Bellator 183 “Henderson vs. Pitbull" took place last night (Sat., Sept. 23, 2017) at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. The promotion put two of their top Lightweights forward in the main event, and also brought a “Big” Heavyweight (formerly of UFC) to town to make his Bellator MMA debut.
Benson Henderson (24-7) initially arrived in Bellator on a two fight win streak, but has since gone 1-2 in three fights. Despite the name value Henderson has as a former WEC and UFC champion, he’d really need to reassert his dominance fighting knockout artist Patricky “Pitbull” Freire (17-8), winner of three of his last four.
If you’ve seen a Benson Henderson fight you know close rounds and technically fought rounds are modus operandi. The second round exemplified this strategy as Henderson burned nearly three minutes on a takedown attempt that only got Freire to his knees for a split second, but Henderson still had “cage control” and was the aggressor throughout the frame.
The one round that definitely went to Freire was the third, as Freire connected with a shoulder that seemed to wobble Henderson for a second, and multiple right hands found the target but none dropped the “Smooth” one. Was it enough though? The judges gave the scorecards to Michael C. Williams and they read 29-28 Henderson, 29-28 Freire, 29-28 Freire.
Henderson seemed stunned by the result, while an ecstatic Freire spoke to Jimmy Smith.
“I eat former champions for breakfast. I want Brent Primus! You have my gold, you have my belt. Stop running from ‘Pitbull’ - you know you run two times. TWO TIMES! I come for you!”
SAP Center saw popular UFC Heavyweight Roy Nelson (22-14) take his first Bellator fight against the surprising Javy Ayala (10-5), who stunned the MMA world by quickly dispatching MMA legend Sergei Kharitonov in his last bout.
It turned out to be a more hard fought grueling bout than either of the two could have expected going in. Even though Ayala showed some skills with his hands at times, and put a kick right on Nelson’s chin in the second round, the difference maker turned out to be Nelson’s takedowns. Much like his famous Spike TV fight with Kimbo Slice, once Nelson was on top, there was no getting him off. Nelson ground and pounded his way to 30-26 and 29-28 X2.
Nelson was happy to crack a few jokes about the length of the fight with Jimmy Smith.
“Viacom and Spike said they needed some fill footage, so I tried to give it to them. I had to do a little up and down to give the fans what they wanted to see. The plan was just to go out there and get the W and show the fans what I still have. It feels great, it’s good to be in California, it’s a hometown for Javy but he put up a great fight, he’s a good strong opponent.”
Welterweight contenders put themselves front and center in San Jose as explosive London product Paul “Semtex” Daley (39-15-2) looked to rebound from a submission loss to Rory MacDonald against a man who fell short challenging Douglas Lima for the title in June in Lorenz Larkin (18-6, 1 NC).
Larkin started off cautiously but found increasing confidence in his right hand as Daley tried to stay at kickboxing range. When Daley tried to answer in kind to Larkin’s strikes with a head kick, he knocked himself off balance and Larkin got on top. Daley fished for a triangle choke to no avail and Larkin moved from top to side control throwing right hands to close a solid first round.
Ultimately that success Larkin had with his hands was his undoing. As Larkin continued to press with his strikes, the two wound up in a clinch against the fence, with Mike Beltran warning both men to be more active and work to the finish. Larkin tried to throw a knee as Daley broke free, Daley responded with a spinning backfist, and as Larkin stood there looking at the shot that missed Daley sparked with a crushing left that wobbled him. Two more strikes later and Daley locked down yet another knockout finish.
As Mauro Ranallo would say, “MOMMA MIA!!”
Daley had a lot of opponents in mind when Jimmy Smith spoke to him after the finish.
“Like I said building up to this, the only people that stood with me and got out successfully are Nick Diaz and Douglas Lima. Anybody else in the welterweight division stands with me is getting knocked the f*** out. Everybody wants to take it to the ground after a little while. You stay standing with me you get knocked out, simple as that. Now — one of those rematches I can’t get. The other one’s fighting Rory MacDonald in January. Back home you’ve got a very similar character to me, a little young boy called MVP over in the UK that keeps talking on social media. Get that little punk in here with me he’s getting knocked out as well.”
If Daley calling out names wasn’t enough excitement, Rory MacDonald and Douglas Lima came out to hype up their fight on January 20, 2018 at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif.
Rory MacDonald: “This guy he’s in for a hurting man. I’m a level above these guys. Expect the same when it comes to me fighting (Lima).”
Douglas Lima: “You said it yourself. It’s just going to be a name to the list. Keep bringing them over and I’m gonna take every one of them out.”
Two more Lightweights aiming for champion Brent Primus put themselves in line for a future title shot in San Jose. Undefeated Adam Piccolotti (9-0) found himself in the same position Primus once was, with experienced veteran Goiti Yamauchi (21-3) standing in the way of his dream.
If the fight stayed standing Piccolotti might have had a chance, but there’s a reason Yamauchi had finished 17 opponents via submission coming into this fight. He pulled guard within the first minute to go for a guillotine, and when Piccolotti escaped Yamauchi immediately trapped an arm with a leg. Piccolotti escaped that position too but Yamauchi chased him down across the cage, jumped on his back, and sunk in a tight rear naked choke forcing the tap at 3:19 of Round 1.
Jimmy Smith spoke to Yamauchi after his sterling submission win.
“I’ve been training a lot since my last fight, this is just the result of all my hard work. Adam is a great and tough competitor but I’m better than him and I’m glad I won this fight. One thing that I have to say to the champion (Primus) — work hard and good luck in your career — the monster’s coming baby.”
One more fighter who had a loss to rebound from at June’s blockbuster Bellator NYC pay-per-view (PPV) put the gloves on for a date in San Jose — former Olympic prospect Aaron Pico (0-1). For the second time in a row he’d face a man with 10 pro fights under his belt in Justin Linn (7-3).
It’s fair to say Pico got the redemption he was looking for in this fight. There were occasional worrisome moments for the young prospect, including several Linn right hooks, and a blistering trade on the feet after the ref stood Linn up from a takedown, but the second time Linn was stood up he was demolished by a left hook that made him fall backward into the fence. The official time was 3:45 of Round 1.
A triumphant Pico spoke to Jimmy Smith after Michael Bell raised his hand in victory, celebrating his win on his 21st birthday.
“Hats off to Justin Linn, he’s a tough competitor, I knew I was going to be in for a dogfight and he showed that. Bob Cook, Antonio McKee, they said take your time be patient, you have all the skills. I’m just really happy right now. We worked on speed and the overall training camp went well. It’s just a proud moment to get my first win, something I’ll always remember on my 21st birthday. Right now I’m still young. I’m just going to stay in my lane and do what I do. I will be a world champion — it’s just a matter of time.”
To fill time on the broadcast a Featherweight fight between Brandon Laroco and Gaston Bolanos was aired. Laroco won the fight via technical submission (guillotine choke) at 2:16 of the second round as Bolanos went to sleep without tapping out.
For complete Bellator 183 results and coverage click here.