Bellator 193 “Larkin vs. Gonzalez" took place last night (Fri., Jan. 26, 2018) at Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif. An intriguing 180-pound catchweight fight was the show’s main event.
Former No. 1 contender Lorenz Larkin (18-7, 1 NC) had gone winless in two fights since making the jump from UFC to Bellator, but fighting Douglas Lima and Paul Daley is no easy task. It wasn’t going to get any easier for him against Fernando Gonzalez (27-14) in his third fight.
No significant advantage was gained in the first round, but if you judged strictly on who seemed to land more powerful strikes with more frequency, you’d narrowly edge that round to Larkin. The second was the best round for Gonzalez, and in this round a pattern emerged where he’d get hit and charge forward trying to answer in kind, taking two to land one. Unfortunately that gun slinging strategy still put him behind in strikes with the judges.
Larkin finally wore down the durable Gonzalez with 16 seconds left in the third and final round, landing two big right elbows over the top and a knee to the body, having Gonzalez wobbled as the bell rang but never knocking him down. The scores were 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 all for “Da Monsoon” Larkin, finally earning him his first Bellator win. He spoke to John McCarthy afterward.
“Ay! You guys can boo all you want. This is the first time for two local guys to put it down for a main event in Bellator. This is what local talent does. I came in knowing that he’s tough. BOOOO! I trained hard for this fight and as long as I got the W that’s all I want.”
Bellator also took a little time during the broadcast to make a fight official for April 13th.
An intriguing Lightweight bout pitted Bellator veteran Saad Awad (21-9) against rising star J.J. Ambrose (26-7, 2 NC) with each man putting multi-fight win streaks on the line.
Even though Ambrose had improved his record significantly since his last stint in Bellator, the first round wasn’t going any better for the returning veteran, as Awad punished the inside and outside of the left leg repeatedly, leaving it a mass of red welts and bruises on camera between rounds.
The second round was just as punishing as the first, and Ambrose briefly did better by getting a takedown in the first minute of Round 3, but he could only keep Awad grounded for a minute, and in the second half of the round Awad took over with a takedown leading to repeated mounts and several attempts to sink in a rear naked choke. The judges gave it to Awad 30-27 X3 and he spoke to John McCarthy afterward.
“I think I hurt (my hand) when I threw my left hook and I tried to not show it and fight through it but it bothered me. You know what? Ever since I started fighting J.J. already had a name. It’s an honor to get in the cage with him, I’m glad I got the win.”
Kendall Grove (23-17, 1 NC) and A.J. Matthews (8-7) also had streaks on the line, but theirs were for consecutive losses. The loser here could be moved down to the prelims or cut altogether.
Even though the two men were friends and former training partners, Grove and Matthews put that aside and let their hands and kicks go for the first five minutes, with Matthews slightly edging it out by being the pressure fighter and landing more often. Body shots and leg kicks in particular seemed to be the focus of Matthews’ offense.
Round two was (as Mike Goldberg likes to say) virtually identical. Matthews continued to make Grove backpedal and eat hooks and nasty kicks, forcing Grove to play defense and only occasionally throw a flurry in response. Inexplicably Grove never tried to change up the rhythm or tempo of the fight in Round 3. He only halfheartedly considered one takedown and didn’t follow up. Ultimately the judges awarded a split decision to Matthews 29-28, 28-29, 30-27.
“You know, I didn’t know if it was going to be worth it. I love Kendall. Anything for the fans man. I’m here now, I’m home. I’ve been here but I can’t wait to go back to the Philippines. I really thought that I was going to do better with the range but Kendall hit me a bunch of fucking times. I was just trying to stay composed and find my shots but I had to break out of my comfort zone because he was so far away.”
“Thunderbeast” Steve Kozola (8-1) looked to rebound from a loss at Bellator 184 but Bellator MMA newcomer Jake Smith (6-2) looked to make a name for himself in a main card debut.
Kozola tried to intimidate the Bellator newcomer from the opening bell, but Smith stood his ground and waited for his opportunity, and got it when Kozola went for a big overhand right but Smith’s return shot wobbled him. As Kozola started to get his legs under him, Smith landed a second right hand and forced referee Frank Trigg to dive on top. The knockout officially came at 57 seconds.
“Big” John McCarthy stepped into the cage for a post-fight interview with the winner.
“Aw man it’s a dream come true. It’s surreal. It’s everything I’ve always wanted. I’m finally here. I’m living in a dream right now. It was something that we worked on back in Portland, we noticed that he got tagged with a lot of right hands, and that was the game plan -- pick and move, BOOM there it was.”
For complete Bellator 193 results and coverage click here.