Bellator 232: “Baby Slice” KO Victory Overturned to No Contest
By: Jesse Donathan
As BoxingInsider.com previously reported in, “Bellator 232 in Review: When Common Sense isn’t so Common,” Kevin Ferguson Jr., aka “Baby Slice,” scored a controversial 38-second KO victory over the weekend after raining down what appeared to be obvious illegal blows to the back of his opponent Craig Ferguson’s head. On Monday, reports surfaced that The Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation (MTDAR) has officially overturned the Bellator 232 knockout victory for Kevin Ferguson Jr. and deemed the bout a no contest (NC).
According to an October 28, 2019 Sherdog.com article titled, “‘Baby Slice’ Has Bellator 232 Victory Overturned Due to Use of Illegal Elbows,” author Tristen Critchfield writes that MTDAR president Mike Mazzulli notified Bellator president Scott Coker of the commissions intentions to overturn the original results of the fight.
Referencing the official MTDAR letter to Coker, Sherdog.com went on to report, “In the case of the above-referenced bout, upon review of the tape, we have determined that the injury that stopped the bout was the result of an accidental foul; elbows to the back of the head.” The author Tristen Critchfield went on to quote the commission’s findings as concluding that, “Since the bout was stopped in the first round of a bout scheduled for three rounds, we have determined that the result of the bout must be changed to ‘no-contest.’”
The Bellator 232 no contest ruling comes on the heels of another no contest ruling at Bellator 231, which aired the previous evening on Friday night, also hosted at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. As originally published in an October 25, 2019 EWrestling.com article titled, “Bellator 231: Jake Hager’s Third MMA Fight A “No Contest” Due To Low-Blows, AEW Represented At Show,” author Matt Boone writes that, “The third professional MMA bout of former WWE Superstar turned AEW wrestler Jake Hager ended in controversy.”
According to the report, “The fight was stopped less than two minutes after the action got underway due to Hager landing a hard groin shot on his opponent, the second for him in under 30 seconds.” Which unfortunately highlights a curious trend across promotional lines in mixed martial arts; athletes using otherwise illegal, prohibited techniques in the ring or cage to gain the upper hand over their rule abiding counterparts.
In August, former UFC two-division champion Daniel Cormier eye gouged Stipe Miocic in their championship title fight at UFC 241, itself a repeat of their first meeting at UFC 226 where Cormier again eye gouged Miocic shortly before knocking out the Ohio native to claim the UFC heavyweight title. After reclaiming the UFC heavyweight title in the rematch, Miocic reportedly underwent corrective surgery to restore his vision prior to a scheduled trilogy fight with the eye gouging Daniel Cormier in 2020.
And again, at UFC Fight Night 147 in March, welterweight Jorge Masvidal kicked opponent Darren Till in the groin before going on to knock the young British fighter out cold to cite just a small handful of cases in an increasingly regular occurrence in mixed martial arts competition. In a sport which was one governed with as few rules as possible, today athletes are routinely penalized for infractions that pale in comparison to some of the illegal techniques they are regularly given the benefit of the doubt over after already inflicting egregious bodily harm to their opponents.
Does the future of mixed martial arts exist in a sea of no contests and “unintentional” fouls as the referee’s all too often look the other way when their law-abiding contestants bare the true responsibility for their opponent’s illegal behavior? Interestingly, according to a Predictem.com article titled, “Boxing Betting Rules,” author Scotty L. writes that, “Results are decided in the ring on the date of the fight. In other words, any changes made to the result of a fight due to a failed drug test, a successful appeal, an incorrect scoring procedure, etc. will have no bearing.” The report goes on to state that, “The decision rendered at the conclusion of a fight is binding. Also, you have no recourse if you come out on the short end of a controversial result, regardless of how overt the incompetence or corruption of the officials was.”
The sum of which brings an entirely new perspective and plane of understanding to some of the most controversial topics in the combat sports entertainment industry today. With referee Bryan Miner having originally ruled the Ferguson Jr./Campbell fight a knockout victory for “Baby Slice” Saturday night, clearly dropping the ball on Ferguson Jr.’s use of illegal strikes to the back of his opponents head, the 800-pound gorilla in the room is whether or not anything else occurred over the weekend at Bellator 231 and 232 that the MTDAR may want to go back and take a second look at? With tribal lands traditionally being a place where MMA rules and regulations are fast and loose, its interesting to consider just how often Roy “Big Country” Nelson has found himself fighting at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Bellator 232 in Review: When Common Sense isn’t so Common
By: Jesse Donathan
The Bellator mixed martial arts promotion ran two back-to-back events this past weekend, with Bellator 231 taking place Friday night headlined by former two-time UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir (19-13, 5 KOs) versus Roy “Big Country” Nelson (23-18, 15 KOs) and Bellator 232 airing Saturday night with a main event showcase between Rory MacDonald (21-6, 7 KOs) and Douglas Lima (32-7, 16 KOs) for the Bellator welterweight title. Both cards were televised on Paramount/DAZN and were hosted by the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Unfortunately, both main event fights went the distance, with Mir upending Nelson by three round unanimous decision and Lima defeating MacDonald by five round unanimous decision.
