(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.