Weekend in Review: Bellator, UFC Fumble at Goal Line
By: Jesse Donathan
A February 17, 2019 MMAFighting.com Twitter post detailed UFC fighter Andrea “KGB” Lee answering a fans question concerning what they could expect at the UFC on ESPN 1 card in Phoenix. “Expect… you know… some violence,” said Lee with the kind of quiet confidence only a professional fighter can carry. It was as if Lee was auditioning for a role in the next Natural Born Killers flick, her words cute yet oddly believable. “KGB” offered us hope after abysmal back-to-back Bellator main events from this past weekend, where Matt Mitrione sent Sergei Kharitonov’s lower extremities into orbit at Bellator 215 and Paul Daley somehow turned into a wrestler the next night at Bellator 216.
Friday night saw Mitrione fire off an unintentional, yet illegal groin strike early in the first round which resulted in Kharitonov justifiably hitting the deck in pain, unable to continue and their much anticipated heavyweight bout being ruled a no-contest with Sergei being admitted to the hospital not once, but twice with some sources even reporting that the Russian titan suffered a hemorrhoid as a result of the unfortunate encounter with one of Mitrione’s low kicks.
To make matters even worse for Bellator, their much-anticipated welterweight clash between British slugger Paul “Semtex” Daley (40-17-2) and the elusive counter-striker Michael “Venom” Page (14-0) Saturday night turned out to be anything but the violent, stand-up encounter the fans were anticipating with Page winning a controversial unanimous decision over “NCAA” Daley.
“Semtex” is usually known as a stand-up oriented fighter, a feared one at that, but appeared reluctant to trade with Page and instead brought a grappling based plan of attack to the fight that exposed Pages susceptibility to the takedown but also left fans disappointed with Daley’s unwillingness to trade with the counter striker. Instead, Daley elected to virtually give Page round one and employed a smart, yet disappointing grappling-based game plan in the remainder of the fight with varying levels of success. So, with “KGB” promising violence on Sunday night, the UFC on ESPN 1 event couldn’t let “The Just Bleed God” down.
Unfortunately for Lee, in picking up a victory Sunday night against her opponent Ashlee Evans-Smith in their scheduled bantamweight affair she did so by unanimous decision, further angering “The Just Bleed God” who demands to see fighters separated from consciousness and various extremities smashed, broken or otherwise altered beyond their originally intended state. But we will have to give her extra credit for the incredibly brilliant sound bite and the rather charming method of delivery for her Sunday fight-night predictions, well done. Dana White has to love this kind of promotion from his fighters.
The UFC on ESPN 1’s main event saw former two-time UFC Heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez lose to Francis Ngannou by first round TKO. Velasquez was put on the floor early after an exchange with Ngannou where “The Predator” finished the former champion off with strikes before referee Jason Herzog stepped in and called a halt to the contest at just 26 seconds of round number one. Replay’s show Velasquez’s knee gave out on him during the exchange with Ngannou, leading to the fight hitting the ground and Ngannou picking up what is surely the best victory of his career to date.
In what was unfortunately a less than desirable turn of events, even the UFC’s capstone main event this weekend left “The Just Bleed God” feeling empty and unsatisfied with the outcome of the UFC on ESPN 1’s main attraction. Much like Friday nights Bellator 215 main event with Mitrione and Kharitonov, the Ngannou vs. Velasquez fight was over before it even started, the ending less than fulfilling leaving one yearning for more. From a fan’s perspective, the fact Bellator offered back-to-back events this weekend at all was a commendable effort despite the rather disappointing turn of events and the fact the UFC on ESPN 1 finished the weekend off with a card of their own on Sunday night made this weekend one to have looked forward too.
Despite this weekend’s big dreams and broken promises, a thank you is in order to both organizations, including the Legacy Fighting Alliance organization where UFC legend Pat Miletich does an outstanding job commentating on their incredible fights over on AXSTV as well. This is a mixed martial arts fans dream to have this much MMA available to consume and hopefully a glimpse of the future where these events become more common place on network television.
Despite some disappointing performances, there was some light at the end of the tunnel this weekend. Luke Sanders (13-3) sent former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao (34-8) to meet the sandman with a first-round knockout performance. Barao, the bigger man in the cage Sunday night, has dropped four fights in a row and failed to make weight for Sunday nights scheduled fight in Phoenix by two pounds. The weight issues and subsequent knockout loss once again bringing to light the potential health hazards associated with extreme weight cutting and the susceptibility of fighters to fight ending blows due to a lack of fluid on the brain to aid in protecting against head trauma.
Elsewhere, strawweight Emily Whitmire (4-2) defeated Aleksandra Albu (3-1) via rear-naked-choke and bantamweight Manny Bermudez (14-0) defeated Benito Lopez (9-1) via brabo choke. Welterweight Vicente Luque (15-6) defeated Bryan Barberena via a trilling third round TKO and featherweight Alex Caceres (14-12) was made quick work of by the debuting Brazilian Jiu-jitsu prodigy Kron Gracie (5-0). So, while we got more disappointments and unanimous decisions than the violence “KGB” promised us this past weekend, at least there is light at the end of the tunnel bright enough to see better cards and hopefully better fights to come on the horizon. Otherwise, “The Just Bleed God” is going to be very angry.