It was a sell-out crowd at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut Friday night for Bellator 153 and the fans were not disappointed. The Main card bolstered 5 fights, three of which ended via submission. Even though Connecticut is a relatively small state, it has been a hotbed for combat sports in recent years. Bellator 153 was no exception as the Constitution State continued to draw huge crowds and be a destination for some of the biggest shows outside of Las Vegas in muay thai, boxing and MMA. This was Bellator’s eleventh show in the city of Uncasville.
In the first fight highly touted homegrown Bellator prospect Michael “Venom” Page (10-0) face off against his toughest opponent to date in Jeremie “Hit Em” Holloway. Hollway promised to bring the fight to his more well-known opponent and did just that at the start of the opening stanza. “Hit Em” rushed MVP at the sound of the bell and was not rewarded for his effort as he was immediately hit with a hard straight right that put him on his back. To his credit he quickly got back to his feet but was caught a right hook as he was coming up, followed by another thudding straight right as soon as he attempted to engage again. For the next minute or so Page did some dancing and a few “Ali” shuffles without much action. Later, Holloway was able to pin Page to the cage with under hooks but could not land any significant offense in the clinch except for a knee to groin which caused referee “Big” Jon McCarthy to halt the contest for a short period. When the fight resumes Holloway takes another straight right from Page that noticeable hurt him and left him on wobbly legs. MVP throw his opponent to the mat and locks in an unorthodox Achilles lock with Holloway on his back. Holloway attempted to push Page off of him with a couple of feet to the face, one of which was a borderline up kick. When his opponent taps and McCarthy stepped in to stop the contest, MVP appeared to hold onto the submission for a couple seconds too long while taunting his now possibly injured his adversary. To make a bad situation worse he gets up and walks around to Holloway’s face to taunt him again in what can only be described as nothing less than classless and unsportsmanlike. The taunts and the decision to hold on to the ankle longer than necessary overshadowed a masterful performance from Page. Holloway was unable to stand as the Page was announced the winner. In the post-fight interview, the obvious infraction is not mentioned.
In the second bout, we witnessed a controversial split decision victory for Brent Primus (7-0) over Gleristone “Toninho” Santos (27-6). Throughout the fight is was Santos landing the cleaner shots while countering the undefeated American with better technical combinations, while also winning the grappling battle as several times he refused to allow Primus to work from the clinch and used superior foot movement to avoid takedown attempts for the majority of the fight. The takes down that Primus did successfully execute in the first two rounds were short lived as “Toninho” would almost immediately get back to his feet. Santos also scored with a few leg kicks, one of which in the second round was deemed a foul, although Santos thought it to be a legal blow. The third round was more closely contest as Primus backed Santos up for much of it but was clearly still not controlling the pace or where the action took place. Primus did a little damage following a takedown in the closing minute of the round which evidently stole the round in the eyes of the judges. Unofficial ringside scorer and announcer Jimmy Smith scored the fight 30-27 for Santos.
The third fight on the main card was the shortest of the night. In just 30 seconds, Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos (21-16) went into hostile territory to not only record a huge upset win against the always entertaining “Irish” Brennan Ward but also to injure him the process. Ward, a native of Connecticut, had never been defeated at 170 lbs and Santos, who was making his Bellator debut, actually came in 1.75 lbs under the welterweight limit. During the first exchange, Cyborg threw a right kick which Ward caught. Ward then threw a couple straight rights that didn’t land cleanly before securing a body lock in an attempt to wrestle Santos down and take his back. Santos, a Brazilian jujitsu black belt out of the Chute Boxe Academy then rolled forward and secured a nasty heel hook that eventually submitted his opponent. Not wanting to tap in front of his friends and family, Ward held out for as long as he could until his heel appeared to pop causing him to scream in pain while he tapped out. After a brief celebration, Santos went to check on Ward who had yet to get up from the canvas. Ward was unable to stand at the time the winner was announced. This is the second submission by some type of ankle lock of the night, both of which appeared to result in injury to the fighters. In the post fight interview Santos, who now trains out of Houston, Texas, said that he is here for the title.
