Bellator Bounces Back at 26

Quick Results

  • Steve Carl def Tyler Stinson (Submission at 2:30 of round 1)
  • Lisa Ward def Aisling Daly (unanimous decision 30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
  • Jose Vega def Danny Time (unanimous decision 30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
  • Alexey Oleinik def Mike Hayes (split decision 29-28, 29-28, 28-29)

– After suffering through two ho hum shows to open season 3 Bellator had everything break their way Thursday night as three out of four of the featured matches were nearly flawless and each succeeded in its own way. Give me that ratio any night and I’m a happy man.

-Steve Carl vs. Tyler Stinson: To me this crazy awesome one round case study in grappling only served to underscore the inherent problem Bellator faces this season and with their format. Throughout their first two seasons they more or less stuck to four divisions (Feather, Light, Welter, and Middle) all of which are exciting for fans and rich in talent. In season 1 they held a tournament to crown a champion in each division and in season 2 they decided the number one contender. This season however, instead of sticking to their bread and butter, they have gone off in a totally different direction and added three divisions (Bantam, Heavy and Women’s 115 pound), two of which are rather unnecessary (go ahead and guess). So now they have a glut of people on the roster, people like Carl and Stinson, who are left to fight for spots in the hypothetical season 4 tournament. With Carl’s victory he can hope to win the season 4 tournament all in the name of earning a season 5 title shot. The tournament system they use is inventive and functional, but to do so they really can’t have any more than 4 divisions because at this point their roster can’t hold that many people. I’d love to see the Bantamweight division hang around, mostly because right now only there is only the WEC division, and would be more than ready to sacrifice any of the others to have that happen.

Alexey Oleinik vs. Mike Hayes: Another Thursday another judging controversy in the Heavyweight division. In the final matchup of the first round Mike Hayes took on another one of Bellator’s highly touted imports, Russia’s own Alexey Oleinik. The first two rounds were close but on my scorecard I had them going to Hayes. In the final seconds of round 2 Hayes caught an accidental head butt that opened up a nasty . . . no make that a horrific gash above his left eye. His corner patched it up best they could and sent him back out there for round 3 but it took no time at all before it turned into a hard to watch gore fest that Sean Wheelock referred to as the bloodiest MMA match he has seen all year. I racked my brain to try and challenge him but the best I could come up with was when Jon Madsen punched a whole straight on through to Abe Wagner’s brain, but that was on the season 10 premiere of  The Ultimate Fighter and, alas, happened last year. The round, while close, probably went to Oleinik. We could argue that perhaps Hayes should have had some mercy points thrown his way just for surviving the match while his head was pumping plasma all over the mat, but it didn’t turn out that way as once again the judges went with the non-American. Maybe they just felt back about the backbreaking commute he had to partake in just to be there. Neither of the fighters looked overly impressive but the grotesque spectacle of it all made it an intense, memorable 15 minutes. Bellator also threw us a bone and announced the second round matchups and the highlight is certainly Cole Konrad vs. Damian Grabowski as two of the hotter Heavyweight up and comers will square off to see who the realer deal is.

Lisa Ward vs. Aisling Daly: The women’s 115 pound tournament also polished off their first round as Lisa Ward won a quality victory over Ireland’s Aisling Daly. This fight was the letdown of the evening as it was a defensive ground battle in which Ward out crafted her larger opponent. Before the fight the referee went with “God Bless You” which, at least for my money, is not going to catch on the same way “Let’s Get it On” did. Post fight Ward used her interview time to bellyache some more about her traumatic, bullied childhood. If she wants her gimmick to be the girl who was good another to succeed at boy’s wrestling but was not strong enough to look past the inevitable name calling then that’s up to her. Bellator neglected to announce these second round matchups but if reason rules the day we should probably see the presumed #1 Megumi Fujii vs. #4 Jessica Aguilar and #2 Lisa Ward vs. #3 Zoila Frausto. The only real question left at this point is can anybody slow down Fujii and as of now all smart money is saying no.

-Jimmy Smith won my heart for a second or two during the Jose Vega/Danny Tims fight. Wheelock, commenting on how blistering fast the match had been thus far remarked that Cole Konrad/Rogent Lloret this was not. So Smith, seizing upon the juicy opportunity, went with “Dare I say, thankfully not.” Amen.

-After bringing up the point in a column last week on how modern day MMA is just a mix up of 4 main styles (Wrestling, boxing, Muay Thai and BJJ) I of course celebrated the fact that Oleinik was listed as fighting under the disciplines of Sambo and Judo. Good to finally see some diversity around here.

-By this point all MMA promoters should be wise enough to know that you win some and you lose some. This week Bellator scored a smashing success and with three more Bantamweight first round matches to go and the title fights starting next week I feel secure in saying that the best is yet to come.

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