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Bellator 17 Recap: 2 Hulks, 1 Squash Match, an Upset, and Forty-Five Submission Attempts


(The end of the Alvarez/Neer fight, via YouTube.com/BellatorMMA.)

By DL “Tank Abbot” Richardson

Some of Bellator’s biggest names were on the card last night at the Citi Performing Arts Center, for the first-ever major MMA show in Boston. Two semi-final matchups for the lightweight tourney were on tap, plus a 160-pound SuperFight between Eddie Alvarez and Josh Neer, and a heavyweight exhibition featuring one of Brock Lesnar‘s training dummies partners. But not everything went as planned. A full rundown of Bellator 17 is after the jump. Prepare yourselves — some crazy shit went down…


Cole Konrad vs. Pat Bennett
It’s a battle of the XXL wrestlers, between Division III standout Pat “I Haven’t Come Up With a Good One Yet” Bennett and mammoth NCAA Division I champ Cole “Brock Won’t Let Me Have One” Konrad. Commentators Jimmy Smith and Sean Wheelock mention a rumored heavyweight tournament in Bellator’s third season, which begins August 21, while Bennet and Konrad wait to begin their matchup. The pre-fight hype surrounds Konrad, who compiled an impressive record of 155-13 at the University of Minnesota, and currently trains with Team DeathClutch (read: LesnarCamp). Thing is, the guy really needs to book a session with P.R. Cole and work out a plan — he possesses one of the most unimpressive physiques in all of sports. And yes, I know who John Daly is.

What follows is comparable to a battle between two bull elephant seals: there’s not much skill on display, just a lot of bulk moving around with occasional bursts of movement. Konrad scores a takedown in the first, and throws some strikes from top position. Bennett can’t get the behemoth off, and ends the first frame bloodied. The second round is uneventful: both fighters are totally gassed, sporadically winging punches at one another. Konrad manages to connect a few times with right hands that get through Bennett’s defense, but it looks like they both need to just sit down and talk out their differences. The fight just devolves from there: Hands continue to drop lower and lower, the pauses between action become longer and longer, and the crowd begins to boo louder and louder. Bennett can’t get off any effective striking, and Konrad manages to land enough of those right hands to make pretty fist patterns on Bennett’s facial area. Cole Konrad defeats Pat Bennett via unanimous decision.

Eddie Alvarez vs. Josh “The Dentist” Neer
In order to keep the Bellator champions in the spotlight and give them a payday, Bjorn Rebney and matchmaker Sam Caplan have set up non-title “SuperFights” to showcase the men who won last season. Tonight, 155-pound champ Eddie Alvarez fights a 160-pound catchweight bout with Josh Neer, a scrap apparently set up on the basis that both men have their last names tattooed on their backs. Alvarez took part in the 2008 Dream Lightweight Grand Prix prior to Bellator’s inaugural season, and he has never lost a tournament fight. Josh Neer has spent time in the UFC, but has been bounced twice because of losses. It’s a match that has “tune-up” written all over it.

The referee invites the two men to engage, and they are quick to do so. Alvarez overpowers Neer everywhere: he scores takedowns easily, works pounding offense on the ground, and, when swept in round 1, simply pushes to his feet and starts again. Neer does a decent job of protecting himself, but he has no answer for Alvarez. In the second round, Alvarez gets Neer’s back and slips in one hook. Neer pushes to his feet, but he forgets to protect his neck: Alvarez sinks a deep rear-naked choke and waits. The Dentist makes a feeble attempt to free himself, and then falls forward on his face like he’s been tased. Eddie Alvarez defeats Josh Neer via technical submission (Rear Naked Choke), 2:08 of Round 2.

Pat Curran vs. Roger “El Matador” Huerta
If you know anyone in Bellator’s 155-pound brackets, it’s UFC veteran Roger “El Matador” Huerta. One of MMA’s top 5 pound-for-pound pretty boys, Huerta has done the cover of Sports Illustrated as well as Hollywood movies. Pat Curran gained most of his experience in the Xtreme Fighting Organization, a Chicago-area promotion owned and operated by his cousin, Jeff Curran. Huerta is the odds-on favorite to run the table and challenge Alvarez, and he looked impressive in his dominating win against Chad Hinton. Pat Curran was also impressive in the quarterfinals, scoring a concussive knockout over Mike Ricci, but he seems a little starstruck going up against Huerta.

The bout starts off deliberately, with both men throwing leg and body kicks and trying to get a feel for timing. There’s some good striking exchanges, but no major damage. Curran throws a scary-looking head kick, and while it doesn’t seem to connect cleanly, Curran is beginning to look more comfortable. No damage done in the first, but it’s a moral victory for Curran and he takes the round. The second features a bit more action, with some clinch work and a knee exchange to start things off. Huerta is ready to mix it up, and the crowd is getting into it. More clinch work, Huerta utilizes knees against his opponent’s thighs and ribs, then punches to Curran’s thigh. Curran is holding his own, and lands a lunging punch just before the bell.

