Bellator 108 had the potential to be a disaster for the perennial runner-up promotion, but it wasn’t. All of the main card fights were exciting, first-round finishes. And, most importantly, the right guy won the main event.
Here’s the event recap, from bottom to top:
On the prelims, Bellator’s 6’6″ English light heavyweight prospect Liam McGeary advanced to 6-0. He’s raw but, from what we’ve seen so far, also quite talented and diverse. If he were in the UFC, there’d be dozens of “Is Liam McGeary the man to beat Jones in 2014?” articles written by now.
UFC and strikeforce veteran Nah-Shon Burrell won a forgettable unanimous decision against a guy named Jesus Martinez who also had a Jesus tattoo. Awesome.
Two other UFC vets were featured on the prelims: Tom DeBlass and Jason Lambert. The fight between them was short. DeBlass scored a walk-off KO with a devastating hook early in the first round.
The main card started with the featherweight tournament final between Bellator mainstray Patricio “Pitbull” Freire vs. Justin Wilcox. Pitbull finished Wilcox in the first round in a largely uncompetitive fight. Every one of Freire’s frequently-landed punches seemed to rock Wilcox, who eventually succumbed to the Brazilian’s flurries. This was the second time Freire has won the Bellator featherweight tournament.
Then the card moved onto Marcos Galvao vs. Tom McKenna. Galvao, a BJJ ace, smothered McKenna, cut him open, and finished him via TKO near the end of the first round. Thought it seemed like a piss-break match (it was the least-significant fight of the night yet it was sandwiched between two important fights rather than at the beginning of the card), it was an enjoyable fight to watch.
A Bellator heavyweight title fight was the night’s co-main event, which is telling. A has-been former UFC champ facing a never-was UFC reject took top billing over a match for a “world” title. Champion Alexander Volkov met fellow Russian Vitaly Minakov. The fight started with brief fireworks, then went into a lull after which Minakov floored Volkov and finished the champ with strikes. It was all over in a round.
Rampage Jackson fought late-replacement Joey Beltran in the main event. Despite being a little doughy (the fight was at a catchweight of 210 rather than 205), Jackson didn’t look as bad as the MMA world thought he would. He was a little quicker than in his previous outings, threw a few kicks, and landed some great knees. There were bouts of stalling and clinching for the latter half of the first round, but Rampage eventually landed a flurry that floored Beltran, prompting a stoppage right as the bell rang. One of the night’s highlights came after the fight, during Rampage’s post-fight promo. He was trying to take the mic from Jimmy Smith, who refused to acquiesce all the while you could hear someone screaming “DON’T LET HIM TAKE IT,” at the top of their lungs. It was about as awkward as that time Dana White reprimanded Colton Smith for ignoring the Harley-Davidson rep when he won a motorcycle.
Overall? Not bad. The fights were optimized for the casual fans (quick TKO finishes) and, for the first time in a while, something went right for Bellator: Rampage won his fight in convincing fashion. And the card he was on, one that was likely to draw more eyes than others, was entertaining. The fights might actually want to make people watch another Bellator show in the future.
But the biggest issue after Bellator 108 is what they’ll will do with Rampage now. He’s likely to high-profile for a tournament, yet they’ll compromise their integrity (like that matters) if they gift Rampage a title shot. Bellator’s future will be interesting, to say the least.
Quinton Jackson def. Joey Beltran via TKO (punches), 4:59 of Round 1
Vitaly Minakov def. Alexander Volkov via TKO (punches), 2:57 of Round 1
Marcos Galvao def. Tom McKenna via TKO (punches), 4:29 of Round 1
Patricio Freire def. Justin Wilcox via TKO (punches), 2:23 of Round 1
Sam Oropeza def. Chip Moraza-Pollard via TKO (punches), 0:37 of Round 1
Tom DeBlass def. Jason Lambert via KO (punch), 1:45 of Round 1
Nah-Shon Burrell def. Jesus Martinez via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Anthony Morrison def. Kenny Foster via majority decision (28-28, 29-27, 30-26)
Liam McGeary def. Nahim Wali via submission (armbar), 1:31 of Round 1
Will Martinez def. Kevin Rodday via submission (rear naked choke), 3:50 of Round 1
Dan Matala def. Ryan Cafaro via TKO (strikes), 3:52 of Round 2
Rob Sullivan def. Sergio da Silva via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)