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Bellator XXXIV: Not With a Bang, But a Whimper

(Hector Lombard takes Alexander Shlemenko way out of his game, and Zoila Frausto doesn’t look like a woman who just won a fight. Photos courtesy of our own John Sluder. Full gallery coming soon!)

By ReX “Unnecessary Literary Reference” Richardson

Bellator Fighting Championships slouched toward Bethlehem last night, returning to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida for the last show of the third season. Anticipation for this last show has been running high, and Bellator held back some exciting fighters for the finale, trying to put some asses in the seats. The women’s featherweight tournament concluded with monster featherweight Zoila Frausto versus undefeated phenom Megumi Fujii, and middleweight champ Hector Lombard putting his title on the line against eternal scrapper Alexander Shlemenko. Also on the broadcast was Serbian next big thing Dragan Tesanovic — who brought an undefeated record from the European circuit for his first fight in the US — as well as King of the Cage moneyweight Tony Lopez arriving in Bellator, presumably hoping they’ll establish a light heavyweight title for him to collect.

I’m not gonna lie to you: I wish the season had ended last week. Only three fights made the broadcast because decisions were the order of the night. Make that controversial decisions, since fans were already debating what kind of drugs the judges were on before the televised event was finished. Come on in past the jump, and I’ll recap the action for you and possibly bitch about judging a bit. I’m not even going to tease you with anything this time, because that’s just the kind of guy I am.

Ok, truth: I’m going to bitch about judging a lot. Maybe I’m out of line here, but we test the fighters for PEDs, so can we test the judges for hallucinogens while we’re at it? Who do these people think they are, with their “informed opinions” and “scorecards”? Whatever…. for the last time in 2010…Fights!

Mike “El Gringo Diablo” Bernhard versus Dragan “Gagi” Tesanovic

Mike Bernhard is well aware that he was brought in to lose his fight, and he doesn’t like it one bit. Bernhard is a lanky middleweight who enjoys striking (6 wins by KO) with a record just good enough (8-2) to be a credible opponent. Bernhard is tranquil in his pre-fight interview, saying that he is unimpressed by Tesanovic’s success in Serbia, Bulgaria, and Slovenia because “Americans still do it best.” Tesanovic says some stuff about being a warrior and never quitting during his interview, but the main thing I take away from the clip is that dude’s lips are gnarly. I don’t know if he’s got the herp or he pays a large man to punch him in the mouth every morning or he actually tried to breathe fire because he’s fucking Dragan, but it looks like his lips are made out of elbow skin. WTF?? Also, anyone know the translation for “Gagi”?

Fight starts with lots of movement, all over the cage. Bernhard throws jabs in bunches, either looking for his range or keeping Tesanovic at bay. Bernhard charges in with strikes without landing a few times, but at least we know he ain’t scared. Bernhard catches a counter left on the chin from Tesanovic on one of his rushes. There’s a bit of clinching and wrestling, but the ref isn’t feeling it and separates them twice. Bernhard stays aggressive, Tesanovic stays elusive, and no one suffers any serious damage in the first. At least, no apparent damage — Bernhard blocks a kick with his man parts just before the bell, and receives some extra time before starting the second round. Coming out for the second, Tesanovic is getting more aggressive as he settles in. The fighters exchange accidental eye pokes, then purposeful leg kicks. Both fighters are still moving well, circling and trying to avoid any heavy artillery. Tesanovic catches Bernhard coming in with a nice left, but it has little effect. Bernhard clinches Tesanovic on the fence, then trips him onto his back. Once on the ground, Bernhard has little problem moving to a dominant position against the submission wrestler, and he sneaks a rear naked choke in with less than ten seconds left in the round. Tesanovic doesn’t panic, defends, and lasts out the round.

