Bellator 233 “Salter vs. van Steenis” took place Friday, Nov. 8, 2019 at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla. Middleweight contenders put their ranking on the line as Bellator veteran John Salter (16-4) looked to submit Costello van Steenis (12-1) and snap his six fight winning streak.
Van Steenis ran to the center of the cage to start the fight, and his aggressive strikes seemed to hurt Salter in the first minute, but Salter caught him with something and took him down with a leg trip at 1:03. For the rest of the first round Salter worked on top, and when van Steenis got back up Salter drug him right back down and worked him over with body shots and punches from behind as he looked to sink hooks in. 10-9 Salter.
Van Steenis’ strategy was to keep the fight standing and hurt Salter, and if it had worked it would have been a great strategy, but when he attempted an ill-advised takedown Salter quickly reversed it and wound up on top at about the same point in round two he did in round one. Salter came close to finishing a rear naked choke and even went for a Suloev stretch, but van Steenis was able to get up... and got taken back down again. 10-9 Salter.
The submission attempts put a hurting on the arms of Salter, who was barely able to keep his hands up defensively in round three, and van Steenis took advantage by punishing him with lots of kicks and strikes. It was borderline to becoming a 10-8 round until Salter got a single leg takedown and taking control of the round for the last minute and a half. The judges would be required to sort it all out at the end.
By a verdict of 29-28 X3, John Salter hung on for a unanimous decision and a post-fight interview with John McCarthy.
“What are you talking about? I thought that was perfect. I might have a few stitches though. I couldn’t keep taking shots like that. He hits like a truck. Props to him, what a stud, I’m just glad I got the win tonight. I saw Rafael (Lovato Jr.) here tonight. He’s probably the guy I respect most in the sport but I’d like to fight him again.”
Looking to get one last win before riding off into the retirement sunset, “King Mo” Muhammed Lawal (21-9) took on Andrew Kapel (14-6) at a 195 lb. catch weight.
Unfortunately for Lawal this was not the happy ending to his MMA career he had hoped for. Lawal caught a kick and tried to throw hands but Kapel literally beat him to the punch and Lawal face planted off the right, doing the same thing again seconds after the fight was stopped when he tried to stand up.
The official time was 1:22. Lawal took off his gloves and left them in the Bellator cage after congratulating Kapel on his win. John McCarthy spoke to Kapel afterward.
“Oh man. Without risk, opportunities don’t come. First and foremost respect to King Mo. The dude’s a legend and he wrestled here in Oklahoma. Give it up to King Mo, he took this dangerous fight and didn’t have to. I’m here John, I’m here. There’s more to come. Thanks to everyone who believed in me.”
“Big” John couldn’t just leave it there though — he also had to speak to Lawal about retiring.
“Yeah man it’s my last fight. I had a great time fighting you know. It is what it is. He had a chance to do to me what I did to Travis Wiuff. We’ve got some talent at ATT, my boy Sidney Outlaw is fighting next week, Ricky Bandejas, Jordan Young, I’m going to help try to build them.”
Two of the fiercest women at Featherweight met in the middle (without Monie Love) as “Peacekeeper” Leslie Smith (11-7-1) took on “Angerfist” Arlene Blencowe (12-7). Smith got what she’s been looking for in round one as Blencowe was willing to engage with her on the feet. Smith pushed her into the fence a couple of times for takedowns, Blencowe survived the attempts, but Blencowe landed clinch knees and hard hands when she stepped back.
Blencowe turned things around for the next five minutes by negating the continual forward movement of Smith with a stiff right jab. The swelling under Smith’s eye would make most fighters think twice, but Smith ate those shots and was hungry for more, taking any chance she had to stand and trade with her opponent. Blencowe’s leg kicks were also doing damage and helped her even up the fight.
The third round was not very clear either way. While Blencowe was snapping Smith’s head back with strong jabs, Smith was able to push Blencowe into the cage to throw knees, then throw flurries once she’d step back to her range. There were overhand rights from Smith that would miss by a mile, and head kicks that were right on target, so any way you wanted to score it was fair. The judges only saw it one way and scored it 30-27 X3 for Blencowe.
“Thank you Leslie. She was a warrior, she was tough, she kept coming, so thank you Leslie. A big thank you to all my coaches and training partners back home, and all the fans, thank you everyone here. I’m No. 1 contender now, I got that win, but I’ll leave it up to Bellator. Title shot again, three wins in a row? I think I’m ready.”
Rounding out the main card were Heavyweight sluggers Tyrell Fortune (7-0) and Azunna Anyanwu (15-5) with Fortune looking to remain undefeated in his pro career.
A lackluster first round saw Fortune feel out his opponent for the first half of the frame, then attack with his combos and leg kicks in the second half. It was an uneventful 10-9 round.
The second round saw Fortune assert himself in the cage with his right hand, using it twice to stun Anyanwu and then rock him badly, going for broke once he saw Anyanwu stagger. A knee to the body, a kick, another right hand and Kerry Hatley had to step in at 1:56 to declare Fortune the winner by TKO. He spoke to “Big” John McCarthy afterward.
“Yeah man I’m out here taking my time, seeing things. There’s no rush for the knockout. It’s going to come. That’s just fighters IQ. I just listen to my coach, let him tell me where to go, and we go for there. If Tyson Fury is looking to get in the cage, Scott Coker, I’ll take him out real quick!”
For complete Bellator 233 results and coverage click here.