(Zoila Frausto vs. Rosi Sexton. Props: YouTube.com/BellatorMMA)
By DL “All’s Well That Enswell” Richardson
Like summer vacations, dorm parties, and that time you dated the sex-crazed stripper, all good things must come to an end. It was the final show for Bellator’s second season last night, and if you weren’t watching, it was your own damn fault. Louisville, Kentucky plays host for the finals in two weight classes, a women’s division superfight, and a bantamweight tourney qualifier, plus some regional action and (I assume) some horse races and bourbon tastings out of sheer habit. What surprises are in store? Who will turn in a stellar performance and make a name for themselves, as Ben Askren did just last week? Who will claim the poster-sized check and grin goofily as they hold it aloft for all to see, as Ben Askren also did last week? Will Alexander “The Dreidel” Shlemenko manage to keep his fight on the feet? Will we finally make up our minds about whether Joe Warren is a pretty cool guy who isn’t afraid of anything, or is he, after all, just a turbo douche? That’s a lot of questions — what are you, a preschooler? Seriously, if you start just asking “why?” every time I say something, I’ll turn this car around, and we won’t even go to the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory Tour. Follow me past the jump, and all will be revealed. If you’re good, maybe I’ll talk your mother into seeing the zoo. If not, I’m taking us to see the World’s Largest Bottle of Booze.
Damn kids. You know you’re the reason your mother has migraines, right?
Dr. Rosi “The Surgeon” Sexton versus Zoila “Warrior Princess” Frausto
Yeah, I called Sexton “Doctor”. You know why? ‘Cause she has a freaking PhD, that’s why. She’s the English cerebral assassin who’s still collecting degrees and pens MMA articles in her spare time. Currently ranked as the #1 female fighter at 125 pounds, Sexton has signed on to join the 115-pound tournament starting in August. Zoila Frausto, on the other hand, was not invited to take part in the tournament.
The first thing I notice as the referee gives his instructions is that these women look like they’re in two different weight classes. Frausto stands 5 feet 5 inches tall, and officially weighed in at 120 pounds on the button. Sexton is one inch shorter, and weighed in one pound heavier (making this a catchweight at 121 pounds, which is sillier than buying shoes for your dog), but she is noticeably smaller. I can only assume that Frausto has an excellent weight cutting routine, despite all we’ve heard about women not being able to cut weight. Of course, Frausto has little more chance in this bout than her sister had last week against Lisa Ward. Right?
As the first round begins, it’s immediately apparent that Frausto wants to keep things standing. She stays low and moves quickly, keeping her guns cocked to blast Sexton if she makes a mistake. Sexton called this “a classic grappler versus striker” matchup, and she wants to armbar Frausto and get the hell out of the oppressive Kentucky heat. First, though, she has to get her down. The two circle and exchange feints for a minute before Frausto lets loose with a high kick. Sexton catches it, and takes Frausto down, but they’re back up immediately, Frausto hopping on one foot and Sexton still hanging on to the single leg. Sexton backs her opponent into the cage, and quickly moves upstairs for a Thai clinch. Frausto shrugs off the plum easily, perhaps irritated that Sexton would try using her own style against her. Sexton keeps Frausto pinned against the fence though, leaning hard and landing a string of knees to the body. Sexton feels Frausto begin to muscle her way out, so she releases her hold and backs out, trying to land a right hook on the way out. They square up and start again.
Sexton is starting to be more aggressive, and lunges in, but Frausto tags her with a counter left. Sexton backs off, and fakes a shoot; dipping at her knees, she lunges and throws a left hook-right hook combo that could have done some good damage. Frausto reacts well, backing up and countering with a straight right that just grazes Sexton’s head. Sexton is off-balance, and she tries to shoot on Frausto’s hips, maybe take this to the ground and take control. Frausto meets the incoming good doctor with a knee to the grill, stunning her, and shoves her to the canvas. Sexton flops onto her back with one leg folded underneath her; this already looks like an ugly knockout, but the ref hasn’t stopped it so Frausto acts quickly to remove any doubt. She throws three straight rights onto Sexton’s chin, who promptly lies still and dreams of a world where England beat the US in a game called “football”. Zoila Frausto defeats Rosi Sexton via KO at 2:00 of Round 1. Again, Frausto is not invited to the 115 pound tournament next season, while Sexton was one of the ballyhooed names announced to take part. Judging by the slow, deliberate way Sexton moved when they (finally) brought her around, don’t be surprised if she lands a 60 or 90 day medical suspension.