Round three begins and both fighters believe it’s tied one round apiece. They come out swinging, and it’s a good scrap that goes back and forth, up and down. Curran seems to be connecting first in the exchanges. Huerta scores a takedown. Curran sits out, and reverses. He’s got a good hold on Huerta’s head, and even seems to have a D’Arce choke set up with a minute left, but he inexplicably lets it go. They stand, clinch again, and now Curran scores a takedown, but Huerta works his way back up. They continue to trade blows until the bell. The judges give the nod to Pat Curran, in what is easily the biggest upset of the season. Huerta just didn’t have the eye of the tiger.

Toby Imada vs. Carey Vanier
If Toby Imada fought in Japan, they’d give him a nickname that translated to “The Master of That Crazy Submission Everyone Saw on YouTube”. Bellator airs highlights of his bout last season with Jorge Masvidal, including the inverted triangle that made him famous, and yes, it’s still awesome. Carey Vanier is a young wrestler with good boxing skills on a six-fight streak going into this match, including his ground and pound TKO over Joe Duarte last month. His pre-fight tape is a little lighter on highlights, but we learn that he worked at Best Buy to provide for his son. He seems like a nice guy; he’s quick and he’s got good power at 155, but he’s stepping up against Bellator’s submission machine.

They touch gloves to start off, and Vanier is bouncing around, striking at odd angles that seem to put off Imada. Vanier has some decent boxing, and he’s keeping Imada on his toes with his southpaw stance. He gets a successful takedown, and works toward mount, but Imada slides out and up to his feet. Vanier throws some good kicks, and they continue to circle, jabbing and feinting. Halfway through the first, they both go to the ground with Imada in a North-South sprawl position, and he seems to go for the same inverted triangle, but it’s not there for him. He switches and goes for a kneebar, but Vanier manages to roll out of that. They get back to their feet, and Vanier immediately gets another takedown, but they just as quickly get back to their feet. Knees and punches fly — these guys are bringing it, son. Vanier manages to get around behind Imada and pulls out a full-on belly to back suplex, straight back over the top. It’s impressive, and the crowd enjoys it, but Imada starts working a kimura before his vertebrae stop rattling. That leads back to the feet, and they finish out an exciting round with a bit more striking to the bell.

The second starts out with some kicks from both fighters, and then Imada begins to take over. He’s landing more punches now. They clinch, and Vanier tries to get a single-leg. Rather than let Vanier have it, Imada executes a beautiful body-scissor takedown to a kneebar. Vasnier rolls and pulls away, slipping out the back. Imada, holding onto one of Vanier’s heels, throws a punch between his own legs at Vanier’s face. It’s not clear if it lands, but it doesn’t matter: even the commentators are unabashedly impressed by this innovative maneuver. The two scramble, and Imada secures a kneeling side-control. He steps over Vanier’s head, and seizes his arm. Vanier knows what’s coming, but he can’t stop it. Imada wins by armbar at 3:33 of Round 2.

Analysis and Notes:

– Pat Curran and Toby Imada will meet up for the lightweight final. Curran would be a nice Cinderella story, but Imada has been impressing people with every bout. This one should be an entertaining scrap. I expect Toby Imada to attempt roughly eleventy-five subs, and go on to challenge Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight strap later this year.

– Expect to see plenty more of Carey Vanier: he kept a good pace and showed impressive skills in losing what was easily the fight of the night.

– It is highly doubtful that Bellator institutes a heavyweight field. The Konrad – Bennett fight was abysmal, while the lighter weight classes have been incredibly popular.

– A bantamweight tournament has been confirmed for season three starting in late summer, and it was also announced that top pound-for-pound women’s fighter Megumi Fujii will take part in a women’s tournament, probably at 115 pounds.

From the Undercard:
If you happen to live in the Boston area, you may know some of the local boys who got the crowd warmed up…

– Justin Torrey def. Lance Everson via TKO (knees), 3:55 of Round 2
– Greg Rebello def. John Doyle via unanimous decision
– Josh Laberge def. Dan Bonnell with the quickness, via TKO (strikes), 0:48 of Round 1
– Chuck “Cold Steel” O’Neil def. Damien Vitale via TKO (doctor’s stoppage due to cuts), 1:02 of Round 3

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Harry Nips- May 7, 2010 at 6:11 pm
Good article, I'm still pissed I missed Bellator when they were in Chicago a few weeks ago.

