*Live from Hollywood, Florida
Sean Wheelock and Jimmy Smith are back as play by play and color respectively.
Bellator is coming off of their highly entertaining second season that saw the emergence of stars such as Joe Warren and Ben Askren. As with their previous go rounds this season they are holding 8 man (or woman in this case) tournaments to crown new champions or contenders, but instead of sticking to the Featherweight, Lightweight, Welterweight and Middleweight divisions they are now branching out into the Heavyweight, Bantamweight and Women’s 115 pound divisions.
Champions who were crowned in season 1 will be defending their titles for the first time against the men who won the season 2 tournaments (with the exception of Eddie Alvarez who gets to duck his title defense due to a Pat Curran shoulder injury). And with Strikeforce facing tons of scrutiny over their . . . well . . . sometimes wacky booking now would be the time for Bellator to make a move and become the number 2 MMA organization in North America.
Of course things are never that easy. Besides the fact that they are facing financial ruin at the hands of Zuffa’s legal team the line up for this season, at least on paper, leaves a little to be desired. No matter how hot and exciting the UFC’s Heavyweight division might look right now there is no reason to think any of that has trickled down all the way to Bellator. Plus for every female fight that ends in a Sarah Kaufman powerbomb (apologies to Pat Miletech) there are countless others which go the distance and give us little more than clinics in take downs and leg locks. The Bantamweights I’m OK with. To kick off their season Bellator is giving us three first round matchups and their highly touted Middleweight champ Hector Lombard squaring off against former NFLer/future punching bag Whisper Goodman in a match that should harken back to the great squash matches of the WWF back in the 1980’s.
Sanchez over Grove (Decision)
Fujii over Esparze (Decision)
Lombard over Goodman (TKO Round 2) Only because I am giving Goodman a massive benefit of the doubt.
Alvarez over Aguilar (Submission Round 3)
Heavyweight Quarterfinal Bout
Neil Grove (8-2-1) vs. Eddie Sanchez (12-3)
Round 1– They come out and immediately Grove hits Sanchez with a deceptive left jab that nearly puts him out. He pounces, nearly finishes and then moves into ground and pound. When that doesn’t work he stands up and already Sanchez is throwing punches like a drunken dad. Grove doesn’t look any crisper but at least he is connecting and Sanchez sorta, kinda collapses under the weight of the blows. Grove lands a few more and in something of a brilliant move let’s Sanchez up because on his way up he makes the cardinal mistake of woozily grasping at his head and that is all referee Jorge Alonso needs to call this fight. Grove def. Sanchez (TKO at 1:32 Round 1). Sanchez tries to convince Alonso that he had him right where he wanted him but to no avail. Of course the real winner here is Bellator because Eddie Sanchez as world champion would, in the end, only serve Eddie Sanchez.
Women’s 115 Pound Quarterfinal Bout
Megumi Fujii (20-0) vs. Carla Esparza (3-0)
Round 1- They exchange soft, uninspired punches to start. Fujii goes for a takedown but ends up on the bottom before quickly getting back to her feet. I’m wishing I had started counting the announcers references to her being the #1 pound for pound women’s fighter at the beginning of the show. Halfway through the round and next to nothing has happened. Fujii gets Esparza down but is able to do little with it. She tries for a toe lock, no luck, then moves into Esparza’s guard. There’s a quick stand up and Fujii locks on a half-assed rear naked choke as the bell sounds. 10-9 Fujii though if I could’ve given them both 9’s I would have.
Round 2– They open the round with some ground grappling. Fujii works the leg for submissions but Esparza counters until Fujii masterfully steps over and locks on an arm bar which brings about the inevitable. Fujii def. Esparze (Submission at 0:57 Round 2). It goes without saying that those females out there who take the sport seriously enough should have a way to display their talents and make a living off of it so those of us who may be bored by their lack of physical strength should, in the name of equality, just suck it up. That said this matchup reminded me of a pillow fight.
Michael Moorer is in the crowd…when you’re Bellator and “celebrities” come calling you kind of have to take what you can get.
Bjorn Rebney stops by to talk business with Wheelock and Smith. He discusses Pat Curran’s shoulder injury and how because of it Roger Huerta will step in to fight Eddie Alvarez in a nontitle fight at Bellator 33 on October 21st. Of course that is the match Bellator wanted all along and had envisioned when they signed Huerta, and since it is such an impressive matchup on paper I think Bellator made the best of a less than ideal situation. Smith then tosses Rebney some softballs about the dominant performances they had seen so far tonight and the inherent awesomeness of tournaments. Oddly enough he forgot to ask him about his companies impending legal battles.
