Bellator 32 Recap and Analysis

With only three shows left in the third season of Bellator the promotion is making its way towards a well crafted climax that includes 5 title matches over that time period and a special feature with lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez facing one of their biggest draws Roger Huerta. Bellator 32 was scheduled to have only three live fights to accommodate for the fact that two of them could go a maximum of 25 minutes.

Ryan Thomas vs. Jim Wallhead

Wallhead is the fighter who was beaten and humiliated last fall by the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull which kept him from participating in the season 2 welterweight tournament. He’s back here taking on the man who reached the semi-finals of that very tournament Ryan Thomas. The fight itself was not overly interesting (despite claims by the announce team that it was “extremely entertaining” and “very exciting”) as neither fighter seemed to be wearing the eye of the tiger. Things picked up a bit in the second round as Wallhead started to find his range and connect on some blows. Both fighters were known coming in for their submission game but this fight remained upright for nearly the duration. They seemed to be an evenly matched duo which created a lot of stalemates throughout. Wallhead was able to overcome an unfortunate opening round and went on to be the dominant force the rest of the way. He opened up a nasty cut above Thomas’s eye and with about two and a half minutes remaining in the fight got a takedown and was able to hold his opponent there until the final bell. Not a showstopping performance by any means but should be enough to earn him a spot in next season’s welterweight tournament.

Jim Wallhead defeated Ryan Thomas via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Bantamweight Title Fight

Zack Makovsky vs. Ed West

Despite all the overselling that happened in the previous bout none was needed here as these two highly touted bantamweights competed in a cerebral chess game that may have been one sided but never managed to bore. With this fight Bellator introduced us to an on screen feature wherein Jimmy Smith’s scorecard is displayed for the viewer. I love this idea and wish that other announce teams would have the guts to do something similar. The first two rounds were close, not terribly eventful affairs but with round 3 Makovsky started to display his superiority. He got an exciting take down and hit West with an elbow/forearm that you knew was going to result in blood loss. It did though on the whole the wound was significantly less severe than the one suffered by Thomas earlier in the night. It’s always a treat to get to see a five round match even if the final score is lopsided as it is here. I don’t think I would want to see every fight go five rounds but the novelty of them is fun and refreshing. West was never able to take control of the fight and his most aggressive strike of the fight came after the opening bell of round 4 when he charged out of the gate and tried a flying knee. It didn’t quite work out in his favor. On my feed of the show we missed the official decision and came back from commercial during Makovsky’s victory speech so the final scores I have here have come from other websites who, one way or another, got to hear them.

Zack Makovsky defeated Ed West via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 49-46) to win Bantamweight title

Heavyweight Title Fight

Neil Grove vs. Cole Konrad

My feeling heading into this tournament is that Bellator would have been happy with either Konrad or Damian Grabowski winning the title. That was shaken even so slightly when they paired them up against each other in the semi-final round. Perhaps to ensure that at least one of them would make the finals? Who knows. Grove, on the other hand, was somebody who I had completely underestimated, to the point of picking him to lose his opening round fight to Eddie Sanchez. Oops. No matter his ultra impressive victories in the first two rounds made this a must see heavyweight tilt. Pre-fight they go with the Neil Grove family man video in an effort to humanize him. It’s cheesy and ultimately useless to me but I feel as though their promos are getting better with time. The first round plays out pretty much like everybody anticipated. Grove goes for the KO while Konrad looks for the takedown. He gets it a little deeper in the round than might have been expected but then uses his wrestling ability to keep Grove there. Then, just when you think that he is cruising along to an easy 10-9 round, he finds an opening a locks on a painful keylock and within seconds forces Grove to submit and becomes to new Bellator heavyweight champion.

Cole Konrad defeated Neil Grove via submission (Round 1, 4:45) to win Heavyweight title

Michael Chandler vs. Chris Page

This fight could barely even be considered that as Chandler owned every second of it and put page out with a guillotine choke less than a minute in. More to the point though is this marketing decision made by Bellator in which they are going to build up their fighters by throwing their prospects easy fights and then televising them beating up on an inferior opponent. I’m not saying it’s wrong, though it is more of an old school approach and not in line with how the UFC does things. I feel as though it was done last season with Cole Konrad and everything seemed to work out OK there. They have a shallower talent pool than the UFC and have to protect their resources a bit more. And now that we are entering the conclusion of season 3 I can say that the booking they have executed thus far is head and shoulders above the nonsense coming out of Strikeforce.

Michael Chandler defeated Chris Page via submission (Round 1, 0:57)

They then conclude the show with a series of commercials and time wasters. CEO Bjorn Rebney even stops by to shill for his new champs and in the process makes the bizarre point that Konrad is not a boring fighter because. . .well. . .he trains with Brock Lesnar. OK. Next week we have two awesome fights as Alvarez takes on Huerta in a non-title match and Lyman Good, who took all of season 2 off, comes in as the champ and underdog against Ben Askren as they battle for the welterweight title. The following week we have the women’s 115 pound title fight between Megumi Fujii and Zoila Frausto and the one I’ve been waiting all season for, perhaps my two favorite Bellator fighters square off for the middleweight title as we have Hector Lombard vs. Alexander Shlemenko.

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