(I like how they put "Season #3 Tournament Purses" in the memo line, so that Cole doesn’t get confused when he’s going through his stack of $100,000 novelty-checks at home. PicProps: MMAFrenzy)
By ReX “Write Pride” Richardson
Bellator’s third season just came out of the seventh inning stretch, visiting the Kansas City Power & Light District with a couple of championship matches on hand and two more events on the calendar. Unfortunately, you probably missed it due to either incompetence or fuckery most foul; the event was broadcast late, if at all, by every Fox affiliate in the multiverse. On top of that, it appears that the Fox-Dish Network pissing match has gone into perpetual death overtime, so essentially I’m saying that sometimes these things happen in MMA, and I was unable to watch and then come tell you guys about it. Sorry, bro. Since I feel bad about missing the last event (Bellator XXXI.V, at Talking Pines Casino, BFE), I’ve included this drawing of a spider, plus some other stuff after the jump.
Really? You fell for that “I couldn’t watch it because HURPADURP”? Wow. Did you guys know that the word “gullible” is not in Webster’s current dictionary? For reals, go look it up.
Ryan “The Tank Engine” Thomas vs. “Judo” Jim Wallhead
In case you forgot the backstory: Ryan Thomas lost his quarterfinal bout with Ben Askren on April 15th of this year, in what many felt was an early referee stoppage. Bellator boss Bjorn Rebney agreed, and promised Thomas the first available alternate slot. Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, Iceland is doing its best Mordor impression, and a volcano you are physically incapable of pronouncing pumps out an ash cloud that precludes air travel over an entire continent. “Judo” Jim Wallhead has to call out of work due to atmospheric apocalypse, missing out his quarterfinal bout against Jacob “Tick Tock” McClintock the next week. Thomas gets the call to return, jacks up Tick Tock, and went on to his rematch with Askren. Now Wallhead is back, and who better to welcome him (finally) to Bellator?
“Judo” Jim got his nickname for his early background as a British youth and Under-21 Judo standout, but since joining Team Roughhouse in 2005, he’s fallen in love with striking. Wallhead’s 19-5 record carries losses to UFC vet Dennis Siver and TUF alum Charles Blanchard, and he said some stuff during his pre-fight interview. I didn’t catch what he said, because I was too busy trying to figure out which Guy Richie movie I’d seen him in. Ryan Thomas came off of his rematch loss to Askren looking for answers, and relocated from Illinois to Florida to train with American Top Team. He’s also leaned out a little bit, dropping about ten pounds closer to welterweight over the past few months, and now it’s time to see if the work has paid off.
It’s a pretty entertaining three-round scrap; Wallhead uses a rangy boxing style with good combos, and manages to get straighter punches in on Thomas much of the time. He uses his judo defensively, to keep the fight where he likes it: standing. Thomas does an outstanding job mixing up his offense, starting combos with body kicks and lunging elbows. Thomas is unable to score on three takedown attempts on the judoka, but he does put up a good tally striking and the fight is fairly even through the first two rounds. In the third, Wallhead seems to get the better of Thomas, opening a cut on his brow and stunning him halfway into the round. Thomas pulls guard with 2:25 left in the third round, but he’s probably not going to surprise Wallhead with anything on the ground. Wallhead stays on top and works to posture up, while Thomas tries to break him down and work from a closed guard to rubber guard. Wallhead finally gets some space and starts firing punches with more mustard on them, but his time has run out. Just before the bell sounds, Wallhead stands and raises his fists straight up in triumph, still in Thomas’ open guard.
The judges agree with Wallhead and one another; Jim Wallhead defeats Ryan Thomas via unanimous decision (29-28 x 3). It’s a big moment for Wallhead, who breaks down when the decision is announced in his favor. The post fight interview is cut, though, so I’m going to assume that he’s happy to get a win and a paycheck and he loves his wife and son. Thomas seemed slightly off somehow — he lost his balance a handful of times, three times while launching high kicks. Maybe he’s lost some flexibility training at ATT? Also possible that he’s going deaf — I understand that messes with your equilibrium pretty bad.