Third round starts, and the fighters circle one another for almost a minute before engaging. They flurry, then back off and resume shucking and jiving. There is no clinching, no takedowns, just a lot of circling, head movement, and non-contact sparring; for a stand up fight, this is pretty lackluster. Neither fighter is willing to commit and go balls-out, and the crowd tries to egg them on with boos. Neither will be egged on, though, and the bell sounds for the decision. For a guy that was supposed to inject excitement into the middleweight division, I am disappointed with Tesanovic. Bernhard wanted to play spoiler at Tesanovic’s coming out party, and he does: Mike Bernhard defeats Dragan Tesanovic via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28 x2). There’s some ruckus on the internets about Tesanovic deserving the win, but I didn’t see enough from either fighter to really get worked up about it. Sometimes these feature fights just don’t work out the way they’re supposed to. Expect both of these guys to pick up another win before being invited to the next tournament. I hope that Tesanovic bounces back, because I want to find out what happened to dude’s lips. Did a dog try to bite ‘em off? Shit looks painful, bro.

Zoila “Warrior Princess” Frausto versus Megumi “MegaMegu” Fujii

Zoila Frausto had a rough and twisted path to the featherweight finals. Keep in mind, she wasn’t even originally scheduled to take part in the tournament to begin with. Frausto was brought in for a feature fight against Rosi Sexton, and ruined Dr. Sexton’s evening with one of the most brutal KOs in women’s MMA (see what I mean about those feature fights?). After taking Sexton’s place in the brackets, Frausto won a decision over Jessica Pene via solid takedown defense and being two weight classes bigger than her opponent. She then scored a hotly debated decision over Jessica Aguilar, who was too classy to punch every judge involved in the junk. Now she’s in the finals, one step away from the belt, and all she has to do is beat Megumi Fujii, and that shit is not going to happen. Fujii is an elite fighter, a well-rounded athlete with a submission game that is second to none. At 22-0, Fujii is the uncrowned champ, and this fight is merely pro forma.

Except it isn’t. Instead of introducing the western world to some new and exciting ankle dislocation in the first minute, Fujii instead chooses to stand and strike. Frausto’s ground game is thinner than Nicole Ritchie, and her only saving grace to this point is an impressive ability to avoid takedowns. Bizarrely, Fujii doesn’t even try for a takedown early on; she takes the fight on Frausto’s turf. The first round starts with Frausto in a wide, deep stance, and she’s clearly worried first and foremost about going to the ground with Fujii. Instead of a rolling flying reverse judo slam, Fujii is moving forward, backing Frautso into the cage, avoiding the big shots that Frausto throws her way and firing off her own arsenal. Fujii moves well, but she gets the heavy end of a flurry toward the end of the round that either rocks her or puts her in full-on retreat. Frausto charges in after her, trying to put Fujii away before the bell (or at least steal the round), but her accuracy needs work. Bell sounds and they break.

Second round is more of the same. Fujii keeps coming, forward, forward, forward, and it’s on Frausto to make her pay. Frausto cannot make her pay; most of Frausto’s strikes do nothing but make pretty whistling noises as they fly past Fujii’s noggin. Fujii keeps sneaking in punches, and she’s sticking Frausto, but she needs a sizable chunk of concrete in her gloves to put Frausto away. Meanwhile, Frausto is doing her best Leonard Garcia impression. Her offense consists almost completely of huge, looping punches that would completely ruin Fujii, but she can’t actually land anything. Fujii sees these gargantuan swinging motions, and she’s able to avoid any unscheduled sleeping in the cage. Frausto settles a bit in the third, putting together some more accurate strikes and scoring some damage, and everyone watching is waiting for Fujii to shoot for a takedown. Her first takedown attempt doesn’t come until the fourth round, which is unsuccessful. Fujii possibly was planning to make Frausto work and tire out before springing into anatomy-twisting action, but even after fifteen minutes, Frausto is able to counter and keep her feet. Fujii still stays active and works to weave around the punches and kicks aimed her way, but she’s slowing down herself. By this time, both ladies have swelling around their eyes, and Frausto’s mouth is looking like she was attacked by angry bees.

