Cole Konrad def Rogent Lloret via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Damian Grabowski def Scott Barrett via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Dan Hornbuckle def Brad Blackburn via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Zoila Frausto def Jessica Pene via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Initially upon looking at the card, I was shocked and dismayed to discover that Hector Lombard was not gonna be rolled out this week to obliterate another ex-football player or washed up UFC vet and I was confused as I was sure that they were going to turn that into a weekly feature . Their ratings would go up, frat boys could turn in every week to see the newest highlight reel knockout, bookies could take bets on how many minutes the sacrificial lamb would survive and Lombard himself could run his record up to something ridiculous, like say 41-0 – in other words everybody would win.
Without Lombard on the card I had to settle for being excited over seeing up and coming prospects like Cole Konrad and Dan Hornbuckle, both of whom I feel are destined for greatness in this business, and the opportunity to see the undefeated Polish sensation Damian Grabowski. Considering that it is mid-week, free MMA (assuming you don’t count your cable bill, but really, who can live without cable anymore?) we’d have to conclude that it’s a pretty good deal.
Full disclosure: I was raised on and obsessed for nearly 20 years with pro wrestling, but after the death of Chris Benoit and the wise decision by the industry to move into more kid friendly territory, I found myself making the natural transition over to the world of MMA. However, that world still remains my frame of reference so when I see a decision like the one rendered by the judges in the Damian Grabowski/Scott Barrett fight I automatically start looking for the conspiracy. The fight itself was reminiscent of the Todd Duffee/Mike Russow one from UFC 114 with Grabowski playing the GI Joe role against Barrett’s Marshmallow Man. Only here Barrett remained in control for most of the first two rounds by dominating the ground game. He endured both a thumb in the eye and a groin shot in the opening five minutes. After the second round I was a little bummed because even though I’m always up for an upset I was actually looking forward to seeing what Grabowski could do in this tournament and in this country. In round 3 he Barrett beat up real good and lost the round handily. The judges however found the fight to be a shutout for Grabowski as each one of them gave him a 30-27 decision. The problem, from where I’m sitting, is in the hype surrounding Grabowski coming into this fight working in conjunction with the questionable though overwhelming decision, he was clearly being positioned as Bellator’s next big thing. My brain starts racing… “Were these judges paid off? How much would it cost to preserve the good name (and undefeated record) or Bellator’s prized import?” There is the fact that throughout announcer Jimmy Smith was beating a fairly loud drum for Barrett and he was shocked (!) when the decision was passed down so I will admit that perhaps I was influenced by him. Over at Sherdog, Jordan Breen, who I respect the hell out of, swears that the judges got it right. And while maybe, upon second viewing I could see Grabowski taking the first round thanks to a very busy and effective flurry from the bottom I can in no way justify scoring against Barrett in round 2. Let’s hope that Grabowski takes advantage of this opportunity and lives up to his full potential in his next two matches.
Being of the mindset that women’s MMA has yet to prove itself as a viable form of entertainment I was still pretty excited to see how the impressive Zoila Frausto would do against her first round competitor Jessica Pene. Her perfectly landed knee to Rosie Sexton last season produced a four star knockout and I was curious to see if it was all a fluke. The fight, to use the term loosely, was nowhere near as thrilling as it was comprised of mostly hugging and was only about 2 steps away from a pillow fight. Pene seemed lethargic and uninterested . . .I would go so far as to say that the last time I saw a fighter sleepwalk through a fight like this was when Brandon Vera brought his C game to the Octagon against Jon Jones and left with a busted face for his trouble. In fact, the only thing it did advance is Dana White’s assessment that we want women to look pretty not beat each other to a pulp.
As a whole the show was dragged down a little by the lack of finishes. We saw all four fights go the distance, three of them being perfect shutouts, and the night closed with Konrad pancaking Lloret for three rounds. Not that the fights or fighters were subpar, they just saw people doing what they had to do to win. Easily the best fight of the night was the non shutout between Dan Hornbuckle and Brad Blackburn who remained upright and swinging for the duration. Not Bellator’s best showing but nothing to be ashamed of either. Also, it’s worth remembering that under their current season format these early episodes are really there to set up bigger and better shows on down the road.
Tags: Cole Konrad, Dan Hornbuckle, Mixed Martial Arts