So close, yet so far away.
If you were at least sort-of interested in last night’s Bellator 71, then you walked away last night satisfied. If you had no interest in the event prior, and just happened to catch the fights that weren’t on FX, you undoubtedly walked away impressed by the action. Not to spoil the recap, but only one fight on the entire card, an undercard bout between Kevin Zalac and Chris Goldbaugh, went the distance. The main card of Bellator 71 more than made up for the anti-climactic finish to Guida vs. Maynard, providing fight fans with quick knockouts and submissions throughout the evening.
If you were expecting Travis Wiuff to steamroll Chris Davis on his way to claiming what is rightfully his, you weren’t surprised – but you also weren’t impressed. Wiuff managed to get the first round knockout, yet he didn’t necessarily excite fans with his performance. The fight was a wall-and-stall heavy performance, with Wiuff overpowering Davis, earning a takedown and then punching out Davis with just under one minute left in the round.
Wiuff’s bullying style isn’t always the most exciting thing to watch, but it’s hard to question its effectiveness. Add on the size advantage that Wiuff has over most opponents - ”Diesel” has fought at heavyweight for most of his career – and it’s hard not to imagine him earning a rematch with Christian M’Pumbu by the end of the summer. Wiuff is now 67-14 (1 NC) in his career.
In the co-main event of the evening, Slovakia’s Attila Vegh wasted no time putting away Bellator middleweight tournament veteran Zelg Galesic. Despite earning an early takedown, the Croatian kickboxer wanted to keep this fight standing, aggressively stalking Vegh with hard strikes. However, Vegh dropped Galesic with a brutal counter punch and sunk in a fight ending choke one minute into the opening frame. “Pumukli” improves to 26-4 with the quick, dramatic finish.
Despite being a last-second replacement for Richard Hale, Tim Carpenter managed to defeat Beau Tribolet in convincing fashion. After spending the first round getting the better of Tribolet on the feet, Carpenter locked in an armbar with roughly ten seconds left in the second round. Tim Carpenter looked impressive, as Tribolet rarely seemed comfortable in the cage with him, yet alone in control of the fight. Carpenter improves to 9-1 in his career, with his only loss coming to Christian M’Pumbu.
If you’re looking for a dark horse to win this tournament, “The Hardcore Kid” Emanuel Newton emerged as a legitimate threat. Although he has struggled with consistency, Newton looked great while choking out Cesar Gracie’s own Roy Boughton. Boughton had no answer for Newton’s takedowns, as “The Hardcore Kid” was able to drag Boughton to the canvas seemingly at will. Early in the second round, Newton was able to earn a takedown, take Boughton’s back and sink in the fight ending choke.
One final note, former Strikeforce heavyweight Brett Rogers scored his first victory since 2010 with a doctor’s stoppage over his former teammate Kevin Asplund on the undercard. Yes, the heavyweight who was once considered one of the most dangerous strikers in the division and a measuring stick for Fedor was fighting on the undercard of a Bellator show.
I hate to keep being such a Debbie Downer, but “Da Grim” didn’t exactly look impressive in the victory, either. Kevin Asplund arguably took the first round, save for a powerful uppercut from Rogers that cut him. The second round was also close until the end, where Rogers managed to land a few good punches to a grounded Asplund, which made his eye nearly swell shut, leading to the doctor’s stoppage. Don’t expect Da Grim to dethrone Cole Konrad, is what I’m saying.
Travis Wiuff def. Chris Davis via KO (strikes), 4:12 of Round One
Attila Vegh def. Zelg Galesic via submission (rear-naked choke), 1:00 of Round One
Tim Carpenter def. Beau Tribolet via submission (armbar), 4:51 of Round Two
Emanuel Newton def. Roy Boughton via submission (rear-naked choke), 0:49 of Round Two
Brett Rogers def. Kevin Asplund via TKO (doctor’s stoppage), 5:00 of Round Two
Josh Stansbury def. Dan Spohn via submission (guillotine), 2:30 of Round One
Jason Butcher def. Duane Bastress via submission (triangle), 1:03 of Round One
Neil Johnson def. Brylan Van Artsdalen via submission (rear naked choke), 4:29 of Round Two
Kevin Zalac def Chris Goldbaugh via unanimous decision