By DL “Dance Lord” Richardson
(Video courtesy YouTube/BellatorMMA)
When it comes to MMA, everyone has preferences. Some people want nothing but knockouts (these are the people waiting three hours to get Chuck Liddell’s autograph), some people love nothing more than a fighter scoring a submission win off their back (if you don’t heart Sakuraba, I don’t want to be your friend). Some people love the heavy leather of the weight classes over 200 pounds (looking at you, Stak40), and some people love the non-stop dynamos that compete below 160 pounds. For those who dig an “I just gave my four year old Starbucks and meth” pace, Bellator hooked it up with a bantamweight showcase at The Majestic Theatre in San Antonio last night, and topped off the card with a much-anticipated matchup between current Featherweight Champion Joe Soto and Joe Warren. If you missed it, you better have a damn good reason or a note from your mom.
Come on in for a recap, but I *highly suggest* you watch Soto – Warren before you read it. These guys both wanted the belt like a thirteen year old girl wants a vampire boyfriend, and they put on a jaw dropper. I’ll talk about it, run down the other fights on the card, and if you’re good boys and girls, I’ll even tell you about bantams.
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Bantams are miniature chickens. No, really, they’re tiny, and both males and females are known for having a chip on their shoulder. If you grew up in the rural south (or visited relatives there), you may have been chased by a bantam rooster, much to the amusement of your family. You didn’t realize how fast those little shits could move, and Uncle Clark laughed so hard his teeth fell out. Then your cousin Robby told Stephanie Phillips about you being terrified of a chicken, so you hit him upside the head with your He-Man lunchbox, and family reunions have been tense ever since. Who the hell wants to keep economy-sized chickens, anyway?
Bryan “Hit Game” Goldsby versus Ed “Wild” West
Bryan Goldsby made some noise last season with a unanimous decision win over veteran fighter Jeff Curran, and was slotted into the bantamweight tournament on the strength of that win. Jimmy Smith and Sean Wheelock mention that Goldsby was in the Navy — don’t they know that San Antonio is an Air Force town? His opponent is Ed West, whose four losses all came fighting above his natural frame at 155. Both fighters are tall, rangy bantamweights with the skills to go deep into the tourney, but someone is going to be crying into their Ben & Jerry’s tomorrow.
Round one starts out with a lot of bouncing around, all quick movement and range finding. West lands a nice cracking leg kick at two minutes in, and then does his best Marshall Law impression. West keeps using the kicks, trying to stay out of Goldsby’s range. In the final minute, Goldsby rushes in with a three-punch combo, hoping to knock West out or steal the round. West clinches, then dives and rolls for a kneebar. It’s pretty slick, but Jimmy Smith compares it to Ryo Chonan’s body scissor takedown to heel hook combo that snuck Anderson Silva. C’mon, man, it wasn’t that slick. Or that effective: Goldsby escapes and tosses a few fists at West on the ground, backs away, and tosses a few more when West regains his feet. Goldsby scores a takedown at the bell.
The second begins with some more of that fancy kicking from West, and he lands a head kick that Goldsby shrugs off. Goldsby catches the next kick, and pushes West onto his back and activates ground and pound mode. West counters with a triangle, but he can’t lock it up and they go chest to chest and consider their options. The ref stands them up, and they go back to trading on the feet. West rolls again for the kneebar, but again the knee is below his waist and he can’t finish. These guys are up and down, and they seem to be enjoying themselves a good deal. On the ground, Wes wants to work rubber guard from the bottom while Goldsby just waits it out for a standup. With one minute left, West goes for that rolling kneebar again, and this time he’s got the knee nice and high, and he strains to hyperextend the joint and finish. Goldsby just rides it out, and spins as soon as West relaxes his grip. West maintains his grip, and transitions to a reverse heel hook for the win. Goldsby’s leg is bent, so the torque West is applying isn’t isolated to the knee; there’s no finish there. Goldsby throws some arm punches, and they nod at each other as if to say, “Ain’t this fun?” Goldsby leans into West’s face and growls at him, and West gives it right back, and I chuckle at home. The round ends with their legs tied up and both fighters throwing blows. They’re smiling at one another, and I’m pretty sure whoever wins is buying beers later.
Last round. West trips and falls over nothing in the middle of the cage, and Goldsby tries to knock his face off as he stands. He whiffs completely, so they grin, give each other dap and reset. They clinch and grapple, but Goldsby doesn’t want the ground if he can help it. West manages to drag it down to the mat, but Goldsby winds up on top and works the GnP. West stays active in guard, now trying a guillotine. When that doesn’t work, he shoves Goldsby off with his feet and stands again. They clinch again, and Goldsby tries a hip throw/arm drag that winds up putting him on the ground with West on top. Never one to give up, Goldsby knees West in the ribs until the bell. They bro hug it out, so yeah, they’re hitting the strip club together later. Ed West defeats Bryan Goldsby by unanimous decision, so I guess lap dances are on him tonight. He says that he thought Goldsby was one of the toughest guys in the tournament (geez, get a room), and looks forward to whoever is next in the semifinals.