But there were at least two fights on these cards which I believe highlight a curious trend across MMA promotional lines; fighters using otherwise illegal techniques to gain an advantage over their law-abiding competition. At Bellator 231 on Friday, Jack Hager versus Anthony Garrett resulted in a no contest after multiple low blows from Hager rendered Garrett unable to continue and again, at Bellator 232, where Kevin Ferguson Jr. scored a KO victory after landing multiple shots to the back of his opponent’s head.
Even the most casual of fight fans have likely heard of the YouTube street fighting internet sensation “Kimbo Slice,” the well-known nickname of the much more ordinary sounding Kevin Ferguson. Unbeknownst to most however is that Ferguson had a son, Kevin Ferguson Jr., aka “Baby Slice,” who is also a professional mixed martial artist much like his now unfortunately deceased father. “Baby Slice” (4-2, 2 KOs) competed on the Bellator 232 card this weekend against opponent Craig Campbell (2-4, 0 KOs).
The fight was a short one, lasting just 38-seconds with Ferguson Jr. taking home a KO victory after referee Bryan Miner stopped the contest following numerous shots to the back of Campbells head that were dangerously close to being illegal. Not only were they close to being illegal, at least some of them were in fact illegal, clearly originating from the type of situation, area of placement and angle (12 – 6 o’clock position) responsible for the rule to begin with, though none of them seemed to catch the referee’s attention beyond the scope of stepping in to call a halt to the contest.
As originally published in a July 29, 2018 MMAWeekly.com article titled, “The 12-To-6 Illegal Elbow Explained,” author Jeff Cain writes, “The Unified Rules used by Nevada lists 31 fouls. “Striking downward using the point of the elbow” is listed as number 10, but doesn’t mean exactly what it says.” According to the report, “All elbow strikes are legal except for an elbow that is thrown in a downward trajectory (hand traveling from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock). Any elbow thrown with an arc is a legal elbow. The point of the elbow may be used as striking instrument as well as the forearm or the triceps area of the arm.”
Referencing the long time MMA referee “Big John” McCarthy, the MMAWeekly.com report went on to quote McCarthy as stating that, “You have all these different organizations, and you have all these people with what they want to be able to do, so it’s tough to get people to agree on things.” According to McCarthy, “Finally, one of the things that was brought up is in one of the fights a fighter took another guy’s back and tried to sink in a choke. He couldn’t sink in the choke, so he started taking his hand and bringing it up and elbowing to the back of the guy’s head and neck.”
And here is where things begin to cloudy for me, because in boxing shots to the back of the head, also known as “rabbit punches,” are illegal according to Boxrec.com. The website goes on to define a rabbit punch and briefly explain the dangers associated with the technique, stating that a rabbit punch is, “A punch delivered by a boxer to the back of the neck of his opponent. It is illegal to use because of the potential for serious injury it can cause. It is derived from the blow used by a rabbit hunter to kill the animal.”
As many long-time boxing fans are aware, boxer Prichard Colon was left in a permanent vegetative state following numerous, repeated shots to the back of the head in his October 15, 2015 bout in Fairfax, Virginia against opponent Terrel Williams. According to a May 3, 2017 ESPN.com article titled, “Parents of ex-boxer Prichard Colon seek more than $50 million in lawsuit,” author William Weinbaum writes, “Beginning with the first round of their bout at EagleBank Arena, Colon gestured repeatedly toward the back of his head and complained that Williams was striking him there.”
Weinbaum would go on to write that, “In the fifth round, Colon had two points deducted for hitting Williams with a low blow that referee Joe Cooper ruled was intentional, after a grimacing Williams went down. And in the sixth, after another low blow by Colon — who then gestured about being struck by rabbit punches, Cooper called time and warned both fighters against low and behind-the-head shots.”
As tragic as this story is, the illegal shenanigans didn’t end there either. According to ESPN, “Then, in the seventh, Colon landed on the canvas after taking Williams’ overhand right to the back of his head and neck. Cooper again called time, advised Colon he had up to five minutes to recover, and deducted a point from Williams for the illegal blow.”
Not only does this story highlight just how dangerous blows to the back of the head and neck can truly be, but it also brings into focus the roles of those responsible for the fighter’s safety play in the potentiality for tragedy in the ring or cage. But somehow in mixed martial arts, the discussion centering around the legality of shots to the back of the head seems to constantly come back to the twelve to six o’clock position argument, when its recognized by numerous authorities on the subject that the genesis of the entire debate originally centered around the safety of striking opponents to the back of the head and neck.
According to the MMAWeekly.com report, “The doctor from New Jersey had a conniption about it. He said I will never ever pass something that allows that type of strike. That could be life threatening,” explained referee John McCarthy, seemingly in agreement with the BoxRex.com synopsis of the lethality technique. Continuing, “Big John” went on to state, “And he started going into his thing, and so the one elbow they took out was that elbow, that type of position. The way that they wrote it up, you could interpret it a ton of ways, but the true position they were talking about was the hand coming up to twelve o’clock to six o’clock.”