It’s the fifth and final, and Fujii comes out again stalking Frausto and backing her into the cage, but she’s finally remembered that she can win this easily on the ground. The hard part is getting Frausto to fall down. Fujii executes a couple of takedown attempts, but Frausto resists and tries to bomb Fujii on the way in. In the waning minutes of the bout, Fujii goes for broke on a double leg. Frausto again fights it off, but Fujii adjusts her angle and dumps Frausto to the canvas. Once the fight goes horizontal, Frausto locks Fujii down in her guard, and time is running out. Fujii stays busy, but her strikes to Frausto’s ribcage won’t stop the bout before the bell. It’s in the judges’ hands now. Well, there is no joy in Fujiiville tonight, fans: Zoila Frausto defeats Megumi Fujii via split decision (49-46, 48-47, and 47-48). Many will score the bout differently, and I personally am of the opinion that the judge that saw four rounds for Frausto should immediately receive a complementary eye exam, a stay at a rehab clinic, and a seat at one of Herb Dean’s seminars. Sadly, Fujii is also too classy to punch a judge or three in the toolbag, and says that she tried to fight where Frausto was strong; whether to make a point or to throw Frausto off is anyone’s guess. Frausto is elated at her historic victory and her shiny new belt, and believes that she earned the win. Of course, that’s what she said about her last win. By the way, Potato Nation, if you placed a bet on Fujii based on my being 100% positive that she would win, well….I trust you’ve learned a valuable lesson from this. Never, ever, take my advice. There’s a reason the head-assholes-in-charge here haven’t invited me to pen a Gambling Addiction Enabler. [Ed. note: Sorry man, we just couldn't jeopardize our perfect record.]

Alexander “Storm” Shlemenko versus Hector “Shango” Lombard

Alexander Shlemenko backed into the middleweight tournament finals after Jared Hess ruined his leg (and our appetites) at Bellator XX. Shlemenko was losing the fight when the referee noticed that Hess’ knee had ceased any meaningful relationship with the rest of his body, and the fight was stopped with forty seconds left on the clock. Shlemenko went on to face Bryan Baker in the tourney championship, and scored a convincing TKO victory in the first round. Now, Shlemenko steps in with Bellator’s middleweight champ, Olympic judoka and knockout artist Hector Lombard. Lombard spent as little time in the cage in 2010 as he possibly could, dispatching Jay Silva and Whisper Goodman in a combined forty four seconds. At just 5’9”, Lombard is built like a brick shithouse — squat and thickly muscled, he’s got horsepower to spare. Lombard has all but abandoned his judo roots, instead falling in love with knocking dudes in the head until they time travel (meaning, they wake up and say, “What day is today, and who are you people?”). Shlemenko is disdainful of ground fighting and says he fears no man, while Lombard hits like a frate trane and loves doing it. Entertainment factor is very favorable on this one, and no one thinks it will go the distance.

Well, it goes the distance. While there’s no shortage of fireworks (and looping hooks) to start off the fight, Lombard is unable to rattle Shlemenko’s brain enough to send him rockabye baby. Shlemenko quickly absorbs enough damage to put down your average Lesnar, but he guts it out and hangs around. (Can anyone think of a Russian who doesn’t have a chin of hewn granite? Arlovski is from Belarus; doesn’t count.) Lombard will spend the first two rounds trying to convince Shlemenko to lay down and be quiet, but when he is unable to persuade him, Lombard moves to plan B. As Shlemenko tries to utilize his impressive repertoire of spinning strikes, Lombard can duck underneath easily and lay hands on the Russian, dumping him to the ground at will. Shlemenko isn’t fond of working from his back, and Lombard keeps him occupied with elbows and punches. Despite spending a good amount of time hanging onto Shlemenko’s back, Lombard never takes advantage to sink a choke.