Zach “Fun Size” Makovsky versus Nick “Garfield” Mamalis
Zach Makovsky is 5’4”, and you’d expect him to have a chip on his shoulder. He’s solid at 135, and he looks to have a significant strength advantage in this one. You can’t deny that he’s got a sense of humor, though, and I dig that. Nick Mamalis took the long, hard road to the tourney, stopping Mark Oshiro and Albert Rios before he got the invite. The most personality we’ve seen from Mamalis has been the day-glo tights he was wearing, but it looks like he’s actually got some big boy fighter shorts on this outing, with sponsors and everything. Good for you, Garfield. Now, why the hell do they call you Garfield?
Mamalis starts out well, using his height advantage (hey, quit snickering, a three inch advantage is a three inch advantage) to score some points early. Makovsky ducks a left and snatches a single leg, and he is not going to let go. Mamalis puts up a good fight, hopping around and punching to escape, but Makovsky spins and twists him around until Mamalis finally goes down. From half guard, Makovsky works for the mount, gets it, and he’s in the driver’s seat. Makovsky stays cool and works patiently instead of punching himself out, and seizes an arm when Mamalis tries to squirm out the back door. Makovsky spends 90 seconds trying to straighten out the arm before giving up and going back to a body lock, and Mamalis scrambles to his feet. They finish out the round clinching and jockeying for a solid takedown.
Round two starts out slowly, not because the fighters are gassed but because they’re evenly matched. Mamalis scores a good takedown, but Makovsky answers with a practiced sweep. Mamalis stays calms, neutralizes any offensive effort, and gradually works back to his feet. Makovsky never lets go of him, though, and drags him down again. It’s a technical battle, and the crowd begins to boo with a minute left. The bell rings, and it’s on to round three.
Last round is more entertaining for everyone. Makovsky scores the takedown again, but Mamalis hits a nice reversal and works for a rear naked choke. Makovsky avoids it, but Mamalis gets mounted and tries for a knockout. Makovsky works a butterfly in, working back to half guard, then squirms out from underneath, and he comes out with that death grip on the leg. Mamalis looks for a guillotine, and uses it to roll Makovsky on his back. He releases the sub, trying to mount again, and Makovsky wrestles out. Makovsky gets the back, wanting an RNC of his own, and Mamalis stands, then throws himself up into the air and onto his back, landing on Makovsky in the process, who loses the choke. Mamalis is on top, but he’s got less than a minute to finish the fight, and Makovsky isn’t going to give him the chance. When Mamalis tries to apply a kimura, Makovsky lays a slam on him and that will ice the round. Bell rings. Zach Makovsky takes the unanimous decision over Nick Mamalis, 30-27 from all three judges (and me). Damn, Garfield, you’ve been impressive, but you came up short (no pun intended). On the other hand, your fiancée is hot, so life ain’t so bad, right?
Joe “The Hammer” Soto versus Joe Warren
Again, don’t read this recap, watch the damn fight. If you cannot for some reason do so (Dial up? For real? Naw, playa.), damn you missed it.
Joe Soto is the winner of the Season 1 tournament and reigning champ, and he’s looked impressive all around. He’s a quiet guy that doesn’t do well in interviews, but his boxing and wrestling speak for him. Joe Warren is the brash winner of Season 2, a world-class wrestler who burst on the MMA scene in DREAM’s featherweight grand prix. Soto hasn’t taken kindly to Warren’s cocky persona, and he’s been looking forward to shutting Warren down. Warren doesn’t understand the big deal, since he is the baddest man on the planet. No really, just ask him.
The action starts off, and it’s a shocker: Joe Soto proceeds to lay the hurt on Joe Warren like he got paid by the insult. Soto lands left hooks and right uppercuts almost at will, staggering Warren, stunning him and scoring over and over, one-two, one-two. He does the full-on “don’t be scurred, homey”, putting his hands up and wide open, tapping his own chin, literally daring Warren to hit him. Warren looks slow, shooting for Soto’s legs and not getting them. It’s five full minutes of Soto dominance, by turns either clowning Warren, or tooling him. His grin is so big you can read the sponsor on his mouthpiece, and Warren doesn’t have anything for him. Warren tries a lunging-spinning-back-side-check-kick thingy, loses his balance and falls down; Soto’s grin widens. He raises one arm, and wags his fucking finger in the air as if to say, “Naughty, naughty, little Joe.” Warren survives to the bell, but he’s taken more shots to the dome than the entire CP crew did in Boston.