Luckily, we have a pretty good historical account of who, when, where, why and how this particular rule came into effect. According to a February 16, 2006 MMAWeekly.com article titled, “-Big John Explains MMA Rules,” author Jeff Cain writes that, “There were various organizations that all met together in New Jersey. Larry Hazzard is the one that put it together so he could clarify his rules. Marc Ratner was on a phone line for it, and they ended up having everyone sit there and try to come together with what they could be happy with,” MMAWeekly.com reports.
Somewhere along the way however, the concern for fighter safety and the debate on whether or not blows to the back of the head should be legal have gotten lost in the trajectory and angle of attack. Apparently, there was nobody in the room that day familiar enough with combat sports to suggest it’s the area and placement of the shot that really counts, not the particular part of the body used or the geometry and angle of attack. A blow to the back of the head is a blow to the back of the head, no matter if it’s coming from the 11 o’clock to 5 o’clock position or some other similar angle in between. Yet, time and time again when this topic arises it seems to get lost in the 12 to 6 argument, common sense be damned.
In conclusion, rabbit punches or punches to the back of the head are dangerous and as such have been ruled illegal in boxing for good reason. Somewhere along the way in mixed martial arts when the unified rules were put together and ultimately adopted, the New Jersey State Athletic Commission, to include Larry Hazard, Marc Ratner and everyone else involved in the matter understood that the potential dangers associated with the technique, but the ultimately delivery and interpretation of how that idea should be conveyed and enforced was lost in the geometry and angle of attack rhetoric.
For over 18-years now this insanity has persisted, yet little to no change appears to be on the horizon to address and amend what is a hole big enough to drive a semi-tractor trailer through in the rule books. Suffice to say, one does not need a PHD to identify what constitutes a shot to the back of the head and its well past time for the unified rules to be amended to reflect as such. It’s time to stop deferring to those who convolute an otherwise straight forward and simple topic and start relying on common sense to identify what it is right in front of our very own eyes.
Bellator 231: Mir defeats Nelson by Unanimous Decision
By: Jesse Donathan
Coming into the main event of Bellator 231 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut both UFC veterans Frank Mir (19-13, 5 KOs) and Roy Nelson (23-18, 15 KOs) were riding multiple fight losing streaks, with Mir having dropped four bouts in a row, most recently falling to Javy Ayala via second round TKO at Bellator 212 this past December in 2018. As for Nelson, having dropped sum three fights in a row himself, including his most recent outing at Bellator 216 against mixed martial arts legend Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic in February, stepping into the cage in a rematch against Mir meant a chance for redemption. The two originally met at UFC 130 in 2011, with Mir taking home a three round unanimous decision victory. Inevitably, somebodies losing streak was going to end Friday night and it ultimately turned out to be Frank Mir’s.
Incredibly, Mir weighed in at 265.75 pounds for his rematch with Roy “Big Country” Nelson Friday night, which as fight commentator “Big” John McCarthy pointed out is stretching the limits of the 265-pound mixed martial arts heavyweight division. From the beginning, Nelson came out controlling the cage and pressing the action early on in the fight, stalking Frank Mir with short, plodding steps indicative of someone looking to set up a big shot and make quick work of the former two-time UFC heavyweight champion. Content to set back and counter strike, the story of the first round and perhaps the entire fight itself was Frank Mir’s highly effective inside leg kicks which routinely sent Nelson’s heavily weight distributed lead leg flying. The technique by in large prevented “Big Country” from finding his rhythm and setting up those legendary fight ending hands. The first round was a relatively clear 10-9 round for a Frank Mir who did his homework.
Photo Credit: Frank Mir Twitter Account
Though Mir still threw the inside leg kicks in the second stanza, he did so with less frequency than in the previous round as the game plan appeared to have been to soften Roy’s legs up in the first, hindering his mobility and overall movement in order to attempt to get Nelson out of there in the second. Though the savvy 43-year old veteran Nelson ultimately proved to be still quite durable, he is obviously missing the overall speed and explosiveness he once possessed just a few short years ago during his UFC tenure.
The second round was marked with Mir willing to stand and trade with a “Big Country” who did not appear to have a plan B besides banging it out with Mir, which was likely due in part to the unusually dangerous threat Mir poses in the grappling department. The second round was a more competitive and entertaining fight than the first, though one still ultimately judged a 10-9 round on my score card for a Frank Mir who just appeared to be the more dynamic fighter in the cage.
In between the second and third rounds, Nelson’s corner seemed particularly concerned with his nose, with one of his cornermen having a gauze at the ready as “Big Country” sat down to rest and compose himself. Seemingly finding his second wind or perhaps feeling a sense of urgency, “Big Country” would come out strong early on in the third, with the fighter appearing noticeably more aggressive and focused on the task at hand. After some back and forth action, the referee Todd Anderson would call a halt to the action with approximately 3-minutes and 30-seconds left in the round, the result of an accidental low blow from Mir that always seems to get the audience’s attention.