Bantamweight Tournament Championship: Ed “Wild” West vs. Zack “Fun Size” Makovsky
As a North American man walking around at somewhere between 5’8½” and 5’10¾” depending on my shoes and the availability of things to stand on, I love a weight class in which 5’9” is tall. It doesn’t hurt that guys in the lower weight classes can pour it on for an entire fight without gassing, but there has been a lack of finishes in the bantamweight tournament. Ed West made his way to the finals with decision wins over Bryan Goldsby and Jose Vega, while Makovsky out-pointed Nick Mamalis and Bryan Goldsby (Goldsby subbed in for Ulysses Gomez, who pulled out due to staph infection). West touts his comfort in all phases of a fight, and says he plans to roll with Makovsky’s takedowns and try to work from his back for the win. Makovsky has enjoyed plenty of success using a wrestling base and a sprinkling of jiu-jitsu to dominate scorecards, and he’s looking to ride his grappling to the championship.
It’s an active fight, and a technical one that moves constantly from stand up to clinch to ground. Makovsky scores at will with takedowns, and I’m assuming the judges are giving him points for them even if West says he’s letting Makovsky do it. Once on the ground, it’s all West can do to keep Makovsky in containment and work incrementally for a submission, while Makovsky is limited to passing from West’s closed guard to side control before West corrals him back. West gets props from commentators Wheelock and Smith for his flexibility and athleticism, mostly for his signature backward roll to standing from his back. West’s range and unorthodox style keep Makovsky on the outside for much of the fight, but when Makovsky closes the distance, he scores takedowns every time. There’s very little visible damage until the third, when Makovsky manages to open a cut over West’s eye, and they both still look relatively fresh going into the championship rounds. Makovsky stays in control of the fight, and keeps out of submission trouble for the whole twenty five.
Jimmy Smith’s unofficial scorecard has all five rounds for Makovsky, and two of the three judges agree. Zack Makovsky defeats Ed West via unanimous decision (50-45 x2, 49-46), winning an oversized check and a pretty big belt. Makovsky has nothing but praises for West, saying he was the toughest fight in the tournament and a real problem in the cage. It’s nice to say, but it’s another illustration that a good wrestler with a good motor is a force to be reckoned with in MMA, and I look forward to seeing how guys like Makovsky continue to evolve and pick up submission techniques to supplement their suffocating ground game. As for Ed, something tells me we haven’t seen the last of the “Wild” West.
Heavyweight Tournament Championship: Cole “The Polar Bear” Konrad vs. Neil “Goliath” Grove
Cole Konrad has bulldozed his way through the heavyweight tourney by alternating between Irresistible Force (while executing takedowns) and Immovable Object (once he has secured said takedown). Konrad is unapologetic for his boring style, and smirks as he declares that anyone who can’t defend a takedown deserves to be laid on. It seems to escape Konrad that the same criticism is not leveled at fellow Bellator wrestlers Joe Warren, Ben Askren, or Zack Makovsky. Neil Grove is Konrad’s polar opposite: a self-effacing and soft spoken family man in the twilight of his career, Grove is a pure striker who wins by knockout or not at all. Grove insists that he’s trained intensively in defensive wrestling and escapes, but it’s hard to believe that he’s learned enough give Konrad trouble on the mat.
