Bellator 161: "Kongo vs. Johnson" came to H-E-B Center in Cedar Park, Texas, last night (Fri., Sept. 16, 2016) live on Spike TV. The card was headlined by two key fights at heavyweight and bantamweight, as well as a plethora of story lines surrounding the newly acquired Chael Sonnen.
Sonnen recorded a video which opened the night's live broadcast.
"What's happening guys? Chael P. Sonnen here and the P stands for ICON. Guys it's been a long journey for me and an even longer last couple of months. I've got all your cards to the gym, I've got all your letters to my house, I see all of your comments on social media -- I promise you I read that stuff myself. And I want you to know from the deepest part of my heart... I do not care. I have spent no time thinking about you guys, I haven't missed any one of ya, and the only time you cross my mind is when I'm thinking of ways to get more of your money. I assure you, soon, you will all contribute to my favorite fund known as the Chael Sonnen bank account. I'm not gonna give any spoilers but when I make that walk for the first time 15 minutes after, it's going to be one more in the win column, one more for the highlight reel, and one more for the 'Bad Guy'. Now -- let's start the show."
He was also interviewed by Sean Grande and Jimmy Smith during the live broadcast.
"There's only two kinds of people that can keep a secret -- one you don't know and the other is GANGSTER. If I want to keep something for you I assure you I will."
He also spoke about getting "the itch" to get back in the cage and compete.
"Sometimes you need that finish line out there. Sometimes you don't want to get up in the morning in the rain at 5 a.m. and go do the running, particularly when you're in my shoes and you're waking up wearing silk pajamas, but the work's gotta be done and I promise you -- I will be ready."
Grande had one simple question for Sonnen -- "Why Bellator?"
"That was a simple question and it came from a simple man and I'll give you an even simpler answer -- WHY NOT BELLATOR? Here write this down so maybe you can understand and see it with your own eyes. Zero, apostrophe, S."
Sonnen was also asked about recently joining the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) testing pool. He blew it off completely.
"Yeah everything was fine -- basically. Why don't you tell me? A lot of things lie but I know that your eyes don't. The biggest arms in West Linn, Oregon. The most powerful presence in the history of MMA, the one and only, the personality, the power, the man with THE BIGGEST ARMS the man with the greatest charm, the man that does all the harm, coming to Spike TV -- and for that, you're welcome."
Cheick Kongo and "Hulk" Tony Johnson each had winning streaks coming into the main event -- two and three respectively -- but only one man could keep his streak alive and move closer to the vacant Bellator heavyweight title.
Even though Johnson had the higher wrestling pedigree going in, it was the takedown defense of Kongo and his effective takedowns in Round 3 that sealed the victory in a fight where fans begged for a stand-up and didn't get it. One judge had it 28-28 in favor of a draw, while the others gave it to Kongo 29-28, 29-28.
Neither Joe Warren nor Sirwan Kakai were on a streak coming into Texas, but each man was determined to get back on track with a big win in Bellator's competitive bantamweight division.
Kakai out-Warren'd his opponent in the first round, blocking takedowns and landing elbows until getting a takedown of his own at 3:18 and grinding away on the mat. That was as good as it would get for Kakai, who was stunned by a left knee flush in Round 2 and only had one chance to change his fortunes with an arm bar attempt. It didn't work.
Warren sealed the deal in Round 3 with another knee that almost certainly broke Kakai's nose, and if it didn't it at least had blood gushing all over the canvas. Kakai tried to take the action to the ground to save face, failed, was reversed and gave up a neck crank in the process. Warren took advantage and secured the submission win at 1:04 of Round 3.
Warren spoke to Jimmy Smith after the fight.
"I want that belt back Jimmy, it deserves to be around my waist and I hope they give me a chance. I'm proud of myself man, I did what you said, I turned in that cage and pushed. It never gets easier in this cage, the most unpredictable place in the world, I'm just super happy and proud of myself."
The sexy sensation Anastasia Yankova brought her good looks and even better submission game to the United States for a critical flyweight fight against Veta Arteaga.
Arteaga tried to come out fast and furious to start the fight, and several times in the first round appeared to have Yankova's knees buckling thanks to accurate and hard rights to the head. Yankova survived a blowout first round.
Arteaga was arguably out-striking Yankova in Round 2, but Yankova was scoring with kicks and forcing a lot of clinches against the fence. At the end, Yankova was bleeding from the mouth, making it hard to envision her the winner.
Yankova's only decisive round was the third, where the strategy of clinching and throwing elbows in close was starting to pay off, and the aggressiveness was enough to sway the judges given Arteaga just didn't do much. In hindsight, Arteaga will regret her lack of offense late into the fight because only one judge saw it 29-28 her way. The other two gave it 29-28 to Yankova.
Jimmy Smith spoke to Yankova as the unpopular decision was booed loudly in Cedar Park.
"First I think this fight is lose lose. Arteaga is best opponent. I don't feel that I'm winner 100%. I think that girl is a really tough girl. I think we need to meet next time. Now my head don't work really good. I imagined this fight really different. A lot of people now think Anastasia don't win. I want to fight next time and say myself and say others who is win(ner) really."
Chael Sonnen had more to say about signing with Bellator MMA after the conclusion of this fight.
"I fight at gangsterweight man. I don't even know why they started dragging that scale in there. If they want to and guys want to get on their underwear, I guess that I'll show up so I can collect a sponsor's paycheck. The bottom line is if somebody wants to fight they don't have to say my name twice. I'm not crazy about any one of these guys. I've only got two friends in the whole world and not one of them's with Bellator, so what's the difference anyway? I'm not in the friends business, I'm in the fight business. They can bring anyone they want, it's never made a difference to me. If you want my real opinion you need to sign two guys because one of those wimps isn't going to show up."
Sonnen was also asked about Liam McGeary and Phil Davis fighting and his thoughts on both men.
"I've been in the practice room with Phil and I'm a fan of Liam. I think that Liam is underrated, I realize that he's the champ and he's ranked No. 1, but I think in the fans' minds they don't really understand how good and crafty that guy is. I think that's a good contest and I'm looking forward to it."
The opening bout of the card saw veteran Bellator fighter Derek Campos test himself against the streaking Djamil Chan, winner of seven-straight bouts.
Chan nearly ended this fight in the first round with an explosive uppercut and left hook that dropped Campos. Many referees would have stopped the bout there -- Nick Wright felt otherwise.
Campos was the aggressor for the next round, constantly moving forward and not letting Chan pick his shots the way he did in the first, sealing it with a late takedown. He did the opposite in the third and got a takedown early, only letting Chan up with 13 seconds left in the fight. As a result, Campos earned a 29-28 unanimous decision score from all three judges.
The televised bouts were paired with exciting "Prelims" action that aired exclusively on Spike.com.
For complete Bellator 161 results and coverage click here.