With the action restarted, Nelson would again resume his low, crouched stance in an effort to catch Mir with one of his customary fight ending big shots, though the crafty former UFC champion successfully evaded the thunder to keep his consciousness. With Mir seemingly exhausted and little more to offer, Nelson would go on to stalk his winded opponent around the cage for the remainder of the fight, ultimately displaying his heralded wrestling ability with just under 15-seconds left in the fight by impressively throwing Mir to the canvas.
Though it was too little, too late for the Las Vegas native as the end of the round and ultimately the fight itself drew to a close. Though it was a 10-9 round for “Big Country” on my score card, unfortunately it just wasn’t enough to secure the “W” as Mir took home the well-earned unanimous decision victory, moving to 2-0 against Nelson as he closed out their interorganizational rivalry.
In defeat, Nelson moves to 1-5 during his Bellator tenure, having dropped his last four fights in a row to Mir, Filipovic, Sergei Kharitonov and Matt Mitrione, a virtual deaths row of heavyweight mixed martial arts killers. Picking up a much-needed victory Friday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena, Mir snapped his own four fight losing streak that saw Mir, himself, compete against some of the best in the business, including the legendary knockout artist Mark Hunt, former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski and the legendary mixed martial arts demi-god Fedor Emelianenko. Both Mir and Nelson are two of the best fighters in the business, with both fighters having multiple fight losing streaks that serve as perfect examples of how losing can actually mean winning in the game of life.
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.
The Bellator MMA Heavyweight World Grand Prix Tournament Final
By: Jesse Donathan
The greatest fighter I have ever seen is Fedor Emelianenko. Also known as “The Last Emperor,” Emelianenko is a living legend in mixed martial arts circles. For me, what has always made Fedor so great was his propensity to win in the face of imminent defeat. The ability of Emelianenko to look nearly godlike while at the same time strikingly human. With few exceptions, Fedor is almost always the smaller man in the cage; it goes without saying that Emelianenko is a true giant killer. “The Last Emperor” will compete for the Bellator Heavyweight championship on January 26, 2019 against UFC veteran and current Bellator Light Heavyweight champion Ryan “Darth” Bader in the Bellator Heavyweight World Grand-Prix tournament final which will air on the Paramount channel this upcoming Saturday night.
“When Fedor Emelianenko—the baddest man on the planet—walks through the door, the first thing you notice about him is … he’s not all that big. The statistics list Fedor Emelianenko as 6 feet tall and 230 pounds, but even that seems a stretch,” writes Mark Jacobs in his March 2011 article for blackbeltmag.com titled “Up close with Fedor Emelianenko an MMA Legend.” According to Jacobs, Emelianenko began his martial arts studies at an early age in the Russian grappling art of Sambo before becoming a three-time world Sambo champion. Better known as the long-time reigning Pride FC mixed martial arts Heavyweight champion, according to an August 26 2018 article for espn.com titled, “Is Fedor Emelianenko the best ever?” ESPN SportsCenter host David Murphy believes “Fedor’s mystique is like Michael Jordan’s.” Murphy would go on to state that, “Fedor went unbeaten for nearly a decade in the most volatile division in the sport, with first-round finishes over former UFC champions Andrei Arlovski, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman and Tim Sylvia. In Pride alone, Fedor went 14-0 (1 NC), with 11 finishes.”
There is something special about Fedor Emelianenko. It’s the same thing that makes the lineal heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury great: the heart of a lion, as exemplified by Fury getting off the deck in the 12th round after being knocked unconscious by WBC Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder. In a fight Fury was winning from early on, “The Gypsy King” was well on his way to victory until in the twelfth and final round Fury got his clock cleaned by a thunderous one-two combination from “The Bronze Bomber.” Fury, in a matter of seconds went from the next WBC Heavyweight champion of the world to knocked unconscious. And seemingly before our very eyes Fury returned from the dead, rising much the same as the legendary professional wrestler “The Undertaker” whose supernatural persona electrified audiences. Only Fury did it for real, rising from being knocked stone cold unconscious to going on to be competitive if not winning the remainder of the exchanges in the round.
This is the stuff legends are made of and it is a glimpse of what has made Emelianenko great from virtually the beginning of his career. The ability to look supernatural even in the face of being brought down to earth by opponents who themselves are tremendous fighters and athletes in their own right.
Throughout Fedor’s career he has routinely displayed the ability to come back from seemingly incontrovertible odds and seize victory from the jaws of defeat. Emelianenko truly does have the heart of a lion and it’s for these reasons alone he can never be counted out of a fight. If there ever was a fighter who fought with divinity in his corner, “The Last Emperor” is that athlete.