Bryan “The Beast” Baker versus Alexander “Storm” Shlemenko
Ok, I’m not much of a gambler, but the middleweight tournament final has been my “take it to your mob bookie” pick since Shlemenko managed to outlast Jered Hess’s knee at Bellator XX. Alexander Shlemenko is the one-dimensional striker who’s more spun out than Amy Winehouse, and he’s got to be the smallest middleweight ever. Bryan “The Beast” Baker, conversely, looks huge at 185, and he’s got skills on the feet and on the ground, plus judo skills to go from the feet to the ground. Baker has been impressive all season, with a first round TKO and a first round submission to get to the finals, while Shlemenko looked sloppy (entertaining, but sloppy) cutting up Matt Major and lucky in getting past Hess.
The referee signals the beginning of action, and the fighters touch gloves and start looking for striking range. Shlemenko waits less than 25 seconds before trying his first spinning technique, a spinning back kick that he aborts as Baker slides out of range. Ten seconds after that, he tries a spinning back fist. So, yeah, he is not interested in changing his game plan. He immediately tries another back fist, and Baker grabs him. Baker wants to lock up a good Thai clinch and knee the shorter Russian to the canvas, but Shlemenko wings a punch and backs out quickly. They reset, and out comes a straight left- left spinning back fist combo. Shlemenko is fun to watch, but you wish his connection percentage was higher. He moves quickly, in and out, left and right, never presenting a good target. Two minutes in, Shlemenko tries another spinning kick, but Baker lands a leg kick with a loud crack that echoes over the crowd. It wasn’t a hard blow, but it catches Shlemenko in his pivot and he goes down. Baker lets him back up, and they start exchanging a bit more. Baker is throwing, Shlemenko is throwing, and they circle and look for the punch that will change the fight. When it comes, it’s a Shlemenko counter right that catches Baker on the jaw. Baker pitches forward, trying to grab Shlemenko’s legs on the way, and it’s hard to tell if he’s trying to shoot and can’t explode on it, or if he’s just passed out for a second there and is operating on auto pilot. Shlemenko shrugs Baker’s takedown attempt, rolling him onto his back, and stands over him to deliver the ground and poundovich. Baker tries to play guard, but he suddenly is moving in slow motion and he’s catching some of Shlemenko’s rain of knuckles. Baker makes one last attempt to get Shlemenko down, reaching for his ankle to set up a trip from his back, but this leaves his face totally open. One more fireball to the chin, and the ref has seen enough. Alexander Shlemenko defeats Bryan Baker at 2:45 of Round 1. Don’t even bother with your mean mugs and your angry typing fingers, either. You should know better than betting against a stone-faced Russian, so consider this a learning experience. You’re welcome.
Patricio “Pitbull” Freire versus Joe Warren
Patricio Pitbull is just 22 years old, but he’s got over six years of pro experience, and he trains with one of the most well-respected camps on the planet: Team Nogueira. He’s shown the kind of well-rounded skill set that is the hallmark of the new generation of MMA fighters — the kids who grew up with MMA in their lives. He’s got an impressive ground resume, with half of his 14 wins coming via submission. On the feet, he’s aggressive, quick, and attacks with all eight points of contact. Tonight he’s got his hands full with Joe Warren, the self-proclaimed “baddest man on the planet”. I’m not ready to go along with that, since it’s established Man Law that you can’t give yourself a badass nickname, but I will say that I’ve been impressed with Warren to date. He made his debut in Dream’s featherweight grand prix last year, where he faced an uphill battle against stiff competition from his first pro fight. He was expected to make it here to the finals, which he did by grinding out decision wins against Eric Marriott and Georgi Karakhanyan. Warren calls himself “too stupid to tap out”; I thought he was just a stubborn SOB. Either way, I have been looking forward to this one since it is very hard to call.
The bell sounds and the featherweight final is underway. Warren wastes no time putting his gameplan into action: grab opponent, introduce opponent to ground, keep opponent and ground as close as possible. Impressively, Patricio Pitbull uses excellent takedown defense to keep it standing, and begins using stick and move tactics to pepper Warren. Pitbull has the speed advantage, and Warren looks slower than normal as well. When Warren charges, Pitbull sidesteps him, and pops him more often than not. One minute in, Warren lunges and Pitbull puts Warren on his back, in a twist, and works a little striking from on top. Warren shoves Pitbull away with his legs, and jumps to his feet. Pitbull neatly dodges, and again catches Warren with a hook as he floats away. Warren keeps coming forward, but Pitbull moves like he’s on fast-forward. If Warren punches, Pitbull slips it and returns fire. When Warren shoots, Pitbull sprawls and stays off his back. With a little less than 2 minutes left in the first, Warren leaps forward for another left hook, and Pitbull squats under it, then just as quickly rises and slaps an arm triangle on while the fighters are standing. He’s got a good hold, but he can’t cinch it hard enough to make Warren tap or pass out. Pitbull tries a hip toss, and Warren counters, bending and shoving out of the submission. Warren continues to march ahead, and Pitbull is starting to light him up with combos now. Pitbull slips under another advance, catching Warren once, twice, thrice, and Warren topples to the canvas with Pitbull swarming him. He’s trying to pound out the win, and the referee is watching closely, but Warren is covering up enough to last for now. With five seconds on the clock, Pitbull sinks a rear-naked choke deep underneath Warren’s chin, but the bell saves him from unconsciousness. For now, at least.
