MMA Weekly (11/13-11/20): Fedor Signs With Bellator; Gegard Mousasi, Michael Chandler, and Ryan Bader Win Big
Bellator and the UFC treated (and perhaps overwhelmed) MMA fans with three fight cards this week, all of which took place on Saturday. Still, too much action is far better than too little, and the entertaining bouts provided, as well as other news and developments from the week, made the past seven days worthy of following the biggest event of all time at UFC 205.
Let’s recap this week’s MMA news and results!
Bellator 165: Michael Chandler Retains His Lightweight Title Against Benson Henderson
Bellator 165 was a great event, and undoubtedly, one worthy of battling the UFC head-to-head on the same night. Fun fights, fantastic commentary from Chael Sonnen, and a huge announcement were the integral ingredients of this successful fight card recipe.
The show initiated with an excellent light heavyweight match-up between former UFC contender and Tristar product Francis Carmont and British submission specialist and former Bellator title challenger Linton Vassell.
Although “Limitless” had his moments and even occupied his opponent’s back at one point, the match was dominated by the grappling of Linton Vassell, who arguably has one of the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skillsets in the division, besides Phil Davis and Liam McGeary. He used the back mount and the normal mount to simply outwork the French athlete on the way to a unanimous decision, in a performance likely to put him very close to a title shot.
After that, undefeated submission specialist Adam Piccolotti made good on his trial by fire, beating the elite Brandon Girtz via unanimous decision. Piccolotti used his range and movement to keep Girtz guessing—and missing—with his offense, all while eating numerous stiff strikes, through two rounds.
The same thing was happening in the final period until a newfound aggression and willingness to close the distance helped Girtz to land a series of powerful punches on the feet, and more strikes when the fight hit the mat following a well-timed takedown. The late rally wasn’t enough to nab the victory, though, and Adam Piccolotti—one of the brightest prospects in the sport—was awarded the decision, once again.
Next, Gilbert Melendez’s wife, Keri Melendez, won big in her Bellator (and MMA) debut by knocking her undefeated opponent, Sheila Padilla, out in less than one minute. The newest Melendez family member to grace the cage simply connected with a devastating strike on her opponent’s chin and followed it up with several additional punches.
Melendez is a phenomenal addition to Bellator’s roster for a number of reasons, and this victory is one of them; knockouts are comparatively rare in women’s divisions and lower weight classes, and she defied the statistics with this gorgeous finish against a seemingly high-level opponent.
In the co-main event, Michael Page met his most formidable opponent to date in Fernando Gonzalez. The bout wasn’t the riveting affair fans expected, though, as Gonzalez mainly circled from the outside and landed kicks, while not committing to any major striking offense; this rendered Michael Page’s counter-striking game largely ineffective, and what followed was fifteen minutes of relative inactivity from both men.
Both Gonzalez and Page are monsters, and they should be watched closely moving forward. However, this contest highlighted deficiencies in both of their skill sets: Gonzalez has difficulty finding his mark on the feet (and creating openings for takedowns) against precise strikers, while Page has trouble leading the action and advancing with his own punches and kicks, as opposed to timing blows behind the movements of opponents.
In the main event, former WEC and UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson locked horns with the reigning Bellator lightweight king Michael Chandler in what was a terrific and action-packed bout.
Michael Chandler landed significant punches (and a ridiculous suplex) that would have put lesser competitors away in the opening period, but Benson stayed tough and weathered the storm. Michael was unable to find the finish, and in pouring on so much offense, he expended a significant amount of energy.
Bendo became increasingly competitive as the fight progressed and his opponent tired, but on the way to the fifth and final round, he found himself in some tough spots, eating big punches and most pressingly of all, being powered to the canvas by the collegiate wrestler Chandler. Furthermore, “Iron” had a tight guillotine locked in on more than one occasion, but the ultra-durable Henderson fought out of them.
The closest round of the match was the second, which could have gone either way, but Chandler outwrestled and outstruck Henderson in the third and fourth periods. The fifth and final round, however, was all Bendo, as he imposed his will against an exhausted champion, who displayed grit and determination of his own to reach the bell.
The final result of this barnburner title fight was a split decision in favor of Michael Chandler. The judges chose the correct fighter, but this should probably have been a unanimous decision.
Bellator 165 was once again an enjoyable event, complete with largely entertaining fights and a huge announcement in the form of Fedor’s signing. The promotion will now take a break until December 3 when Eduardo Dantas and Joe Warren will rematch in Bellator 166’s main event.