Ryan “Darth” Bader is “The Ultimate Fighter” season 8 winner and a 20 fight UFC veteran. An exceptional fighter that possesses power in both hands, Bader has a particularly effective left hook that has iced more than one opponent and therefor it needs to be accounted for at all times in the cage. Ryan has faced a murderer’s row of opponents at light heavyweight, only losing to some of the most dangerous fighters in the sport today. While not a particularly orthodox striker, Bader’s athleticism and fight acumen make him a game and dangerous opponent because his strong wrestling base means the looming threat of the take down is always present. Bader is a younger, fresher opponent than Emelianenko with an all-around mixed martial arts game that makes him a handful for even the toughest opponents.
With a current six fight win streak, including two consecutive victories in the Bellator Heavyweight Word Grand-Prix tournament against Muhammed Lawal and Matt Mitrione, Bader has a chance to become the first two division champion in Bellator history and cement his rightful spot as among the top fighters in the sport today against an opponent nearly universally renowned as the best to ever do it. In a December 22, 2018 mmafighting.com article by Guilherme Cruz titled, “Coach details path to victory for Ryan Bader against Fedor Emelianenko” coach Jair Lourenco believes the keys to victory for Bader are speed, not allowing Fedor to become comfortable in the cage and perhaps most importantly not giving the Russian so much respect that it effects Bader’s own game plan.
For Emelianenko, eating lightning and crapping thunder is the key to victory. The Russian legend needs to nullify the athleticism of the younger Bader, 35, stop the takedown and showcase his diversified mixed martial arts skillset. Fedor possesses both the ability to stop Bader on the feet or submit him with Emelianenko’s world class combat Sambo grappling background. Though Emelianenko is many years past his physical prime, this is the Bellator Heavyweight World Grand-Prix tournament final. Even at his advanced age of 42, to make it this far in the tournament proves the Russian legend is still a very dangerous opponent.
This is a legacy fight for both fighters, though they enjoy very different positions in the hierarchy of greatness. For Emelianenko, he is already widely considered the greatest mixed martial arts fighter to ever live. A victory Saturday night will only serve to further cement his reputation as a fighter who managed to transcend generations and recapture a modern, major heavyweight title even when there was nothing left to prove. The fact he is even in the tournament final in 2019 proves what kind of sportsman he is; win, lose or draw Fedor will always be remembered as the great champion that he is. For Bader, this is an opportunity to become a two-division champion and defeat one of the greatest fighters of our time. Already a Bellator Light Heavyweight champion, to capture the Bellator Heavyweight title against “The Last Emperor” is an opportunity every fighter dream of and is without question the kind of victory to hang your hat on. Tune in Saturday night, January 26, 2019 to the Bellator Heavyweight World Grand-Prix tournament final featured on the Paramount channel and bring your popcorn; win or lose this is among our last chances to see a true legend compete at the highest levels in the sport today.
Chael Sonnen: “I’m the Biggest Heel this Sport Has”
By: Sean Crose
“I don’t do a whole lot of it,” Chael Sonnen said on a Tuesday conference call to promote his Belator 208 heavyweight title eliminator this weekend against Fedor Emilianenko, “just a show every here and there.” Sonnen was referring to his very active media presence as a podcaster and commentator. Even after working the wild UFC McGregor-Nurmagomedov card last weekend, Sonnen still claimed he was ready to face Fedor, a man widely regarded as the greatest heavyweight MMA combatant in history. “I’m sore and tired all the time,” Sonnen added, as proof that he’s been hard at work preparing for the Fedor match, which will go down at New York’s Nassau Coliseum.
Sonnen, one of the most highly regarded practitioners in mixed martial arts, might be best known for his famous near win against then dominant UFC star Anderson Silva years ago. Now that he’s facing another iconic brand in the 37-5-1 Fedor, the 30-15-1 Sonnen is at a point in his long career where he can put things in perspective. Of his colorful time as a top fighter, Sonnen claimed: “I think I should have more appreciation.” Still, the heavyweight is a man who looks towards the future. “As my life moves on,” he added. “I would like to create new memories.”
He’ll certainly have a chance against Fedor, a nice seeming man who nonetheless has earned a reputation as an aggressive, fearsome, and highly skilled fighter, one who is able to employ a variety of disciplines while in the octagon. “I think Fedor’s great,” Sonnen said, declaring his foe “the best heavyweight of all time” (while adding Fedor was about “to face the best fighter of all time”). Sonnen, who was long known as a classic villain, now seems reasonable in an era of Conor and Khabib. Not that he’s happy about it.
“I’m the biggest heel this sport has,” he stated on the call. Sonnen, however, has never thrown a dolly against a bus window, nor has he ever dove into the audience after a fight to attack someone, a difference between himself and recent UFC stars he seemed happy to admit to. “It’s important to be civilized,” Sonnen claimed outright. “It was a really big shock,” he said, when the inevitable matter of last weekend’s near riot in Las Vegas came up. “I don’t know why it happened.”