As a result, we get five rounds of Shlemeneko taking a pounding that is never quite enough to put him away. The ring doc and referee monitor Shlemenko’s condition, including the doctor taking a few seconds to check Shlemenko’s ear to start the fifth (What was he looking for? Blood? Brains? The mind-control bugs from Wrath of Khan? No idea.), but Shlemenko does not know the word ‘quit’ (definitely not the English word for it). Even as he tires and slows down, Lombard has no problem scoring takedowns on Shlemenko, and his ground game becomes less ground and pound and more bind and grind. Shlemenko does an excellent job of conveying his frustration to the referee without English, mostly via thumbs up signals and “Will you get this guy off me?” facial expressions, but a rather mediocre job of anything else. He only lands a handful of his signature strikes, he can’t stay on his feet, and he is unable to threaten Lombard on the ground. By the time the bell rings to end the bout, Shlemenko is battered and rugged, but far from broken. If anything, Shlemenko is exasperated by Lombard’s grappling control, which kept Storm from landing a spinning anything. The crowd got a bit frustrated as well toward the end, when it became clear that Lombard was going to dominate a positional battle and ride out the decision. It’s obvious, and even these judges get it right: Hector Lombard defeats Alexander Shlemenko via unanimous decision (49-46 x3). Lombard decides to call out someone from his own weight class this time, saying in his post-fight interview, “Jacare, I wan you beld.” Why Coker and Rebney haven’t hammered out a deal for a New Year’s Eve Dynamite!!!-style show is beyond me, but I’m still holding out hope. If it does go down, I’m going to give the nod to Souza, since I hear he’s pretty decent in ground engagements. Still, it would be more fun than a gallon of Astroglide…are you guys hearing me? Seriously, someone hook me up with email for the bigwigs at Bellator, since they obviously need to hear all my crackpot ideas and hair brained schemes.

On the undercard….

Raphael Davis defeated Tony Lopez by unanimous decision.

J.P. Reese defeated Boumny Somchay by TKO (punches) at 3:32 of Round 1.

John Kelly defeated William Kuhn by unanimous decision .

Ralph Acosta defeated Tulio Quintanila by split decision.

Frank Carrillo defeated Moyses Gabin by unanimous decision.

Dan Cramer defeated Igor Almeida by TKO (doctor stoppage) at 2:36 of Round 1.

News and Notes
Just one this week: That’s all, folks. Bellator is done for the season and the rest of 2010. If I managed to entice anyone into tuning in, I hope you enjoyed yourself as much as I did. Let’s all raise a toast to the up and comers, the discarded veterans, and the journeyman warriors who put in the time to entertain us (yes, Konrad, even you). Season four starts this winter with tournaments at 145, 155, 170, and 185. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you. Enjoy the Halloween debauchery this weekend (pics or it didn’t happen), don’t forget to tip your servers, and I’ll see you around. ‘Til then, you bastards, War Potato, and I’m out.

Cagepotato Comments

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Ewa- April 4, 2012 at 3:26 pm
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ignition lock
Robin Foust- August 29, 2011 at 11:14 pm
I always love the great insight in these articles.
Cheap lawn mowers
stopdrinkingpee- October 29, 2010 at 9:14 pm
Pissed, seriously fucking pissed about the ladies' fight. Fujii's gameplan was retarded and immensely frustrating, but she won that fight. This wasn't as big a robbery as Frausto's bullshit win over Jessica Aguilar -- maybe the worst judging I've ever seen in an MMA event -- but it was pretty fucking bad. I gave Frausto the 1st and 3rd rounds. The 2nd was sort of close, I guess, but the 4th and 5th were all Fujii. The judge who had it 49-46 Frausto needs to die of dysentery.

Also, I no longer believe Lombard is a top-10 middleweight. That fight was so boring I thought I was going to die. Thanks for the Bellator write-ups, ReX.
fatbellyfrank- October 29, 2010 at 6:02 pm
AUSSIE, AUSSIE, AUSSIE, CRIKEY, stone the flamen crows cobbers our Aussie champion Hector(Crocodile) Lombard has retained his middleweight strap, the Cuban born Australian citizen did more than enough to retain his belt, Shlemenko was game, with a chin of granite, but no way did he outscore Crocodile Lombard over the five rounds.
I also thought Frausto v Fuji could have gone either way, but no real beefs with that decision.
I guess I,m just to happy to complain about anything after watching "Aussie Pride" Lombard retain that strap, and I wanna know where i can get one of those t-shirts he wore after fight with the Aussie and Cuban flags on it

mahlbawlz- October 29, 2010 at 2:10 pm
lol. i gotcha. I just figured didion made more sense as a more casual reference for an existential funk, as opposed to yeats' original intention. Despite my negativity, I do appreciate it :)
KidDinomite- October 29, 2010 at 1:57 pm
The thing is the judges look for ring control and Fujii was controlling the cage the whole time. When you're in a fight and the other guy is backing up, it shows he's afraid of you. You're controlling where the fight goes so it's to your advantage. Obviously the judges didn't see that.