Second round, and Soto knows he’s got this. Until Warren drops him with a straight right coming out of the gate. Soto flops onto his back and covers up, and Warren pounces on him, throwing everything he has at him. Soto manages to work back up, but he’s not smiling anymore. He’s retreating. As he backs into the cage, Warren launches a single right knee, catching Soto squarely in the face, and then a single left hook just as squarely on the jaw. Soto drops to his face, and he’s just barely conscious enough to lace his hands over the back of his head. Joe Warren defeats Joe Soto by OMGWTFKTFO Round 2 (0:33).
Warren receives the belt; it’s the first title change in Bellator’s short history. He says it again, he’s the baddest man on the planet, and I’m having a harder and harder time arguing with him. As for Soto, you have to wonder if this first career loss will give him a needed dose of maturity. He has talent and skill, and he was winning that fight…until he lost it.
Travis “The Hurricane” Reddinger versus “Useless” Ulysses Gomez
First off, that Gomez nickname is not a joke. Or at least, it’s not mine, dude really gets announced as “Useless”. His brother Hercules was on the US Soccer Team at the World Cup, so maybe Ulysses has some inadequacy issues. He’s reportedly a ground whiz, but he’s facing a striker with a significant reach advantage. Reddinger is the Stefan Struve of the bantamweight division, standing at 5’10” and enjoying a five-inch height advantage for the bout.
First round starts with a minimum of action, which is confusing and upsetting to me. I have time to contemplate this, since they spend two and a half minutes thinking about fighting one another and how they should go about it. Reddinger is throwing a lot of punches, but everyone of them is about 10% power. A couple of stiff leg kicks is about it for offense, until Gomez gets a takedown. Reddinger shows off a nice active guard, and Gomez elects to stand again. Reddinger moves in, and they lock up a muay thai clinch and trade for a moment. Reddinger dips his head a bit too much, and Gomez loops a guillotine and pulls guard. Reddinger pops his head out, and now he’s got top position so he throws a few punches. Gomez pushes to his feet, and they go back to knees in the clinch. Gomez gets a leg trip takedown just before the bell.
Round two, and Reddinger is ready to fight. Gomez quickly scores a takedown off of a caught kick. On the ground, Reddinger stays busy and throws up triangle attempts, but Gomez defends. Gomez backs out of the guard, then stands over Reddinger and throws kicks at his legs. Reddinger throws kicks of his own, including one that lands on the cup, but it’s hard to aim a kick when you’re flat on your back. Reddinger stands, and it’s clinch knees on special for round two. A pattern is starting to emerge on Gomez, though: he’s scoring takedowns and then doesn’t try to accomplish anything with them. Gomez scores a takedown, then backs out of Reddinger’s guard again and again, and allows him to stand. It’s frustrating when the commentators are telling us how good his jiu-jitsu is, and he doesn’t seem to want to use it. Gomez lands a nice punch dead on the jaw of Reddinger, who no-sells it like a champ and doesn’t even pause while walking forward. Again in round two, Gomez scores a leg trip takedown just before the bell.
Round three is more study in contrasts. Reddinger stays busy on the feet and on the ground, while Gomez seems content to score with takedowns and then back out and stand again. With about two minutes left, Gomez takes Reddinger down again, who responds with his normal active guard and throws up a triangle attempt. Gomez pulls away, but he’s left his arm behind and Reddinger wants it. He stitches together a chain of subs while Gomez plays defense: triangle, armbar, omoplata, triangle, triangle/armbar combo, mounted triangle, armbar, omoplata, wellshitthisguysnotgonnatap. Gomez briefly gets top control again, and Reddinger tries that omoplata again. Gomez backs away from Reddinger, who tries one last time to snag an ankle, but it’s over. It’s hard to predict how the judges saw the fight, so I have to wait for the announcement that Ulysses Gomez defeats Travis Reddinger by split decision, and I don’t agree. After watching the fight twice, I just don’t think that Gomez deserves the nod. He wasn’t aggressive enough on the feet or the ground, in my humble opinion, and he was unable to capitalize on multiple positional advantages. Of course, I’m no judge. (Yet.) Either way, Gomez goes on to the semis, joining Jose Vega, Ed West, and Zach Makovsky. Gomez said in an interview that he was eighth of eight in the tournament field, and I tend to agree. I’m hoping that his lackluster performance was just a reaction to the long frame on Reddinger.
From the undercard:
Andrew Craig defeats Rodrigo Pinheiro via TKO (doctor’s stoppage due to cut) at 2:53 in the 3rd Round
Gilbert Jimenez defeats Aaron Barringer via Unanimous Decision
Richard Odoms defeats Dale Mitchell via Split Decision
Andrew Chappelle defeats Joe Christopher via Unanimous Decision
Steven Peterson defeated Ernest De La Cruz by unanimous decision
John Kirk defeated Shane Faulkner by TKO (head kick) Rd 3