Bellator action returned to Newkirk, Oklahoma, last night, and Byran Baker continued his campaign to steal the hearts and minds of pretty much everyone. The welterweight final was the main event for the evening, matching up Olympic judoka Rick Hawn and Jay “The Brooklyn-Born Thoroughbred Long Islander” Hieron (still nothing on Horwich). A bantamweight season five qualifier featuring Chase Beebe and Jose Vega was also on the menu, which illustrates the depth that Bellator is developing at 135. Follow us in past the jump for spoilers, and before we forget – your mom said for you to call her.
Ron ”The Monster” Sparks and Vince Lucero fought one another in what was billed as a “heavyweight feature fight”, meaning Bellator’s not ready to hand out a tournament berth to the winner quite yet, even though they assume it will be Sparks. More well-known for being mentioned as an opponent for crossover athletes starting out in MMA (even though those fights wind up not happening), Sparks is nonetheless a giant man (6’5″, 255) with an undefeated record. Lucero is a veteran of forty fights against competition you’ve heard of, but you’ve never heard his name before, and you’ll probably forget it in a half hour. After the announcers practically guaran-damn-tee a knockout, the fight goes to the ground quickly, where Ron “Now He’ll Ground and Pound” Sparks twists up an Americana. Sparks defeats Vince Luceno via submission at 2:58 of the first round — not a bad showing, but we’ll wait to see more of Sparks against some better competition before we start getting excited about another heavyweight tournament.
On deck for the televised broadcast, Chase “The Rage” Beebe and Jose Vega faced off for a slot in next season’s 135 pound tournament. Beebe started his pro career with a string of impressive victories that earned him the WEC bantamweight strap, which he then turned over to Miguel Torres and started a troubling five-fight skid. (In fairness, the decision loss to Mike Easton was a bonafide robbery, so there’s that.) Vega was impressive in season three, scoring a highlight reel knockout over Jerrod Card and making his way to the semifinals before losing to eventual finalist Ed West. In another quick match, Beebe methodically tried out a few guillotines before he found one in Vega’s size, and sunk it in at the end of the first round. Chase Beebe defeats Jose Vega via submission at 4:06 of the first round, putting another good win on his record. Next season’s 135 tourney is going to be some good fights, y’all.
Since we have a couple of short fights, we get a chance to see some undercard action with Richard Bouphanouvong (rhymes with “Mo’ Fun-a-thon”) vs. David “The Caveman” Rickels. After Rickels stuns Bouphanouvong early on, he spends the remainder of the round on his back defending himself from grinding ground and pound. Rickels works his legs up for a triangle choke, but he’s unable to sink it in the first. The second round starts similarly, with Bouphanouvong shooting for a takedown after catching some sharp strikes from Rickels. The Caveman throws his legs up again, and envelopes his opponent’s head in a triangle. The tap comes soon after. David Rickels defeats Richard Bouphanouvong via submission (triangle choke) at 1:11 of the second round.
Bryan “The Beast” Baker and Joe “Diesel” Riggs were next, looking to perhaps score an invite to the next middleweight tournament. Riggs changes weight classes more than Scarlett Johansson changes hair colors, and with almost fifty fights under his belt, Diesel is showing some wear. Coming off a TKO loss to Jordan Mein, Riggs is ready to put a stamp on somebody.
Bryan Baker was diagnosed with leukemia just over a year ago, just days before his first tournament fight for Bellator. Baker soldiered on, continuing to train even as he underwent cancer treatments. He performed so well that we had him as a heavy favorite to win the finals against Alexander Shlemenko, even going so far as to suggest you bet the house on a Baker victory. (If anyone did lose their home because of our advice, we’d like to point out that, you know, dude had leukemia. If we’d known that, it may have influenced our picks. Just sayin’.)
Riggs and Baker took their time with the feeling out process, even receiving some boos for their first round dance-off. Baker slowly finds his distance, and uses knees as his primary weapon. Riggs opens his defenses up a bit in the second, trying to answer Baker with knees of his own, but he comes up second in a exchange of punches, and goes down hard. Baker stands over Riggs and seems ready to fire another hook when the ref waves it off, but Riggs is done. Bryan Baker defeats Joe Riggs via KO at 3:53 of round two, and his girlfriend is in the stands screaming like a banshee. Baker calls her into the ring and asks her to marry him, and all the girls in the crowd sigh at once. Awwwwww. It’s like a Nicholas Sparks book, except backwards.
The main event was the welterweight final, for the giant check and the date with Bellator’s reigning 170 pound Champion of Funk. Rick Hawn fought through Jim Wallhead and Lyman Good to make it here, and says that he’s in better shape than the Thoroughbred, turning the vet’s cage experience against him, at least in Hawn’s mind.
It’s a close three rounder, and it would be worth watching the fight to make up your own mind. Hawn kept the pressure on Hieron for the full fifteen minutes, moving continually forward and biulding momentum throughout the fight. Hieron was evasive and counterpunched effectively, but seemed to be tired and in full retreat by the third round. The judges were divided as to who did more to whom, awarding Jay Heiron a split decision victory over Rick Hawn (29-28 x2, 28-29 x1). Naturally, Hawn will be back to judo slam the piss out of some poor guy enroute to a return to the tournament format, while Hieron will get his Publisher’s Clearing House check and a shot at the sweestest whiteboy ‘fro in MMA.
In other undercard action, Michael Osborn made quick work of Mike Schatz, earning a TKO victory due to strikes at 1:58 of the first round, and it was the only fight to not make the broadcast. Seems like they could have shoehorned a two minute fight in there somehow…
Now seriously, go call your mom. Tell her we said “thanks”.