Yet, for the moment, Sonnen’s main priority is beating his famed opponent this Saturday. “I’ve been stunned,” he said of Fedor, “at how hard he can hit – especially with that right hand.” Not that he’s worried. Sonnen, after all, is the biggest heel around.
Or at least that’s a character he still likes to play.
Bellator 206 on DAZN: Rampage / Silva, Mousasi vs MacDonald Main Card Preview
by Bryanna Fissori
Bellator will kick off their partnership with DAZN, the world’s largest dedicated live sports streaming service on Saturday, September 29 at the SAP Center in San Jose, California for Bellator 206.
Gerard Mousasi v Rory MacDonald – Middleweight World Title
The event is headlined by Gegard Mousasi (44-6-2) and Rory Macdonald (20-4-0) in a battle for the Bellator Middleweight World Title. MacDonald beat Douglass Lima at the beginning of the year to secure the welterweight title. Mousasi took the middleweight title from Rafael Carvalho in May at Bellator 200. Mousasi called out MacDonald in his post-fight interview.
“I’m going to call him ‘Chicken Rory,’” Mousasi said after Bellator 200. “That’s the fight we want. I do respect him a lot – he’s a tough fighter. But I think we’re going to push for that fight. We’re going to call him names until he takes the fight. . . .This belt will open some doors for me,” Mousasi said. “It’s all about opportunities. I have to fight contenders, but you also have big names. I’d rather fight Rory than the other guy, he’s a good fighter and he’s bald. I don’t know his name. He’s the contender, but he’s ugly.”
MacDonald put up no resistance, and since then both fighters have been asking for the bout to happen.
Quinton Jackson v Wanderlei Silva
The Bellator 206 co-main event is a heavyweight match-up between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (37-13-0) and Wanderlei Silva (35-13-0). This will be the fourth time these two have met in professional competition. Their first two bouts took place for Pride FC in 2003 and 2004. Silva won both of those bouts but lost to Jackson at UFC 92 in 2008. Ten years later Jackson, coming off two wins, looks to even the score. Silva hasn’t fought in over a year and is coming off a decision loss to Chael Sonnen.
Douglas Lima v Andrey Koreshkov – Welterweight Grand Prix
The bracket for the Bellator Welterweight World Grand Prix on DAZN has been set and will kick off with a long-awaited rubber match between Douglas “The Phenom” Lima (29-7) and Andrey “Spartan” Koreshkov (21-2). Koreshkov won the first bout via decision on Bellator 140 in 2015. The two met again late the next year on Bellator 162 where Lima secured the TKO victory. Tension is expected to be high for this one.
Aaron Pico v Leandro Higo
Despite having less cage-time than the majority of fighters he’s going to face at this level, Aaron Pico (3-1-0) doesn’t seem to have any trouble facing Leandro Higo (18-4-0). All three of Pico’s wins have come in the first round, two of them via body shots. Higo is coming off a loss to bantamweight titleholder Darrion Caldwell.
“The year ahead is coming closer to ranked guys and winning the world championship,” Pico said. “People thought I was crazy when came into MMA, and I said I don’t want to fight guys with losing records. But for me personally, fighting a guy that’s 2-4 or 1-3, and then hitting him with a body shot and knocking him out, just because I know I’m capable of doing it, I just wouldn’t feel good as a person.”
Keri Melendez v Dakota Zimmerman
Keri Melendez (2-0-0) has had an impressive start to her professional career and looks to keep the climbing the ranks in the 115-pound women’s division. To do that she will have to get through Dakota Zimmerman (1-0-0) who will have some cage rust to shake off after a three-year absence.
Bellator 206 on DAZN
Earlier this year, Bellator and DAZN announced a multi-year landmark distribution agreement. The international streaming service will feature seven exclusive stacked fight cards per year on DAZN and another 15 that are simulcast across Paramount Network and DAZN. DAZN currently streams 15,000 live events and 100 million hours of sports content globally each year, which includes boxing and MMA. The streaming service is now available in the U.S. for $9.99 a month, just in time for Bellator 206. The first month is free for new subscribers.
Bellator MMA Live Results: Heather Hardy Defeats Ana Julaton
By: William Holmes
Bellator MMA put on a live event at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut and featured a main event of former UFC fighters Matt Mitrione and Roy Nelson, with the winner to advance to the semi finals of the heavyweight Grand Prix.
For boxing fans however, the main event was between Heather Hardy and Ana Julaton. Hardy had a record of 20-0 as a pro boxer and Julaton had a record of 14-4-1 in boxing. However, they decided to meet first in a MMA cage.. Hardy held titles as a boxer in the featherweight and super bantamweight divisions while Julaton held titles in the super bantamweight division.
Both Julaton and Hardy are coming off of a loss in their last MMA fight.
Photo Credit: Bellator MMA Twitter Account
The opening bout of the broadcast was between featherweights Tywan Claxton (2-0) and Jose Perez (0-2). Claxton is considered by many to be a high ceiling prospect and he easily disposed of Perez by TKO at 3:39 of the second round.