BTW DL Richardson, I really enjoyed your work in 'The Original Kings of Comedy'.
Null Kuhl- May 7, 2010 at 2:46 pm
Wow, Josh Neer getting taken down over and over and over and over again...that NEVER happens...
Left_Boob_Telligman- May 7, 2010 at 12:24 pm
Cole Konrad is built like my sister was before her gastric bypass.
Left_Boob_Telligman- May 7, 2010 at 12:23 pm
Cole Konrad looks like Doctor Zoidberg from Futurama with his shirt off
wifey- May 7, 2010 at 11:14 am
Nice job, Rex. I wish I could have watched it myself. Too bad Neer sucked donkey balls - I always like to root for the Iowa boys.
GUI-uh-TEEN- May 7, 2010 at 11:00 am
@Rex13

Constructive Criticism? That's like Kaleb Starnes saying he just fights because he loves to stand and trade... Bullshit aside... how much are they paying you? Is Russell paying you in those crazy Canadian monetary units or back-rubs?
Stak40- May 7, 2010 at 10:32 am
Rex if i said anything other than you suck I would be going against everything i believe in.
Viva Hate- May 7, 2010 at 9:38 am
Constructive criticism? I am great at that! Kidding, actually your two write ups so far have been very good, it is difficult to write long reviews/run downs of events while keeping a strong balance of humor and facts. You have done a very good job thus far I will say plus you keep them short and to the point, so many sites I look at write entire books on a two minute fight and it is brutal. Your two writes up are nice easy fun reads that have kept at least me interested, so many people fail in this aspect, we are looking at you Jim.

Keep up the good work, it is good to see a fellow view *coughs asshole* getting some space they deserve.
1inchdick- May 7, 2010 at 9:33 am
HEY MR FUCK U I KNOW U CHANGED MY NAME!!!
ReX13- May 7, 2010 at 9:32 am
Viva Hate>> Right now, i'm more interested in experience, exposure, and publishing credit (if you call it that on a website), plus any constructive criticism i may pick up on the way.

I'm not saying i'm trying to parlay this into a permanent gig at Billy Bob's Ultimate Fightin' Fanzine, but if he calls me...
Viva Hate- May 7, 2010 at 9:24 am
Tank was by far one of the most interesting fighters ever. Whether it be him completely murdering John Matua and Steve Nelmark with two of the most brutal KOs ever or showing his complete lack or cardio he was always fun. Plus his interviews were always a laugh.

What I am trying to say is Rex, CP Nation expects more Tank refrences!

Also, are you on the payroll yet?
ReX13- May 7, 2010 at 9:14 am
Listen, if you've never said "Tank is/was such a badass," i don't wanna be your friend.
Viva Hate- May 7, 2010 at 9:11 am
@Rex,
Oh I caught the joke and was grateful that you represented a key demo, old fat drunk bar fighters, otherwise I would have been shitting all over this article.
ReX13- May 7, 2010 at 9:07 am
CapitalQ>> Can't remember who was talking Alvarez, but i think there's little question that Alvarez deserves his slot in the top 10 @ 155. I'd like to see him rematch Aoki, myself.
CapitalQ- May 7, 2010 at 8:56 am
Yeah that's way cool. Bellator is exactly what the sport needs. I haven't seen any bullshit coming from the promotion. Just quality fights and place for up and comers to showcase their skills and make a name for themselves with television exposure. Wasn't it Maynard who said he'd like to fight Alvarez? I'd say hes the first in line to move up to the UFC after he defends his belt.
ReX13- May 7, 2010 at 8:46 am
CapitalQ>> Rebney has said in interviews that he hopes his top guys go on to bigger promotions. It seems he enjoys finding the lesser-known guys and giving them a boost. In other words, he's doing a service to the sport, AND putting on some compelling shows. Nice, playa.
iDestroy- May 7, 2010 at 8:39 am
What the hell CP? All these new contributer fags suck. Who is DL Richardson? Bring Rex13 back.
CapitalQ- May 7, 2010 at 8:34 am
Bellator is really taking off man. Quality fights are the norm. I just want to see what will happen to the champions. Are they going to dip out for the UFC or Strikeforce looking for higher levels of competition and pay? Or can Bellator expand quickly enough to entice their top fighters to stick around?
justscrappin- May 7, 2010 at 8:23 am
What are you trying to get at Mruss? You think your next up for Joe Silva's job? In the words of a very flamboyant man named Nick "torn O" Ring..." Uh uh...don't go there sister."
C-Bus Allstar- May 7, 2010 at 8:09 am
@MRuss, I thought the same thing when I heard the name but I wondered to myself, is that the very same Sam Caplan? Evidently it is.
C-Bus Allstar- May 7, 2010 at 8:07 am
Just echoing what others have said here, great write-up. I even watched the fights myself and still read this..
justscrappin- May 7, 2010 at 8:06 am
Yup...another stellar performance from Rex/Tank....now I'm wondering if they are going to let Kimbo's Bread write one that will knock yours out.
Mike Russell- May 7, 2010 at 8:02 am
Anyone else wondering how Sam Caplan became matchmaker for Bellator?I knew Matt Stansell quit to head up Elaine McCarthy's new promotion, but I had no idea who his replacement was.Dude gets a lot of interesting gigs. He went from founding editor of Fiveouncesofpain.com to editor of ProElite.com to COO of WAMMA to head of PR for M-1 Global to VP talent relations/matchmaker for Bellator.
ReX13- May 7, 2010 at 7:43 am
VivaHate>> I left a joke in there specifically for you, you bastard.
RearNakedPoke- May 7, 2010 at 7:39 am
Rex..nice job but u dont need me or any of the Trolls here to tell ya that. you got the gig...oh and UFCfan is still a BITCH!
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