It was a uncommon head-to-head Saturday night for the 2 greatest blended martial arts promotions in North America.
Whereas the UFC was working a present in Dawn, Florida (which will or could not have been referred to as UFC Fort Lauderdale), Bellator MMA broke out the large weapons for a star-studded occasion at “The Shark Tank” (SInternet Middle) in San Jose, Calif. that includes a pair of championship fights, a two-time title challenger, two former champions going through off in opposition to each other and one of the vital electrical prospects on the roster returning to motion.
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This was the kick-off to what must be a really fascinating and eventful spring and summer season contained in the Bellator MMA cage and it delivered some essential outcomes that may definitely issue into how issues play out in a pair key division going ahead.
Here is a have a look at what transpired on the principle card and what which means for the winners and losers.
Rory MacDonald, Jon Fitch battle to a draw; champion expresses doubts about future
What would an MMA match be with out some form of wonky outcome?
Saturday evening in San Jose, the opening spherical of the Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix got here to an in depth with a pairing between the welterweight champion, MacDonald, and the grizzled veteran, Fitch. It was a hard-fought affair the place the titleholder landed the extra impactful blows, whereas the challenger managed giant stretches along with his smothering grappling, and in the long run, the judges have been deadlocked, leading to a majority draw that sees MacDonald advance as a result of he is the champion.
The scorecards have been virtually similar, with all three judges giving MacDonald the primary two rounds, Fitch a 10-Eight spherical within the third and a 10-9 spherical within the fifth. The lone body that noticed any distinction of opinions was the fourth, the place decide Anthony Maness noticed the body for Fitch, whereas the opposite two officers, Ron McCarthy and Mike Bell, awarded the spherical to MacDonald.
Because it was a championship battle, the tie goes to the titleholder, which suggests MacDonald strikes ahead to fulfill Neiman Gracie within the subsequent spherical, though that form of feels up within the air for the time being.
What it means: MacDonald gave a really trustworthy post-fight interview to John McCarthy, explaining that he is having a tough time pulling the set off and that maybe his religion has modified him to the place he is not so eager on beating the ever-loving hell out of one other human being for cash any extra.
Whereas it would not precisely sound inspiring out of your welterweight champion and a man who is meant to battle once more in roughly six weeks, it is the form of truthful, real response we frequently demand from these athletes and you must tip your cap to MacDonald for expressing such advanced concepts instantly following a troublesome battle.
As for the battle itself, my private feeling is that it reveals we nonetheless have points with judging as a result of if you are going to give Fitch a 10-Eight for smothering MacDonald and doing little or no harm within the third, there ought to have been myriad different 10-Eight rounds awarded all through the night. Maness scoring the fourth for Fitch was questionable as effectively, on condition that MacDonald wobbled him within the opening two minutes of the body earlier than the veteran grinder introduced the motion to a halt alongside the fence line for the ultimate half of the spherical.
By way of the match, it would not be shocking to see the battle with Gracie get delayed whereas MacDonald figures out his subsequent transfer, which might be something from regrouping and returning as scheduled to strolling away solely. This can be a fluid scenario and one which has a number of layers to it, so for now, it is best to take a wait-and-see strategy and hold the choices open in case you’re Bellator MMA.
Ilima-Lei Macfarlane busts open Vera Arteaga, retains title
Do not be stunned if these two run it again within the not too distant future as a result of earlier than the stoppage, Macfarlane and Arteaga have been locked in an in depth, aggressive scrap.
Over the primary two rounds, it performed out as most anticipated, with the champion chasing takedowns and seeking to grapple, whereas the challenger sought to make it ugly, attacking Macfarlane with strong photographs off backside that gave her issues. Early within the third, Macfarlane put Arteaga on the canvas and uncorked a left elbow that produced a large minimize that prompted referee Jason Herzog to press pause on the motion and in the end led to the battle being stopped.
What it means: The straightforward reply is that we will get a rematch as a result of Macfarlane wasn’t pleased profitable by physician’s stoppage, Arteaga seemed strong over the primary 10 minutes and the choices are restricted.
That mentioned, there isn’t a cause for Macfarlane to be dissatisfied together with her efficiency as a result of the elbow was stunning and he or she was capable of finding a technique to pull out a victory when she wasn’t feeling her finest. These are the issues that basically produce separation between champions and contenders and though she wasn’t too happy together with her effort, this was a extra spectacular win than a few of her earlier championship performances.
Arteaga confirmed on this one which she’s able to hanging with Macfarlane. Whether or not she will get a rematch instantly or has to exit and win yet another, she has the toughness and tenacity to work her means again into one other championship alternative. If she will additional shore up her takedown protection, the sequel might find yourself being even higher than this one.
