(Bellator 92 highlights courtesy of Bellator.com)
Although Mark Hunt’s comeback run in the UFC has been nothing short of inspirational, there’s been a similarly grizzled veteran quietly putting together an improbable run for a title in the Bellator realm of the world (I believed it’s pronounced “The Midwest”) as well. We’re talking, of course, about former WEC light heavyweight champion Doug Marshall, who all but fell off the face of the earth after being knocked out by then undefeated killing machine Brian Stann at WEC 33. Since then, however, Marshall has put together a respectable 9-3 record, including a pair of devastating performances in his first two Bellator appearances. Not bad for a guy we last saw getting crushed by Zelg Galesic in the Super Fight League.
On the heels of an upset victory over season 6 finalist Andreas Spang in the season 8 quarterfinals last month, Marshall squared off against the undefeated Russian Sultan Aliev last night. As we know, these are prime days to be a Russian competing in Bellator, hence why Aliev was a 3-to-1 favorite heading into the affair. The good news? Marshall took another huge step forward in what has been an unlikely championship run, defeating Aliev by way of split decision. The even better news? Despite being napped on for the majority of the first and third rounds, Marshall was handed the victory for actually bringing the fight to his opponent without needing a warning from Herb Dean to do so. It was a decision that you wouldn’t likely see swing in Marshall’s favor 9 times out of 10, but for once, takedowns + top control – any actual offense did not equal a winning combination in MMA. We were just as shocked as you were.
(Gif courtesy of ZombieProphet/Bloody Elbow)
Speaking of comeback stories, heading into last night’s other middleweight tournament semifinal, Brett Cooper told us that winning the season 8 tournament “would mean I’m among the best in the world.” And after watching the first two rounds of his fight with TUF 7′s Dan Cramer, it looked as if Cooper’s lofty aspirations were all but on their way out the door. Unable to secure a solid takedown and thoroughly outgunned on the feet, Cooper found himself in a similar predicament as Tim Boetsch faced heading into the third round against Yushin Okami at UFC 144. And like Boetsch, Cooper was able to mount an epic comeback, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Cramer in a wild exchange early in the third that put Cramer down and out. And just like that, Cooper and Marshall punched their tickets to the season 8 finals.
In the featherweight semifinals, Russian (go figure) grappling specialist Magomedrasul Khasbulaev put a merciful end to Marlon Sandro’s tournament run. Despite being felled with by a brutal low blow in the first, Khasbulaev outstruck, outgrappled, and plain outworked the former Sengoku champion en route to a third round TKO stoppage. Unfortunately for Sandro — who I personally feel was gifted a victory against Akop Stepanyan in the featherweight quarterfinals at Bellator 88 — the performance only furthered the belief in many fan’s eyes that his best days are behind him. We wouldn’t count him out just yet, but to say that Sandro has looked rather uninspired as of late would be no hyperbole. As for Khasbulaev, the Russian will face Mike Richman, who emerged victorious in a close split decision battle with Alexandre Bezzera earlier in the evening, in the tournament finals.
Although the refereeing was leagues above the average Bellator event, did anyone else think John McCarthy was a little off his game last night? It’s really the only complaint we can register for the event, but there were two occurrences involving McCarthy that just seemed out of place for the normally bulletproof ref.
Aside from his somewhat baffling attempt to force Khasbulaev to his feet following the aforementioned low blow from Sandro in their fight, his decision to allow Chris Saunders to take a further beating after having his intestines mushed via an Akop Stepanyan spinning back kick seemed odd to say the least. McCarthy appeared to realize that Saunders was done for as he crumpled to the mat, but for some reason, forced Stepanyan to deliver a few more unnecessary follow up punches before he waved off the bout. Clearly confused by McCarthy’s decision as well, Stepanyan broke out his best Matt Brown/Pete Sell “Seriously, ump?” impression before obliging McCarthy. Check out a gif below (via ZombieProphet/BloodyElbow) and let us know if you thought the stoppage was kind of funky as well.
The full results for Bellator 92 are below.
-Magomedrasul Khasbulaev def. Marlon Sandro via TKO (punches) – Round 3, 2:38 – featherweight tournament semifinals
-Doug Marshall def. Sultan Aliev via split decision (27-30, 29-28, 29-28) – middleweight tournament semifinals
-Brett Cooper def. Dan Cramer via knockout (punches) – Round 3, 3:19 – middleweight tournament semifinals
-Mike Richman def. Alexandre Bezerra via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) – featherweight tournament semifinals
-Nick Piedmont def. Cleber Luciano via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 0:55
-Ricky Legere Jr. def. Sabah Homasi via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 2:52
-Akop Stepanyan def. Chris Saunders via TKO (strikes) – Round 3, 3:55
-Keith Berry def. Richard Rigmaden via submission (kimura) – Round 1, 1:31
-Josh Appelt def. Manny Lara via unanimous decision (30-24, 30-24, 30-24)
-Aaron Miller def. Shad Smith via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
-Brandon Halsey def. Rocky Ramirez via technical submission (arm-triangle choke) – Round 3, 0:50