Bellator 176 "Carvalho vs. Manhoef" took place earlier today (Sat. April 8, 2017) at Pala Alpitour in Torino, Italy, at a special start time of 3 p.m. ET. The main event saw two top tier middleweights renew their rivalry after an indecisive encounter their last time out.
Long time Dutch kickboxing and mixed martial arts (MMA) veteran Melvin Manhoef was out to prove he could get the job done in his second attempt to dethrone middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho. Carvalho just wanted to prove he was a worthy champion and win by more than a split decision.
There may have been more strikes in the first round of this fight than the entirety of their last fight. Carvalho’s strategy throughout was to keep Manhoef backpedaling, land strikes in a tight clinch against the fence, then get takedowns when the opportunities were open. That worked through three rounds, with the third being a 10-8 when Manhoef blatantly grabbed the fence.
On to the championship rounds!!@rafacarvalhomma vs @team_manhoef NOW on @spike! #Bellator176 pic.twitter.com/Lh7hbo0sGj— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) April 8, 2017
Manhoef’s best chance in this fight was when he had Carvalho backpedaling for the first two minutes of Round 4, seemingly tagging Carvalho several times with an overhand left, but Carvalho responded with a monstrous left head kick of doom to finish the fight at 3:15.
Brazilian champ @rafacarvalhomma retains the middleweight title with a crushing fourth round headkick knockout in round 4! #Bellator176 pic.twitter.com/P7KJhKjmVz— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) April 8, 2017
Carvalho and his translator joined Jimmy Smith after the highlight reel finish.
“I would like to say good evening to everybody here. Yes a lot of people have been doubting me, and to come here and to end the fight like this is awesome. I would like to dedicate this win to my partner and for all the guys who are here with me and I’m very happy. I’m so happy. If anybody wants to come along and they make the weight and come here, I’m here for a very long period. I’m the champion and this belt is mine. That’s all I have to say.”
Three other MMA fights joined them on this international card. Russian bombshell Anastasia Yankova would have her hands full remaining undefeated against 5-1 fighter Elina Kallionidou, which was a fight that was supposed to be at a catchweight of 130 pounds until Yankova missed that goal and came in at 133.
Yankova was the bully on the block for this fight, pushing Kallionidou around the cage, using her size and weight to repeatedly pin Kallionidou to the fence. When Kallionidou broke free she did land a couple of nice spinning backfists.
Kallionidou with a beautiful spinning backfist! #Bellator176 pic.twitter.com/EPTERh9Afj— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) April 8, 2017
Unfortunately for her, they weren’t enough to drop Yankova or sway the judges, causing her to lose the decision 29-28 and 30-27 X2.
Russian fighter @YankovaAn stays undefeated against Greece's Elina Kallionidou! #Bellator176 NOW on @spike! pic.twitter.com/yqEcPoB6q7— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) April 8, 2017
Yankova and her translator spoke to Jimmy Smith.
“With every fight I try to improve and I definitely tried to improve for this one and be more aggressive. The fans here in Italy, especially the Russian fans who traveled gave me a lot of energy.”
A lightweight bout featured two fighters looking to rebound off a loss in their last Bellator fight when Djamil Chan collided with Valeriu Mircea.
The gritty three-round fight saw Mircea countering takedowns well throughout the first two rounds, although Chan got one spectacular slam early in Round 2 and a less impressive one late. Although, Mircea had the majority of time on top and did more damage, which meant it was a toss up to score.
How did you score Chan vs Mircea through 3 rounds?? #Bellator176 NOW on @spike! pic.twitter.com/zgMDywBmzw— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) April 8, 2017
The judges would have to settle the debate after Chan controlled the third round with takedowns. One felt it was dominant enough to give a 10-8 and score a 28-28 draw. He was overruled by the two judges who gave a 29-28 to Mircea for a majority decision.
Local favorite Mihail Nica looked to keep his perfect record alive against late replacement (and more experienced opponent) Samba Coulibaly. It didn’t take him long to do so as he countered a takedown attempt with a throw of his own and finished with an anaconda choke at 36 seconds.
WOW!!!! Moldovan prospect Mihail Nica stays undefeated with a slick anaconda choke 35 seconds into round 1! #Bellator176 NOW on @spike! pic.twitter.com/ZQvisn5PCi— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) April 8, 2017
Nica spoke to Jimmy Smith via translator after the quick finish — a translator who seemed to have trouble switching his pronouns to first person.
“He wants to thank everyone you know. He’s really happy. And just he appreciates the job that he’s done here.”
For complete Bellator 176 results and coverage click here.