I like Frausto, she's a good fighter and easy on the eyes when she's not swelled up but she lost this fight.
purpleheart2004- October 29, 2010 at 1:35 pm
Frausto's swelling doesnt mean she took a ton of damage. People swell differently from different strikes. I doubt the keyboard jockeys here have actually fought so there is no way they would know. Yes she was backing up, but that is and can be just as effective as stalking your opponent. With a grappler, staying low and backing up allows you to the best chance to stuff their shot. yes the big bombs that whiffed were pretty bad, but using kicks only sets you up for a takedown. Fujii landed some very good left hands, but never let her combos go. When you have a close fight you cant score on damage, and just because your moving forward doesnt mean your the "aggressive fighter" it means you are moving forward. Zoila won by stuffing the few takedowns attempts, by circling and by not going for broke in a 5 round fight. Fujii lost the fight by trying to do what should be considered the kiss of death, being a ground fighter and trying to stand with a striker. I saw it a split for Frausto, or even a draw.
ReX13- October 29, 2010 at 12:44 pm
cecils >> i heard that also, and i believe it: Barnett told Megu she needed to take the fight to her world and win it. My take, based off of what she said after the fight, was that Fujii wanted to beat Frausto at her own game. Now that is some budo.

Another case of "When keepin it real goes wrong..."

Worst part is hearing that Frasuto doesn't want to stay at 115, so we'll never see this travesty fixed. Oh well, war Fujii anyway.
cecils_pupils- October 29, 2010 at 12:09 pm
Sorry, ReX, my ability to interpret literary references is significantly limited by the fact that it requires reading literature - that's why I took Journalism in HS instead of English Lit. Your articles are always a good read, though.

Based on the Bellator's commentary I swear they were saying after Round 3 that Barnett was telling Fujii to take the fight to the ground, but it took her until midway through the 4th to do so. I scored the fight 48-47 Fujii and predicted a split decision, but the split shoulda gone to Mega Megu. She clearly won by Stockton Unified Rules.
nickyroose- October 29, 2010 at 12:05 pm
I felt like I was on Goddamn Mars watching the Megu fight. Fraudo missed a shitload but Megu was throwing straight lefts down the pipe and LANDING. I hate to say it, erg, but I wanna see the compubox numbers on that shit. Seriously, if Ring control is weighted 2% Megu wins by a mile. And for chrissakes it is frustrating watch judokas not taking people down but honestly? Who watched that fight and was like, "Well, Fraudo ain't landing shit... but it looks like those would REALLY hurt if they did!"

I hate these announcers too. Watched Frausto whiff a shot and Megu land one and they go, "Nice shot by Frausto". I don't think Megu dominated in any way. I gave fraustino the steal in Round one but really? what the nuts did she do? Anything?

Lombard fight got cut off by my janky-ass wanna be Tivo so I only watched the first 3 rounds. I couldn't give any of those to Shlemeneko. I would have liked to see the rest though. Any replays coming up?
Stak40- October 29, 2010 at 11:52 am
Good article Rex and happy New Years!
ReX13- October 29, 2010 at 11:36 am
mahlbawlz >> Actually, "slouching towards bethlehem" here is from Yeats' poem "The Second Coming". Bellator started and ended the season in Hollywood, FL, just as they did the first season, so i thought it fit. Or i thought it sounded uber intellectual. Whatever. They can't all be home runs. But hey, thanks for trying to play along in the literary reference game, it makes me feel like i'm reaching someone.

Anyone, really.
Fried Taco- October 29, 2010 at 11:33 am
Maybe Fujii was robbed, but it's really her fault. She needs to fire the asshole (Josh Barnett?) that told her to fight Frausto's fight, because there was no way she would get the KO. I was waiting the whole fight for her to take her down and break that bitch's arm. And what of Zoila's plan to return to her weight class? Doesn't she now have to keep starving and dehydrating herself so she can defend the 115lb belt?
mahlbawlz- October 29, 2010 at 11:26 am
pretty weak Didion reference
Bill Jackson- October 29, 2010 at 11:17 am
Fujii was absolutely robbed. Shame. Lombard was nowhere near losing the fight. You could have called that first round a 10-8, as Jimmy repeatedly told us. Good night of fights I thought, but bad decision put a damper on it.
El Guapo- October 29, 2010 at 11:03 am
Hot damn The Warrior Princess is busted up! I'd hit it..