Round 2 starts and Warren ain’t scurred. As commentator Jimmy Smith points out, Warren doesn’t know anything but forward, forward, forward, and he’s not the kind of guy to change mid-stream. After their hyper-kinetic first frame, the fighters spend a bit more time circling one another and clinching; we’re told that Warren was battling nausea earlier today. Halfway through the second, Warren drops, shoots, and puts Pitbull on his back. Once there, he works his ground attack, and it does seem like Warren is missing the bottomless gas tank we’re used to seeing. He’s staying busy, but it seems like he’s missing a bit of power, a small measure of explosiveness that could make the difference. Pitbull is playing defense from his back, and he’s not taking any lumps, but he doesn’t work a single sub for the rest of the round.
After a short breather in their corners, the two come out for the one hundred thousand dollar round, and they come out swinging. They exchange, circle, lunge and attack. Warren shoots, and Pitbull muscles out. Warren throws a few punches, including a spinning back fist, and then shoots again, this time scoring a takedown. Pitbull is a bit more active from guard this time, striking from his back and trying to create space for either a sub or an escape. Warren continues to work for mount, keeping Pitbull’s attention with fists and elbows. Pitbull manages to turn on his side, create space, and stand; Warren drags him down again. They scramble and stand briefly, but Warren trips Patricio Pitbull to the mat again. They stand once more, and Pitbull tries to ice the match with some last minute strikes. Warren ducks under and locks his arms around Pitbull’s waist. He looks at the clock, now ticking down the last fifteen seconds. The camera has a great shot of Warren’s face, and it’s clear that he’s reached the outer limits of his own stamina. He sucks in a great breath, drops to his knees, lifts Pitbull off his feet and drops him on his back. The bell rings, and it’s in the hands of the judges. They don’t do a bad job either — it was a close fight and a close decision. Joe Warren defeats Patricio “Pitbull” Freire via split decision (29-28 x2, 28-29). Warren will go on to face Joe Soto next season for the featherweight strap, and I won’t be surprised at all when he wins. I’m still not calling him the baddest man on the planet though.
Nik “Garfield” Mamalis versus Albert Rios
Remember a few weeks back when “The World’s Least Threatening Man” Nik Mamalis knocked out Mark Oshiro, spoiling dude’s chance at the bantamweight tournament? You don’t? Little guy, flunked out of Mean U.? Wore neon green manties? Well, he’s got orange highlighter manties this time, and he still looks like your neighbor’s college-age son who lives in the basement. Anyways, here he is again, this time matched up with Albert Rios, and whoever wins gets slotted in the 135 brackets. Rios looks the part, and he’s the favorite in the bout. They both want to make an impression, and it’s an undercard fight being aired, so you know they’re going to throw down.
And they do. Coming out in Round 1, both fighters look for the early KO. Mamalis catches Rios, stumbling him against the cage, and tries to put him away. Rios recovers well, and circles out. They exchange for a minute, staring at each other for a few seconds, then burst into flurries. Mamalis gets Rios backed up to the cage, and works a takedown. Rios begins to scoot backwards, trying to stand, and Mamalis crawls forward, trying to stay tight. In the process, Rios applies a guillotine, and it looks tight, but “Garfield” pulls out of it. Thinking better of the ground game, Mamalis stands again and goes back to entertaining the crowd. The guys do a good job of avoiding anything devastating, until Rios doesn’t: Mamalis catches him with an uppercut, sending him to the floor. Mamalis quickly lands a few elbows and a half dozen punches, and the ref calls it off. Nik Mamalis defeats Albert Rios via TKO (punches) at 4:30 of Round 1. And that is how a little guy nobody’s heard of makes his way into a nationally televised tournament.
Other Undercard Action…
Brent Weedman def. John Troyer via submission (arm-bar) at 4:55 of Round 1
Daniel Straus def. Chad Hinton via unanimous decision
Stoney Hale def. Mike Fleniken via submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:20 of Round 2
Kurt Kinser def. David Overfield via TKO (punches) at 2:30 of Round 1