Middleweight Non-Title Bout
(Champion) Hector Lombard (25-2-1) vs. Whisper Goodman (16-8)
Round 1 – Well even Bellator can’t get their stats straight as they advertise Lombard as having a record of 25-2-1 AND 26-2…Wikipedia meanwhile has him listed as 26-2-1 so who even knows. What we do know is that he is a dominant force in the sport and sending Goodman in there with him is bordering on the inhumane. Since this is not the first or second round of a Bellator tournament it is being fought under the Unified Rules of Combat meaning that elbows to the head are legal (Praise Jesus). Lombard lands a big punch and unlike Jay Silva Goodman survives, but not for long as Lombard lands a barrage of haymakers eventually rendering Goodman unconscious and staring at the ceiling, at which point Lombard unloads a few more on his chin. Lombard def. Goodman (KO at 0:38 Round 1).
Obviously Goodman was only here tonight to make Lombard look good but color me impressed, now the real challenge lays at Bellator’s feet as they have to find adequate competition for him. Next up for Lombard is the spinning back kick junkie Alexander Shlemenko at Bellator 34 and while I found him to be most impressive during his run through last season’s bracket I cannot fathom a conclusion to their fight that doesn’t result in him looking like your average jobber.
Women’s 115 Pound Quarterfinal Bout
Jessica Aguilar (8-3) vs. Lynn Alvarez (5-1)
Round 1– These girls came to play much more so than that last duo. Aguilar manages the takedown and moves into side control though does little damage with it. Gets something of an arm bar going but Alvarez slips out of it. Aguilar, the hometown favorite, maintains control throughout the round and goes in for the kill with a triangle choke. Alvarez shakes it off but can’t seem to land on her feet. Aguilar sticks to her game plan, waits for another opportunity and slaps on another triangle choke this one ending the match and advancing her to the semi-finals. Aguilar def. Alvarez (Submission at 4:01 Round 1).
In victory Aguilar is polite and respectful and the crowd eats it up.
Yves Edwards (37-16-1) vs. Luis Palomino (13-5)
Round 1 – This match is broadcast live to fill in the space left by the other matches which went a grand total of 12:08 out of a possible 60 minutes. Palomino comes up swinging wildly but quickly finds himself on his back and underneath Edwards. He works his guard and defense fairly well but can do nothing to get out from under the attack. Edwards goes instantly into his lay and pray strategy and for the rest of the round it more or less works. It was a cowardly way to do it but he easily scores a 10-9 round.
Round 2 – Palomino comes out pushing the tempo. Attempts some nasty inside leg kicks and manages to land some of them. Goes for a takedown but Edwards executes a nearly flawless sprawl. Edwards hit a huge, nasty leg kick to the head but Palomino powers through and uses his shoulders on Edwards’ hips to pin him against the cage. We now have a different variety of laying and praying at work. With 20 seconds left in the round Edwards wises up and slaps on a guillotine choke that seems to have potential. Palomino slips out of it however, chases him across the cage and goes for one of the silliest flying back kicks you will ever see. Everybody knows that move only works when you’re 7. 10-9 round for Palomino though many will have certainly seen it for Edwards.
Round 3 – Jimmy Smith concurs with my scoring assessment…I feel so vindicated. Flying knee attempted and missed by Palomino. Neither of these combatants seem terribly stressed out coming down the home stretch though the fight is seemingly a tie with about a minute to go. Edwards breaks it with a take down with 45 seconds left, they both exchange ineffectual elbows until the round ends. 10-9 Edwards as it was even except for that takedown.
Edwards def. Palomino (Unanimous Decision: 29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
This was a rocky start for Bellator season 3, no two ways around it, though there are a lot of reasons to believe that things will turn around. One thing that this promotion seems to pride itself on more than the other, bigger ones is their ability to accumulate stars from around the globe. The final match of the evening featured a fighter from Peru vs. a fighter from The Bahamas. Can you name any other fighter from either of those countries? I can’t. Lombard is from Cuba. Nobody had heard of Shlemenko before Rebney rescued him from the Russian circuit. I do wish, personally, that they would do away with the squash matches for their champions as it is starting to smell like insecurity. I’m sure it was a lot of fun for them to bring in ex UFCers Josh Neer and Jay Silva just to get their asses kicked, and I know that it was fun watching Whisper Goodman get knocked into next week BUT people are going to stop taking Lombard seriously unless he gets some real competition. The look of the show seemed, and maybe it was just my imagination, a tad bit more polished though there is still an amateur feel to the production. And as far as my picks go I am more than willing to admit that 2 out 4 is pretty bad indeed.
Match Results for Bellator 24:
- Neil Grove def. Eddie Sanchez (TKO at 1:32 Round 1) in heavyweight tournament quarter-final
- Megumi Fujii def. Carla Esparze (Submission at 0:57 Round 2) in a women’s 115Ibs tournament quarter-final
- Hector Lombard def. Herbert Goodman (KO at 0:38 Round 1) in a middleweight non-title fight
- Jessica Aguilar def. Lynn Alvarez (Submission at 4:01 Round 1) in a women’s 115Ibs tournament quater-final
- Yves Edwards def. Luis Palomino (Unanimous Decision: 29-28, 29-28, 29-28) in a lightweight fight
Tags: Hector Lombard, Mixed Martial Arts, Neil Grove, Yves Edwards