UFC Fight Night 100: Ryan Bader Finishes Antônio Rogério Nogueira
The UFC’s most recent trip to Brazil, like the Northern Ireland show held earlier in the day, was good—but not incredible.
UFC Fight Night 100’s main card began with an exciting and gritty welterweight match between Zak Ottow and Sergio Moraes. The Brazilian Moraes used his ground-game advantage to find success, by and large, while Ottow threw and landed a significant number of punches on the feet. The final result of this back-and-forth slugfest was a split decision for Sergio Moraes, who hasn’t lost a UFC fight since 2012, and barring a UFC 198 draw to Luan Chagas, has won all five of his bouts since this loss.
Next, TUF Brazil 3 winner Warlley Alves was bested by the increasingly popular prospect and fellow TUF winner Kamaru Usman across three rounds. The fight began competitively enough, with the Brazilian keeping the range and landing some solid blows, but the second and third periods saw Usman use his aggression and grappling skills to chase his opponent down—sometimes literally—and generally impose his will. The final result was a unanimous decision in Usman’s favor, and the skilled Blackzillian is now clearly ready for a step up in competition.
After that, in one of the most impressive performances of the night, Krzysztof Jotko extended his win streak to five as he dominated an ultra-tough opponent in Thales Leites. The first period belonged to the BJJ world champion Leites, as he used his aggression and top control to throw the younger man off. However, Jotko finished this opening round on top—a sign of things to come.
The middle stanza saw Jotko land stiff punches at striking range, and surprisingly, dominate from top position against the BJJ world champion by controlling posture, remaining calm, and landing damaging blows. The third round presented more of the same, as the Polish fighter once again excelled from the top against a man used to overwhelming opponents on the canvas.
The final result of this one was a unanimous decision for Krzysztof Jotko. The ever-improving up-and-comer has amassed a professional record of 19-1, having won his last five UFC fights in outstanding fashion.
After that, UFC strawweight title challenger Cláudia Gadelha reminded fans and fellow fighters alike why she’s ranked so highly by dominating Courtney Casey for fifteen minutes. Casey remained tough throughout, but the skill and tenacity of Claudia was simply too much.
In the co-main event, Thomas Almeida succeeded in his Octagon return by defeating Albert Morales via second-round TKO, in an absolute barnburner. Both men traded leather and let their hands fly, but the end result was a second-round TKO for Almeida, made possible by a series of body shots. Thomas is young, always fun to watch, and incredibly skillful; Morales is thrilling and talented in his own right, and fighters like these men are revitalizing the bantamweight division.
Finally, the main event kicked Ryan Bader’s free agency off with a bang, as he finished Antônio Rogério Nogueira via third-round TKO. The elite wrestler Bader timed his takedowns perfectly, and when on top, punished the Brazilian with devastating punches that ultimately led to the finish.
Ryan Bader is a monster, and especially given the state of the light heavyweight division, the UFC would be wise to re-sign him.
UFN 100 was a reasonable overall event, but by the time it drew to a close, most hardcore fans were probably tired—the day had brought over thirty fights from Bellator and the UFC!
UFC Fight Night 99: Gegard Mousasi Stops Uriah Hall Quickly
The UFC’s return to Northern Ireland went off without a hitch.
The main card started with a featherweight tilt between the polarizing Team Alpha Male product Teruto Ishihara and SBG Ireland team member Artem Lobov. Evidently, the countless rounds accumulated for Lobov as the main training partner of UFC featherweight and lightweight champion Conor McGregor have paid off.
From the opening bell until the final horn, Lobov’s striking was simply too much for the skilled Japanese fighter. Ishihara is tough as nails and stuck in the pocket across fifteen minutes, even dropping Artem in the final period, but the power strikes landed by “The Russian Hammer” were plainly excellent. He’s a terrific fighter in his own right, and watching him against a top-fifteen or top-ten opponent will be a treat, as he’s clearly improved by leaps and bounds.
After that, former Bellator heavyweight champion Alexander Volkov made his long-awaited Octagon debut opposite top-fifteen heavyweight Tim Johnson. The Russian competitor won a hard-fought split decision over Johnson, but frankly, he looked rather lackluster overall. Instead of using his range like we’ve seen him do in the past, Volkov allowed his opponent to close the distance with strikes and takedown attempts alike, and even did so himself on multiple occasions!