In the co-main event former featherweight champion Patricio “Pit Bull” Freire (25-3) in his first fight since losing the title to Daniel Straus last November, got a second round submission win over former King of the Cage Champion Henry “OK” Corrales (12-3). After a feeling out period for almost half of the round “Pit Bull” drives Corrales to the cage and takes him down with little resistance and moves into full mount. After arm triangle attempts fails on Corrales’ left side Freire beautifully moves back to mount. When Corrales slips his left leg out to get into half guard, Freire then attempts the same submission on Corrales’ right side. Freire is unable to lock in the submission because he is in between his opponent and the cage, and they soon scramble back to their feet without much action coming in the last minute as the round comes to a close. The second round starts the same as the end of the first with both men being very cautious and not looking to fully engaging. Towards the end of the round Corrales steps inside and lands a couple left hooks causing Freire change levels and take him down. Corrales kicks his opponent off of him and as he scrambles to his feet he is caught snatched up by an arm-in guillotine choke. The Brazilian leaps on him, eventually pulling him down into his guard. Now the choke is incredibly deep and Corrales is forced to tap rather quickly after they hit the ground.
The next Bellator event is scheduled for May 14th at the SAP Center in San Jose, California and is expected to be headlined by Phil Davis versus Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal.
Bellator: Selecting the Four Alternates for the Heavyweight Grand Prix.
With an 8-man tournament bracket full of legends and former champions, join us as we chose four alternates for the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix.
Main Tournament Participants:
- Fedor Emelianenko
- Frank Mir
- Chael Sonnen
- Quinton Jackson
- Roy Nelson
- Matt Mitrione
- Ryan Bader
- King Mo Lawal
— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) November 28, 2017
The alternate tournament bracket will consist of: two opening round fights (semi-final), and then two victorious fighters competing against one another at the finale (final). This will determine a worthy contender to step into the main tournament bracket, in case any of the main bracket fighters are injured in their semi-final bouts.
If a pull-out or injury occurs before the opening bouts, I believe Bellator have to select the most decorated fighter, and a natural heavyweight fighter. So in case of a pull-out occurring before the opening round, I would select my #1 alternate, and so on for any more opening pull-outs.
This structure covers all bases, and keeps the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament intense and prestigious.
So with the structure laid out, here is our selected alternate fighters.
- #1: Vitaly Minakov
- #2: Linton Vassell
- #3: Attilah Vegh
- #4: Emanuel Newton
Alternate Opening Round [Semi-Final]:
- Bout 1: #1 Vs. #3
- Bout 2: #2 Vs. #4
- Victor of Bout #1/#3 Vs. Victor of Bout #2 Vs. #4
Linton Vassell vs. Emanuel Newton would be a trilogy that needs to be completed. Linton dominated on the ground for the most part of their first bout, but felt he gave up positions he felt he could have held longer, and took needless transitions and risks; allowing for a very sneaky Emanuel Newton to escape the clutches of ‘The Swarm’, and when the gas tank begins to empty – a scrambling Emanuel Newton is not what you want!
Vitaly Minakov: A former Bellator tournament winner, and former Bellator heavyweight champion. A Judo black belt, and multi time Sambo world champion, there’s no denying this man’s resume as one of the best put forth out of these 4 fighters.
Linton Vassell: A man who really lives up to the moniker – ‘The Swarm’, Linton Vassell has dominated and dispatched various opponents Bellator have put across from him. Having fallen short in two title fights, and a close decision loss to King Mo, Linton has shown that he’s there with the best Bellator has to offer, maybe the Heavyweight Grand Prix might see the dark-horse finally come into the lime-light! Currently contracted to Bellator with a 7-3 record for the promotion.
If you would like to follow the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament, you can check out the opening round bouts on the following Bellator MMA events:
@BellatorMMA @ScottCoker I want in on this World Grand Prix, anyone gets hurt or injured I want in, I want to be that alternant. Plus I got some unfinished business to attend to. #cantstopwontstop pic.twitter.com/zHtpMzHcya
— Linton Vassell (@LDV_TheSwarm) November 19, 2017
Emanuel Newton: Already holding two victories over King Mo, who’s allocated in this Heavyweight main tournament bracket – that alone is just cause to enter Emanuel. An exciting and unpredictable entry this would be. Bellator parted ways with Emanuel in 2016. Currently, Newton is not on the best of runs, but this tournament needs a ‘wild-card’, and Emanuel owns that title.
