, but Seaumanutafa chose to take his back looking for a submission. That gave Mitrione a chance to recover and wind up on top in guard. He stood up, backed up, and jumped over the top with a flush right hand that left Seaumautafa out cold, forcing John McCarthy to wave it off.
The time of Mitrione's knockout was 3:22 of the first round.
Afterward Jimmy Smith asked him what happened and Mitrione couldn't remember the fight:
"I don't remember right now. I hit the ground. I don't know brother, I don't know. I remember thinking like 'Oh shit, it's time to get up and move buddy.' I'm not supposed to be here right now - I think that's what it was. I don't know to be honest. I don't know what the fuck I was thinking but I'm glad it happened, whatever happened."
Afterward, Oli Thompson got into the cage and promised to fight him next on short turnaround:
"I was really impressed with the recovery there, I thought he'd blown it for a minute. Great recovery, a lot of great tools. I enjoy watching your fights and I'll enjoy putting myself up against you in London."
If Mitrione can't remember this fight it doesn't seem likely he'll be cleared to fight again so soon.
The televised bouts were paired with exciting "Prelims" action that aired exclusively on Spike.com.