Bellator 186 “Bader vs. Vassell" took place last night (Fri., Nov. 3, 2017) at Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Penn. The current Light Heavyweight champion brought his belt for a title defense, while the former champion and Penn State alum had his own bout earlier in the night.
At the top of the card Ryan “Darth” Bader looked to solidify his track record with his fourth consecutive win and first bout since beating Phil Davis at Bellator NYC. His opponent Linton Vassell earned a second title shot with his third-straight win in handily dispatching former champ Liam McGeary. Who walked away from Penn State wearing the gold?
Bader used his wrestling as you might expect to go for takedowns throughout the first round, although Vassell found success with leg kicks that targeted the left leg and knee. Still even when Vassell tried a takedown of his own, Bader reversed it and wound up on top to end Round 1.
Things only got worse for Vassell in the second round. Once again he found himself unable to stop the takedown attack of his experienced wrestling foe from 15 seconds onward, at one point giving up his back in an attempt to get back up, and the second time he considered that risk Bader simply unloaded on him with hard left hands to the head for the stoppage at 3:58.
Jimmy Smith spoke to the victorious defending champion after the bout.
“We knew if we got on top there wore him out a little bit (we’d win). Got that little ride and started landing big bombs on him. That was awesome. The wrestling community is a tight community, I love you all. It was fun to fight here it felt like one of the old duels.”
Two of the top Flyweights in Bellator had a rematch as the unbeaten Ilima-Lei Macfarlane put her 6-0 record on the line against former foe Emile Ducote in the inaugural title fight of the division.
Macfarlane was an aggressive striker throughout the first frame, waiting until a couple of minutes were left to get the takedown, then going for an armbar with 10 seconds left in the round. Ducote didn’t submit but Macfarlane definitely set the tone early.
Ducote fared slightly better in the second round. She landed leg kicks here and there, but Macfarlane still outboxed her on the feet, putting all of the striking training she did for this fight to good use. A strong left hook in the last minute was the signature blow of Round 2.
A pattern emerged in the third round that felt familiar to the first and second round - stand and bang with Ducote early, shoot for the takedown late. Getting the takedown at 4:33 secured the third round for Macfarlane and put her up 3-0 in rounds for this title fight. Ducote reversed a takedown late in the fourth but didn’t change the fact she was outworked in the round.
Macfarlane had the fight iced in the fifth round and could have simply stalled for time, but “The Ilimanator” wasn’t going to settle for taking the title that way. She lulled Ducote into a false sense of security by pulling guard, then when Ducote made one wrong move she squeezed her legs tight around Ducote’s head and cinched up the armbar, tapping Ducote at 3:42.
An elated and emotional Macfarlane spoke to Jimmy Smith after the title went around her waist.
“There are so many reasons I wanted to win this. For my family that came all the way up here from Hawaii, all my family at home. Sorry I lost my voice. For my gym, these guys behind me over here. San Diego Combat Academy, 10th Planet freaks, this is for you.”
The man Bader beat to capture the gold returned home to Penn State as “Mr. Wonderful” Phil Davis went up against an undefeated 10-0 opponent in Leo Leite.
Even though Davis made his name as a wrestler for the Nittany Lions, he used his hands and his four-inch reach advantage to keep Leite at bay through the first two rounds, only scoring one definitive takedown in the entirety of those ten minutes.
Despite being in a 2-0 hole and needing to go for broke in the third round, Leite came up with nothing in the third to change the equation. Davis landed the left hook frequently and the right jab continually and left little doubt he’d get the decision, which he did by a unanimous 30-27 X3.
A victorious “Mr. Wonderful” spoke to Jimmy Smith afterward.
“Thank you. Leo he has a good shot defense. I don’t know who he’s been working with but I like it! We are (PENN STATE). Everybody in here was loud and noisy. It’s hostile territory if you’re not from Lion country. I can’t wait to kick my feet up and watch the fireworks (in the main event).”
Middleweight fighter and local favorite Ed Ruth also had a match at Bellator 186 in University Park against former UFC fighter Chris Dempsey hoping to rebound after three-straight defeats.
As you might have expected from the decorated Penn State wrestler Ruth, takedowns were the name of his game in Round 1, but he also surprised Dempsey by outworking him with his hands throughout the first frame. Ruth looked strong and Cael Sanderson watched on from the crowd.
Having found success with his hands early, Ruth decided to stand and trade with Dempsey in Round 2, and it only took 27 seconds for Ruth to clip him with a right hand behind the ear that crashed Dempsey to the canvas and made referee Dan Miragliotta wave off the fight.
Ruth spoke to Jimmy Smith about his fantastic finish in front of the Nittany Lion fans.
“That was definitely in the plan. I just wanted to show everybody that I’m more than a wrestler. I’m a complete fighter. I’m a complete athlete. I just want to keep climbing the ranks. I don’t have a name in mind but I’m pretty sure my managers will find me somebody. I just want to keep on proving I can do this. I definitely feel everybody’s support. The strength, all the people cheering gives me energy. Hopefully we can keep doing this.”
To fill some time in the broadcast Cael Sanderson spoke to Smith after the fight.
“I think Ed looked great, I think we were all a little nervous -- he likes to play around out there but he got the job done. I think it’s easy to be motivated. We’re just going to continue to improve. To stay on top you’ve got to keep climbing. I think (MMA) has given a lot of opportunities to wrestlers, opportunities like this, and it’s shown that wrestling is a martial art. It should improve our youth numbers at least.”
After scoring a historic upset win at Bellator NYC, Zach Freeman earned a second appearance in Bellator MMA, but hard hitting Lightweight fighter Saad Awad wasn’t going to make it easy.
The heavy handed Awad clipped Freeman behind the left ear just over a minute into the first round. At first it seemed as though Freeman could take the punch and continue, but before Awad could throw another right, Freeman face planted in front of him and referee Keith Peterson waved it off. The official time was 1:07 via technical knockout.
Awad spoke to Jimmy Smith after the quick first round finish.
“I saw him after the first hit, I sat back and I knew I landed, but hey what’s up with Penn State baby? I was a wrestler growing up and my dream was to wrestle for a good college like this, and now I’m here fighting in front of all of you guys, this is awesome. A lot of people don’t know who I am. I have 15 fights in Bellator, I have six finishes in this cage, I need something big — I need to get paid!”
For complete Bellator 186 results and coverage click here.