Attilah Vegh: A former Bellator LHW champion. Not currently signed to Bellator. Was strangely released in 2014 after having a record of 5-1 with the promotion, and some victories over some very reputable names. Currently on a 2 fight win-streak outside of Bellator MMA.
If you would like to follow the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament, you can check out the opening round bouts on the following Bellator MMA events:
Bellator 192 at The Forum – Jan. 20, 2018: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (37-12) vs. Chael Sonnen (30-15-1)
Bellator 194 at Mohegan Sun Arena – Feb. 16, 2018: Matt Mitrione (12-5) vs. Roy Nelson (23-14)
Bellator at Allstate Arena – April, 2018: Fedor Emelianenko (36-5, 1 NC) vs. Frank Mir (18-11)
Bellator at SAP Center – May, 2018: Ryan Bader (24-5) vs. “King Mo” Lawal (21-6, 1 NC)
Exclusive: Hisaki Kato: “My priorities are in MMA”
French-Japanese middleweight Hasaki Kato returns to the Bellator cage Friday as he takes on former welterweight Chidi “Bang Bang” Njokuani. Ahead of the high-level striking match-up, Kato took the time out of his busy schedule to speak with MMA Latest.
Rangy striker Njokuani makes his middleweight debut Friday as he looks to erase his loss to Andrey Koreshkov from recent memory. It isn’t lost on Kato just how tall and lanky the 6’3 striker truly is. “Well he’s very tall,” Kato tells MMA Latest. “He was a welterweight but even for a middleweight he’s really tall he’s like 6’2, 6’3 taller than me, longer reach than me. Obviously, I was watching his fights, he’s fighting with range and using his reach to fight so that’s his number one weapon.”
In Njokuani’s last fight, Koreshkov, the former welterweight champion, held Njokuani down and elbowed him until the ref stepped in. So what exactly went wrong in the fight? “Well, first I think Koreshkov is really, really strong,” Kato explains. “Chidi Njokuani normally escapes the ground part or at least he’s on top of his opponent. But Koreshkov has good pressure and good grappling and he could take the top position. Obviously, Njokuani is not comfortable when he is on the bottom. So yeah, I think he couldn’t play his game during the last fight because Koreshkov was putting too much pressure on him.”
Former UFC fighter, Gegard Mousasi, recently made his debut against Alexander Shlemenko back in October. The Dutchman had a tough debut that resulted in a controversial decision win, Kato weighed in on whether or not he’s eyeing a fight with him and what he thought of his Bellator debut. “If I have an offer I will fight him,” he says without any particular enthusiasm. “I will fight everybody in the division. Yeah, for the last fight, well, I think luckily for him it was a three-round fight. I think if it was a five round fight the victory would have gone to Shlemenko. I don’t know maybe he had a bad camp, I don’t know but he was doing terrible.”
Kato also believes a title shot isn’t far away. “I believe I’m really close to that (a title shot),” he says. “After the win, after the Gracie fight, even if it was a decision win, the Gracie is a big family name so I was expecting a title fight. I didn’t have it so I guess if I win this time I have a good chance to have it.”
Whatever you do, don’t expect to see Kato back in a kickboxing ring anytime soon. Does it interest him to return? “Not really,” Kato replies after giving the question some thought. “If the offer is good then why not, for now, I feel more comfortable in MMA so my focus, my priorities, are in MMA.”
Many fans were very disappointed with the way his last fight turned out. Paired up against jiu-jitsu fighter, Ralek Gracie, Kato ended up going to the judges for the first time in his career. “Yeah the fight itself was really frustrating,” Kato admits. “I couldn’t do what I wanted and after two rounds, I knew I had done enough to win, and I knew he would push more. So I decided ‘yeah ok then it’s going to a decision’ but at the very least I had to win that fight. That’s why I didn’t take too many risks in the third round. During the first and the second, I really wanted to end that fight like I always try but I couldn’t do it.”