Benson Henderson edges Adam Piccolotti in entertaining scramble-fest
Henderson’s penchant for beginning gradual practically price him, however in the long run, the previous two-division title holder was in a position to sneak out of San Jose – and again house for the beginning of his third youngster – with a slim split-decision win over the very sport Piccolotti.
The previous UFC champion received clipped within the first, which gave Piccolotti a gap to check Henderson’s submission protection, which held up properly. Over the subsequent two rounds, each males had their alternatives, with Henderson getting a little bit higher of issues on the toes and showcasing his offensive grappling, in addition to having to do extra defending.
The followers in attendance did not like the decision and it felt like Piccolotti had carried out sufficient to drag off the upset, however in the long run, “Clean” stole a victory to push his profitable streak to a few.
What it means: Henderson needs to remain lively and this was a “hold busy” battle earlier than child No. Three arrives subsequent week, however it might be the primary battle in a sequence between the 2, given the way it performed out and the dissatisfaction with the choice.
Not solely did it additional underscore that Henderson must learn how to get free within the again and begin faster, however it made it clear that the underrated Piccolotti is a participant within the light-weight division. He gave Henderson all he might deal with after which some and if he would not get a rematch down the road, he ought to discover himself within the cage with one other strong contender subsequent day out.
Greater image, it additionally reveals that Henderson is perhaps beginning to decelerate and isn’t going to be the “high of the division” standout many anticipated him to be when he first signed with Bellator MMA. He got here up quick in twin title bids, received proper with two good wins over veteran fringe contenders and struggled in opposition to a youthful, brisker man on Saturday. Whereas guys like MacDonald, Gegard Mousasi and Ryan Bader have come over and received championships, the MMA Lab product has settled in being a powerful veteran presence and acquainted title able to combating in two weight lessons.
That is not unhealthy, it is simply inferior to many envisioned when he left the UFC.
Phil Davis finishes fellow former champ Liam McGeary
In a battle of former mild heavyweight titleholders, Davis used his superior athleticism and all-around expertise to get the higher of McGeary, holding a slim edge heading into the third spherical earlier than getting a late faucet whereas he was making an attempt to arrange a submission.
McGeary was truly having some success within the remaining stanza and was coming ahead at Davis when “Mr. Fantastic” hit him with a left hand that stiffened McGeary up and stopped him lifeless in his tracks. Seeing his opening, Davis drove by means of a robust takedown and climbed proper into mount, forcing McGeary to surrender his again.
When Davis began attempting to find the choke, McGeary tapped, later acknowledging that he’d suffered a damaged jaw.
What it means: Along with getting Davis again into the win column after struggling an upset loss to Vadim Nemkov again in November, this one will get the previous titleholder again into the title dialog. It additionally reveals that even at 34 and greater than 25 fights into his MMA profession, the pink-short-wearing wrestler remains to be including components to his sport and persevering with to enhance.
Gentle heavyweight has a restricted variety of contenders and whereas Nemkov is forward of Davis because of their head-to-head contest, the Penn State alum put himself within the working for a championship alternative if Ryan Bader wants a dance companion within the subsequent few months.
McGeary is now 1-Three over his final 4 and simply 2-Four since defending the sunshine heavyweight strap in opposition to Tito Ortiz. He is 36 and has now misplaced to Davis twice, so he is doubtless out of the title combine in the meanwhile. Plus, having suffered a busted jaw, he might be on the sidelines for fairly a while.
Gaston Bolanos stops Nathan Stolen in “Condit vs. Hardy” end
Bolanos has been piling up explosive finishes and he added one other one to his spotlight reel on Saturday evening in San Jose, flooring Stolen with a pointy left hook earlier than placing him away with a fast sequence of observe up punches.
Keep in mind when Carlos Condit fought Dan Hardy in London and it ended when each guys landed left arms, solely Condit’s had a little bit extra mustard on it? That is what occurred right here – each guys uncorked lefts and each landed, however Bolanos landed the heavier blow, Stolen buckled, fell to the bottom and the up-and-comer did not let him get again up.
What it means: That is what was anticipated and the explanation Bolanos was stationed within the opening battle of the principle card. He is been a constant thrill experience over his previous couple of fights and delivered once more right here, though not with out going through a little bit adversity.
Stolen had some good moments within the transient, entertaining battle and it confirmed that there are nonetheless some holes in Bolanos’ sport that he wants to deal with earlier than he must be within the cage with any of the large names within the featherweight division.
He is received potential, however for now, maintaining him on the MVP program makes essentially the most sense.