Former b=Bellator champion Liam McGeary (13-2) returned to his winning ways with a third round TKO at 4:02 over Vadim Nemkov (8-3).
Ana Julaton (2-3) and Heather Hardy (1-1) met in the flyweight division and displayed that they have been training in all facets of mixed martial arts, including the grappling.
Julaton landed the first jab of the fight and Hardy answered with a leg kick before being placed in a body lock by Julaton. Julaton was able to land a few knees on Hardy when in tight, but Hardy had a decent whizzer placed in. Hardy finished the first round while attempting a side choke.
The second round started off with some brief exchanges, but Julaton’s punches appeared to lack any snap. Hardy and Julaton were clinched for much of the round again, but Julaton was able to attempt a can opener submission. Hardy landed several hard hammer fists on Julaton while she was attempting to finish a low single takedown. Hardy finished the second round by taking the back of Julaton and landing some ground and pound
Julaton looked like the more tired fighter in the third round and forced a body lock after taking two good punches by Hardy. Julaton attempted a spinning back kick when the referee broke them up but Hardy again landed more strikes when they were standing. The third round featured Julaton and Hardy locked in grappling positions, but Hardy was able to finish the round with a takedown attempt that resulted with Julaton finishing on top.
A MMA rules fight between two boxers turned into a mainly grappling affair.
Heather Hardy wins by decision with scores of 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27.
There has been talks of them re-matching in the boxing ring instead of a MMA cage and the fight was close enough for fans to want to see it.
Boxing Insider Interview with Heather Hardy
By: Bryant Romero
Undefeated pro boxer Heather “The Heat” Hardy makes her third appearance in the cage at Bellator 194 on February 16 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut where she takes former boxing world champion Ana Julaton in a mma flyweight bout. Boxing Insider was able to catch up with Heather to talk about her next fight in Bellator, her passion for fighting whether it’s boxing or mma, her job as a fitness instructor, and the challenges she’s had to endure while making the transition from boxing to mma.
Photo Credit: Heather Hardy Twitter Account
BR: Are you training at Gracie’s Academy right now?
Heather Hardy: “Right now I’m at Renzo Gracie in Manhattan during the majority of my training and I train at Gleason’s in Brooklyn.”
BR: How is training going so far for this fight that’s upcoming?
HH: “It’s going great. I’ve never heard a fighter a week out of a fight to say they haven’t had a good camp. I feel good.”
BR: This is your third fight with Bellator. Obviously the money was the motivating factor for you to transition from boxing to mma. What’s been the hardest transition from one sport to the other?
HH: “Probably being able to allocate the proper amount of time for training, because I’m still taking care of my daughter, still working two jobs. I mean I’m still trying to do press and I’m doing it on 6th avenue running. Allocating the proper amount of time that’s needed to train all the different disciplines have been extremely challenging.”
BR: When it comes to the competition between boxing and the two girls that you fought in Bellator, when it comes to the striking ability, do you have respect for their striking ability, is it different?
HH: “First of all in mma they’re using 4oz gloves, so even if these girls aren’t as accurate with their punching. They’re punching with bad intentions with very little padding, so I don’t respect a punch anymore or any less regardless of who’s throwing it at me.”
BR: Besides the money factor, are you trying to accomplish something in the sport?
HH: “I just want to win some fights, get known, and maybe open up doors for bigger fights in New York City for other women.”
BR: Did you have to get your promoter’s blessing to make this transition? Did you have to go through a legal process with Lou Dibella?
HH: “Lou is like a dad to me and when I called him and asked him, you know he’s the last one that’s going to take food off my plate. And he pretty much said if this is what you really want to do. Then I’m going to let you do it.
But he didn’t have to do that. I was legally bound only to Lou. Where I’m not supposed to be competing in anything else, I couldn’t have done this without his blessing, so I’m really fortunate that I got it.”
BR: Obviously you still love boxing, you did it with not a great financial reward in return, but can you honestly say to yourself that you’re in love with mma?
HH: “I’m in love with fighting. I love to fight, I’m good at fighting. Even when I’m not good at it, I’m still better than most people would ever dreamed to be. Whether it’s mma, boxing, sword fighting, or thumb wrestling, I’m all in it.”
BR: Do you still feel you have some unfinished business in boxing?
HH: “I didn’t go anywhere, I’m boxing I think in April.”
BR: Do you see a big fight in women’s boxing with you? Maybe with one of the Serrano sisters or maybe the Top Rank Prospect Mikaela Mayer that’s coming up?
HH: “The conversation with me and Amanda (Serrano) comes up all the time. We are under the same promotional banner and we’re such good friends. We said a long time ago, if we’re going to fight, it better be for a whole lotta money, so we can go on vacation. So will a fight with her ever happen? Sure if they pay us enough.”
BR: Can you talk to me talk to me a little bit about the state of women’s boxing? Is it heading in the right direction?
HH: “Women’s boxing is certainly on the rise right now. You got Clarissa Shields headlining cards on Showtime. That’s epic, it doesn’t happen and it’s really exciting, but the problem is I’m 36 years old and I don’t have time to hope it comes around faster sooner than later.