So why hasn’t Kato fought since January? “I had an offer in September,” he says. “But I got injured during the training and had to go into surgery, and after the surgery, the process is really long to recover so that’s why.”
So what does Kato predict for the fight? “Obviously his nickname is ‘Bang’ you know, he likes to fight and that’s all I like doing too,” Kato laughs. “I’m really thinking about having a big knockout with my hands.”
Exclusive: Fernando Gonzalez talks Paul Daley and Michael Page fights
Long-time Bellator welterweight contender, Fernando Gonzalez, has made a career out of fighting the best fighters his promotion had to offer. The always tough Californian has displayed this willingness to fight the best when he took on Paul Daley in a kickboxing match and when he took on Michael ‘Venom’ Page, in what was supposed to be Page’s coming out fight.
The kickboxing match with Daley happened back in 2015 at “Bellator MMA and Glory: Dynamite 1” in an event that featured both Glory kickboxing as well as its fair share of intriguing Bellator MMA fights. Gonzalez would go on to lose the fight in what many fans called a ‘lackluster’ contest. Speaking to MMA Latest, Gonzalez was asked if he had any interest in returning to the kickboxing ring and why he participated in Glory kickboxing.
“No. Honestly, that kickboxing match was more just to get Daley; because they kept trying to give him to me on short notice and one was on an injury,” Gonzalez told MMA Latest. “So I was like, ‘no I don’t want to give him an easy win’, but the only thing they came up with was that kickboxing match in that time. So ever since that fight, I was like ‘listen dude lets do this MMA’. I’m an MMA guy, I know how to kickbox and I’m good with it but I prefer MMA. I love doing MMA. I don’t like to have too many rules put on me. I like being able to go out there and flow freely. Honestly, I want Daley in an MMA fight so he gets the real fight.”
Gonzalez’ fight with Michael Page was booked as the veteran getting fed to the younger up and coming contender. The fight was Page’s opportunity to add another highlight reel knockout to his collection. Obviously, someone forgot to tell Gonzalez. Gonzalez went out and made sure he never gave Page any openings, unfortunately, he would go on to lose the fight by split decision. Fernando explains what went wrong in his only Bellator loss.
“Honestly the only thing that went wrong in the fight is how people viewed the fight”, Gonzalez explains. “If you really look at the fight he really didn’t land anything. The whole first round they’re talking him up, how he’s dancing and how it’s putting me into a lullaby and this and that. I was never in danger. He was not throwing a single punch. This is MMA, you cant just take on the fight with one style, you have to fight different styles for different people. If it was just boxing, you would fight a boxer just one way realistically, but Michael Page has the karate style. So you have to come up with a different formula if you’re going to fight somebody like that.”
“So my style with him, I knew that he’s used to everybody rushing him and trying to take him down. I’m a striker so I don’t mind striking. If I’m not in danger then I’m going to keep it striking. So what I did was I circled, I kept him at arm’s length, so he constantly had to throw long arms where he’s having to reach out and grab you. He’s throwing those arms out, that makes him have to basically hold his arms out a lot longer than he’s used to. He’s used to guys rushing in on him. So with me playing that outside game, obviously my legs are a lot longer than my arms, so I had to throw a lot more kicks, there was a lot of head kicks to take away his power-punch where he leaps in. By doing that, that made him work a lot longer in the second and third round where he’s normally finishing guys. By that third round, he was completely exhausted and couldn’t throw. He said his timing was off and this and that, but he was just exhausted. I had already gassed him out and he had just enough to stay away from me.”
“Really it’s just how you see the fight. They automatically assumed I had to take him down to win and that’s not necessarily true. If I’m not in danger, and I’m landing kicks, and I’m landing good shots, and he’s hitting my arms. Realistically most of the shots he landed were on my arms and that really doesn’t count. So it’s really just how you see it and that’s why one judge had it 30-27. It’s just how you’re seeing the fight. If you’re a striker you would know what you’re looking at, but if you’re a ground guy, of course, you’re going to say ‘oh I got to get it to the ground’ which is what the commentators were; two ground guys talking about what I should’ve done.”
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