It’s possible “Octagon jitters” negatively impacted Alexander, and he’s a very talented fighter, but even in victory this wasn’t his best performance. Johnson, inversely, looked great against a formidable competitor. It’s worth following both men going forward.
In the co-main event, perennial contender Ross Pearson locked horns with the up-and-coming lightweight star Stevie Ray. This bout was close from start to finish, and neither man was able to fully impose his will. By and large, though, the movement and kicks of Ray negated the offense of Pearson. The final result of this competitive match was a split decision for Stevie Ray.
Ray is an elite fighter, and his career is one to watch. Similarly, Pearson has a lot left to give, and he could easily break back into the top fifteen in the near future.
In the main event, Uriah Hall and Gegard Mousasi met for the second time. However, this outing ended much differently than their initial bout did, as Mousasi walked his opponent down slowly through most of the first round, watching cautiously for spinning techniques and landing solid blows in the process. Then, a well-timed takedown in the late portion of the stanza allowed him to punish Hall with strikes from top until the referee was forced to intervene.
In essence, this impressive victory made clear that Hall’s first victory was, in fact, a “fluke,” as Mousasi dominated him on the way to a title-contender match-up.
UFN 99 was a reasonable overall event that featured some quality combat, but nothing extraordinary.
Former UFC Champion Lyoto Machida Suspended for Eighteen Months
Lyoto Machida was hit with some rough news to close out the year.
The former UFC light heavyweight champion was suspended eighteen months this week by the USADA, following his failure of an April 8 drug test. Machida tested positive for 7‐keto-dehydroepiandrosterone on this out-of-competition test, and following the revealing of this infraction; the always-professional Machida indicated he did, in fact, take the substance in a supplement, unknowingly, and provided the name of this substance.
His cooperation and admittance of wrongdoing evidently didn’t mean much to the USADA. They’re doing their jobs in issuing a suspension, but frankly, this sentence was too much. Consider other recent suspensions they’ve issued:
—Yoel Romero, six months for the growth hormone ibutamoren
—Jon Jones, one year for performance enhancers Clomiphene and Letrozole
—Tim Means, six months for Ostarine
While each infraction is different, they are all undoubtedly infractions. Why fighters may receive six-month suspensions while others receive two-year suspensions (Chad Mendes) and other fighters yet get eighteen-month sentences is anyone’s best guess.
But, there’s no denying that USADA needs to be more consistent in issuing their suspensions, to appear objective and professional, and most importantly of all, to judge each athlete impartially. After all, in their most basic forms, these suspensions are the eradication of integral years of competition that fighters cannot get back.
MMA Fight Announcements
Chad Laprise versus Jiangling Li at UFC 206 on December 10 (canceled)
TUF winner Chad Laprise has suffered an injury, and unfortunately, he won’t be able to meet Jiangling Li as was scheduled for UFC 206. Not fighting in front of his hometown crowd sucks, but Laprise—and Li—will certainly be back.
Gerald Meerschaert versus Joe Gigliotti at UFC Fight Night 102 on December 9
This fantastic contest will mark Meerschaert’s promotional debut. The young Roufusport product will clash with a clear-cut finisher in Joe Gigliotti, who has secured all seven of his wins via finish and has been defeated only once professionally.
Tarec Saffiedine versus Dong Hyun Kim at UFC 207 on December 30
Matt Brown was moved to UFC 206 to face Cowboy Cerrone, leaving the former Strikeforce champion Tarec Saffiedine without an opponent. Now, he will meet “The Stun Gun” Dong Hyun Kim, in what is arguably just as good or a better contest than what was initially booked. Stylistically, this is a marvelous bout that could end at any second, and an impressive performance will move one man much closer to a title shot.
Sam Alvey versus Nate Marquardt at UFC on Fox 23 on January 28
A top-quality middleweight match-up, Alvey-Marquardt will propel the winner near the top ten, and the loser, frankly, a ways off from a title shot. Stylistically, it’s tough to see how this one won’t be fun to watch.
Fedor Emelianenko versus Matt Mitrione at Bellator 172 on February 18
Bellator has succeeded in signing “The Last Emperor,” and now, we’ll be able to find out how much more the man many consider to be the GOAT has left to give the sport when he locks horns with a legitimate and formidable opponent in Matt Mitrione at Bellator 172.
This week was a pretty good one for MMA fans, and like always, there’s plenty more action ahead.
See you in seven days!