I’m still in it, I’m still going to fight and hopefully something big will materialize but you still got to have a backup plan.”
BR: Let’s talk about your next opponent. She’s also a former champion in boxing who has transitioned. Her name is Ana Julaton. Do you have any history with her; do you know anything about her?
HH: “When I started boxing, Ana was one of the big names, everybody knew her. She was really eloquent and a well-spoken world champion who spoke out for women’s rights and equality for women’s boxers. She transitioned to mma when I was in my first year of pro boxing like 2013; I only had 3 or 4 fights.”
BR: Would you say is tougher to get in the boxing ring and fight or is it a little tougher to get in the octagon with more weapons you have to utilize?
HH: “For me it’s tougher to go in the cage because boxing isn’t tough for me. I understand every aspect of boxing. I’m still learning too many things in mma to understand everything to the extent where it’s not intimidating.”
BR: Would you say your first two fights in mma was tougher than anything you had in boxing?
HH: “I would say there was more action physically.”
BR: Who’s the best fighter in the world P4P in men’s boxing?
HH: “Right now I would say either Terence Crawford who’s an exceptional fighter. Errol Spence has really proven himself to be a problem. Lomachenko, how can you not say his name? I say those 3 guys are probably will go a long time before they get beaten.”
BR: Whatever happens on February 16th will you continue with Bellator and has UFC expressed any interest?
HH: “I haven’t had any interest in UFC; it doesn’t matter if they express it. I’m really happy with Bellator. Regardless of what happens, I’m going to keep fighting. If I walked out of my last fight and came back into the cage, I really don’t think Ana has what it takes to give me a whooping worse than the last one.”
BR: I wanted to talk to you about the shadow box Fitness classes your teaching in Brooklyn, Manhattan. What can you tell us about that?
HH: “Well, there’s a lot of new fitness inspired boutique boxing gyms popping around the city, and shadow box had contacted me, and they wanted to do something a little different. They didn’t want to be trendy boxing; they really wanted their instructors to have a good grasp of what boxing is about.
So they hired me to teach their instructors and for the last couple months I’ve been giving the instructors boxing lessons, so they now know how to teach boxing. A couple of days a week I teach classes there, just to make a little extra cash. I like it, so I teach instructional classes there now too.”
BR: What can you say about the trainers there?
HH: “All of the trainers there are great.”
BR: My final question is what’s the one thing you still want to accomplish in boxing?
HH: “I want the WBC 126 world title.”
Heather Hardy Interview: “I still haven’t gotten the mainstream media attention that I’d like”
Heather Hardy Interview: “I still haven’t gotten the mainstream media attention that I’d like”
By: Matthew N. Becher
Heather “The Heat” Hardy is one of the top ranked female fighters in the world today. With a record of 20 wins 0 losses, she is a staple in the New York boxing scene, remaining a fan favorite at her home away from home, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Hardy is currently training for her mixed martial arts debut, June 24th on the Bellator 180 undercard at the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden. Hardy was kind enough to take a few moments to speak with us about her upcoming fight and the switch from Boxing to MMA.
Boxing Insider: What made you decide to switch to Mixed Martial Arts?
Heather Hardy: It’s not actually a switch, I’m just going to do both. The boxing was just taking a really long time to turn around. I still haven’t made a really nice paycheck out of it. I still haven’t gotten the mainstream media attention that I’d like. So I’m hoping that the MMA will bring back some attention to boxing and vice versa. This is just like another job.
Boxing Insider: For the most part, boxers do not typically adapt well to MMA. Does that concern you?
Heather Hardy: Every fighter is different. All boxers are not the same. Maybe a fighter that wasn’t as good as me didn’t adapt well. But I’ve been doing a lot of sparring with elite level fighters and I’m feeling pretty good.
Boxing Insider: How do you feel about finally fighting at Madison Square Garden? This will be your first time right?
Heather Hardy: It will be my first time as a professional. I won my Golden Gloves title there. I’m super excited to be fighting there as a professional and adding it to my resume.
Boxing Insider: You are 35 years old and highly ranked in the featherweight division, as a boxer. Do you think a title fight is going to be coming up soon?
Heather Hardy: Could be, I mean, I’m hoping for it. Right now all the girls that are holding titles are out of the country and they don’t want to come to America. Because in America they don’t pay female boxers. So I’m really hoping that we can change that and we can get one of those girls over here so I can take their title.
Boxing Insider: Could you go over there?
Heather Hardy: It’s hard because I’m signed to a promotional deal with Lou Dibella and I’m contracted under him. His fights are only here in New York, so it would require a lot of negotiations for me to fight somewhere else.
Boxing Insider: How much fighting do you think you have left in you?
Heather Hardy: It’s really hard to say. Your body is a machine. If you take care of it you have extended use for it. If you abuse your body you won’t have a long time. I take care of myself. As long as I feel good, I’ll keep going.