As the first round starts, it sounds like the over/under for Konrad’s first takedown is set at 30 seconds. If you took the under (I would have), you were wrong. Konrad circles and feints for almost a full minute before his first double leg attempt, and he’s so excited to get his hands on Grove that he elevates and slams Grove with enthusiasm. He doesn’t stay tight to his opponent’s body, though, so Grove pops quickly back to his feet and claps his hands, as if to say “There, that wasn’t so bad.” Grove is hesitant to pull the trigger on any combos, and Konrad doesn’t give him time to work up his nerve. As soon as Grove gets within jabbing distance, Konrad dives for the double leg again, this time into half guard. Grove is immediately uncomfortable on the bottom, which should be a shock to no one. Inside of two minutes left in the round, Konrad swings his leg over Grove into a full mount. Grove continues to struggle, trying to shrimp out and get away, but he’s trapped where so many men have been trapped before — under Cole Konrad. He tries to push Konrad’s face away to create space, but Konrad goes for the finish. Grasping Grove wrist, he pushes Grove’s fist up over, and then behind his shoulder, and it looks at first like he’s attempting to finish with a bicep crush. Grove guts it out, and it looks like time will run out. Konrad adjusts his grip and twists Grove’s hand out away from his body, putting some torque on the shoulder joint instead of simply stretching it. Grove groans in pain and taps, since his only other option is to let Konrad disarticulate his arm and then lose. Cole Konrad defeats Neil Grove via submission (keylock) at 4:45 of Round 1, his second career submission victory.
It’s another small step out of the realm of boring fighters for Konrad, but he still has a long road ahead of him if he wants fame, money, and women to look at him naked without yarking all over the place. Konrad collects his belt and check, and smiles for the cameras, and I ponder who Bellator will match him up with for feature fights next season. Expect to see Neil Grove matched up with Mark Holata in a “loser goes time-traveling” match next season, since both of these guys have more potent punches than an Irish wedding season.
Chris Page versus Michael Chandler
Since they have a few more minutes of air time, Bellator sneaks in one of the undercard fights. Michael Chandler is the next hot wrestler out of Missouri State, fresh off of a two minute beat down over that Creed guy two weeks ago. Chris Page is….some guy, I don’t know. Bellator doesn’t provide any lead-in or cage announcement, so we don’t even know what Page’s record is unless you’re one of his Facebook buddies (an internet search indicates that Page is 1-2 as a pro, but I can’t confirm that with any large fighter database). It feels a bit like Chandler is the big female T-Rex off screen, and Page is the helpless goat hitched and ready for dinner.
Chandler shoots immediately to start the first round, and pushes Page onto his back. Page tries to trap an arm and straighten it out, but Chandler defends the armbar and goes straight to ground and pound. Page is not at all interested in this sudden introduction to Chandler’s knuckles, and rolls onto his hands and knees to get away from the assault. As he tries to escape, he fails to follow the advice of Wu Tang Clan, leaving his neck exposed. Chandler throws an arm under Page’s chin, locks his hands together, and pulls Page to his feet by his throat. Page taps before his head pops off, then collapses. Michael Chandler defeats Chris Page via submission (guillotine choke) in just 57 seconds in the first round, and looks badass doing it. Damn, son, this Bellator welterweight class is looking pretty stacked right now, and Chandler continues to impress. Now 5-0 with three TKO wins and two subs, Chandler is going to be a nightmare opponent for someone in season four’s tournament.
On the undercard…
The nice folks at Bellator did their best to stack the card in hopes of countering a 25 minute competitive lounging clinic from Konrad. They needn’t have worried, but the local guys put on a pretty good show themselves:
Eric Marriott defeated Ryan Roberts by unanimous decision
Brian Davidson defeated Shane Hutchison by KO (punch) at 0:54 of Round 1
Jared Downing defeated Danny Tims by split decision
Rudy Bears defeated Chad Reiner by KO (punch) at 1:29 of Round 1
News and Notes:
If you haven’t heard about next week’s card in Philly, what the hell have you been doing? Ben Askren comes in for his shot at 170 pound champ Lyman Good, and Eddie Alvarez squares off against Roger Huerta in a high-stakes matchup. If any of you are going to the show, we expect you to rock the CP HoF shirt and do your best to get on camera. We won’t be mad if you do not do these things, just really disappointed.
Two weeks from now Bellator wraps up season three with the Women’s Featherweight Championship and a title match between current champ Hector “I want Joss Bordeaux” Lombard and Alexander “Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel” Shlemenko. If Fujii or Lombard lose, I will officially be the worst fight picker ever.
A quick ‘thank you’ and ‘happy anniversary’ to Mamaplata, who managed to track down last night’s action on Channel 9996. Thanks, love.