Bellator 46: Featherweights Rock The Hard Rock

Bellator kicked of their 2011 Summer Series with a bang as eight 145 lb men entered the cage and fought their asses off for the chance to move on to the next round of their Featherweight Tournament.

(I mean, they entered the cage two at a time. It wasn’t like some old-school Wrestlemania event where they all fought in the same bout, and the last man standing (or conscious in the case of submissions) moved on to the next round. Although, now that I think about it, that would make for an interesting twist on the whole thing. I mean, can you imagine someone trying a flying knee, for example and before they landed they were getting tackled from the side?!? It would be quite entertaining. But I doubt the regulatory commission would license such an event…)

The action was non-stop as these tiny warriors flew around, punching and kicking each other, grappling and squeezing off submissions…

(OK, look: I started out as a boxing fan. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been a sophisticated fight fan. I like to see big guys punch each other until one goes down. The lighter weight classes never really interested me all that much because these little guys have cardio for days and usually minimal punching power, so you end up with them punching and moving and punching and moving for what seems like hours. I’d rather watch Lady Gaga training Justin Bieber in Muay Thai. Now, I’ll admit that over the years, as I’ve expanded my interest in combat sports into MMA and to a much lesser extent kickboxing, my respect and appreciation of striking from generally quicker, smaller men has grown. I will even go so far as to say that the speed of their Jiu Jitsu makes it more interesting to watch than the bigger, harder-to-get-off-of-you guys. But when I found out Bellator’s “Summer Series” (which consists of three televised events… I know they’re not the UFC, but really? They couldn’t put together more than three events?) would focus on featherweights, well, let’s just say I was not as excited as I would have been if they were hosting a 205 lb series or even 185 lb. So I think it’s fair to say that I went into this broadcast thinking I’d be fast forwarding through some of the show. Boy, was I wrong!)

The show opened with Ronnie Mann facing off against Adam Schindler. I hadn’t seen either guy fight before, but going in I gave the edge to the shorter, English guy who had about twice the experience of the taller, American guy. (Plus, Mann’s nickname “Kid Ninja” is much cooler than Adam “The List” Schindler. OK, that’s not Adam’s nickname. I just couldn’t resist. I can’t find a nickname for him, though, so I’m gonna leave that one in until I hear otherwise.) After about three and a half minutes of fighting, Mann connected with a left hook to the chin and knocked Schindler down. Mann swarmed, hammerfists ensued and Schindler got knocked out. Not TKO. Out. 4:14 of the first round.

Second bout: Nazareno Malegarie faces Jacob Devree. Again, I’m going with the guy who’s got twice the experience. Sure enough, Malegarie is all over Devree, putting him down again and again, getting Debree in guillotine chokes multiple times. This one is more exciting on the ground than in the striking, as both men fight for position and Devree fights through submission attempts to his legs and neck. Eventually, though Malegarie gets Devree down in the beginning of the third round and gets the submission with an arm-in guillotine.

(So far, I’ve gotta say that these little guys came to fight. The two matches showcased different aspects of MMA well. I find myself engaged in the show and looking forward to the next match, which features a fighter I’ve heard good things about, Marlon Sandro. Have I mentioned yet how disappointed I am that Bellator’s “Summer Series” is only three events?!? I don’t know why I even feel obligated to write about it so soon after… I’ve got a whole month before the next event. I’ll probably have to read this post again to refresh my memory before the next one!)

Now we get to what would be the main event in any other country except maybe Canada: Marlon Sandro vs. Genair da Silva. Two Brazillian beasts (well, as beastly as 145 lbs can get) who have well-rounded styles, even if Sandro has, yes, almost twice the experience of da Silva. Both hail from poor areas of Brazil, and both point out that this gives them extra motivation to prove themselves and make a name so they can support their families. Sandro was a champion in Sengoku (which I recently learned was not a line-up-the-numbers game. Well, not really. But it is my second-to-least favorite promotion name next to Pancrase, which Sandro also did very well in.) So da Silva knew he had a challenge, and could use a win over Sandro to give his career a boost, as he mentioned in the pre-fight package.

Sandro won all three rounds of this fight. His stand-up was crisper. His work on the ground was better. He was the aggressor for the majority of the fight. Sandro even did something you don’t see a lot: at the end of the third round, when he had to know he was well ahead on the cards, Sandro yelled at da Silva to fight him, and didn’t play it safe unlike many fighters we’ve seen in recent years. He didn’t finish da Silva, but he displayed some skills and should provide a tough match-up as he moves forward in the tournament.

Bout four: Pat Curren vs. Luis Palomino. Curren, from Crystal Lake, Illinois takes on the Peruvian (this is foreshadowing) Luis “Baboon” Palomino in the final tournament match of the evening. Dropping down a weight class from his successful run in Bellator’s Lightweight tournament, in which he won the right to lose against Eddie Alvarez, Curren looked very good in this fight. A solid striker, Curren’s never submitted anyone with anything fancier than a guillotine choke (unless you consider a rear-naked choke to be fancy) and Palomino looked to match his stand-up very well, as he’s proven to be a tough guy with half his wins coming by KO or TKO, and he ditched the colorful hair, so you knew he was serious.

(I don’t know exactly why it is, but I generally don’t like fighters with wildly colorful hair. Palomino, Hermes Franca, Chris Leben… when I see a guy with brightly-colored hair, I just want to see him getting punched. I don’t mind at all when it’s a musician. They usually create the most interesting music… hmmm…)

These guys are two counter-strikers, primarily and the round contains much circling and feinting. Eventually, Curren connects with a left hook and drops Palomino. And pounces. But Palomino gets back to his feet momentarily before Curren takes him down again and looks for a choke. Then Curren sits up and (in a move foreshadowed just paragraphs ago) gets Palomino into a tight Peruvian necktie, ending the fight at 3:49 into the first round. Curren’s clearly been working on his submissions.

With time remaining, they aired the only preliminary card fight that didn’t go to decision, as Alexandre Bezerra submitted Sam Jones by triangle choke at 3:27 of the first round.

So ends the first televised event of the (3 event) “Summer Series” in Bellator’s featherweight tournament. I have to admit, I got into watching the little guys flying around the cage, punching and kicking each other, grappling and squeezing off submissions.

The action is only looking to heat up from here for Bellator this summer.

The next one is July 23 and features Ronnie “Kid Ninja” Mann facing Pat Curren and the Bellator lightweight title bout when Patricio Pitbull takes on current champ Joe Warren in a rematch of their explosive and close fight from June, 2010 which Warren won in a split decision through takedowns and grinding out the last two rounds after Pitbull had him in serious trouble in the first.

Marlon Sandro enters the cage to fight against Nazareno Malegarie at Bellator 28 on August 20, which also features a heavyweight special feature fight between former UFC Heavyweight Champion Ricco “Suave” Rodriguez and Seth “Silverback” Petruzelli, probably best known for a 14 second TKO of Kimbo Slice, in Elite XC.

Both of those upcoming events promise to be non-stop, action-packed (and just about every other cliché thing one could write about fighting), with meaningful fights and great match-ups. Both worth waiting for…