And what's with El Diablo Gringo AKA The White Devil nickname?? He's obviously trying to cash in on the Brown Devil's huge score last week over Brock. Pathetic
KidDinomite- October 29, 2010 at 11:02 am
I don't think Lombard was hurt at all. Fucker just walked through Shlemenko's kicks, knees, and punches. He never once winced in pain either. I figure he knew he couldn't take Shlemenko out with punches and he started to gas so he just laid on him the remainder of the fight. There were quite a few opportunities Lombard had to submit Shlemenko as well. Don't know why he didn't just end it.
BryanF- October 29, 2010 at 11:00 am
Striking tips in an MMA fight from Jorge Gurgel in your corner?

ReX13- October 29, 2010 at 10:54 am
MaximumSpaniard >>

For the record, if i disagree with a decision, i usually watch the fight again immediately. Second viewing only made Frausto look worse, because of the sheer number of times she missed Fujii. I realize this ain't Stockton, but ...look at her face; Fujii tattooed Frausto' grill, controlled the location of the fight the vast majority of the time, and took Frausto down (something none of the other competitors could do). I can see giving Frausto R3, and perhaps R1, but not the win and certainly not four rounds.

As for Lombard being hurt, i didn't really pick up on that. It looked to me as though Lombard decided that he wouldn't be able to sleep Shlemenko, so he chose the path of least resistance to the decision win.

Not saying that i'm correct, just that this is how it looked to me on the big screen.
Levi Jones- October 29, 2010 at 10:44 am
Has there ever been a less deserving champion than Frausto? Two gifted decisions in two back to back fights. Unbelievable. Are the judges even required to watch the fights? The scores are so far removed from reality that you have to wonder if they aren't filling out these scorecards in advance to save themselves extra time to play solitaire.
cecils_pupils- October 29, 2010 at 10:41 am
I can always count on jimbo for a good Family Guy reference...

And, KidDinomite, very few cornermen work in exchange for sexual favors these days so Zoila's got a good thing going... especially since, after this fight, she's got the lips for it.
MaximumSpaniard- October 29, 2010 at 10:35 am
I'll post what I posted on middleeasy. Slightly edited.
I actually watched the fight live with a friend. We both thought Megumi lost the fight. At the VERY least we thought it would be a draw. Why Fujii didn't try to take Zoila down earlier on made no sense to us.

I'll have to see how it came across on television before I give my final judgement at least. To be honest, I'm starting to seem that watching fights live is not a good way to judge them.

That's nothing though. For all you guys who hate the fact that takedowns are the most important thing to judges? Lombard VS Shlemenko. Only rage will ensue.

The friend I was with is always defending guys who do that kind of stuff (Shields, Fitch) and even he thought it was bullshit that Lombard won. Shlemenko had visibly hurt Lombard with body shots(the guy didn't do anything but takedowns after rd. 2).

Shlemenko's going for a jog. Lombard? Probably staying in bed and having some chicken soup.
Jack Bauer- October 29, 2010 at 10:26 am
When did Rihanna take up MMA?
KidDinomite- October 29, 2010 at 10:12 am
A message to Zoila Frausto: Please get rid of Jorge Gurgel as your cornerman. Even the commentator Jimmy Smith was saying he pretty much disagreed with everything he said. Seriously, if you had a better cornerman he would have told you to circle towards the middle of the cage and use your jab and your reach advantage to set up a right hook and kicks to the leg, body, and head instead of throwing bombs that she saw coming. Also, you could have won that fight decisively by KO if you got in Fujii's face instead of having your back to the cage the whole time. Fujii doesn't have the size or strength to take down a larger fighter especially when they're not pressed up against the cage.
BryanF- October 29, 2010 at 10:10 am
In regards to the caption, Zoila Frausto does not look like a woman now, period. Poor girl.

*sigh*...and the reign of mega megu is over...