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Bellator 154: Davis vs. King Mo Preview

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On Saturday, May 14, Bellator MMA hit the SAP Center in San Jose, California for Bellator 154. The event is headlined by a light-heavyweight contest between Phil Davis (15-3) and Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal (19-4) and features three other main-card bouts.

When Phil Davis signed with Bellator MMA in April 2015 it opened up a number of intriguing matchmaking possibilities. This was not a fighter on the slide with his best days behind him, but a genuine top 10 light-heavyweight who held wins over Alexander Gustafsson, Lyoto Machida, and Glover Teixeira.

Bellator’s 205-pound division was already packed with talent, and the signing of Davis turned it into arguably the promotion’s marquee weight class. Homegrown standouts such as Emmanuel Newton, Linton Vassell and Liam McGeary complimented more recognised names like Tito Ortiz, Stephan Bonnar and, eventually, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson after the latter resolved his contract disputes and returned to the company in February 2016.

Shoehorned somewhere in the middle was Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal. A former Strikeforce champion with greater notoriety than Bellator’s emerging forces at 205, but with much more left to give than some of Bellator’s other ageing superstars. Lawal was far and away the most interesting and competitive opponent that Bellator could offer up for Davis to face.

A clash between the two almost came to fruition back in September 2015 when both Davis and Lawal won their semi-final matches in a one-night tournament in San Jose, California. Sadly, as fans of the sport have seen for as long as it has existed, single-night extravaganzas rarely go to plan. Lawal was forced to pull out due to a rib injury picked up in the semi-finals, as Davis was left to smash his way through alternate Francis Carmont to win the tournament belt.

The disappointment was rife that night, but looking back now it might have been the best thing that could have happened for Bellator. Since then Lawal has gone on to win the Rizin FF Heavyweight Grand Prix, extending his winning streak to seven in the process. Davis meanwhile has sat patiently waiting for his next Bellator outing and finally has the perfect opponent. Two high-profile tournament champions colliding in a marquee fight that carries relevance for the future of the light-heavyweight division.

That is not to say that everything else has gone to plan for Bellator in putting this card together. A well built lightweight tussle between Bellator’s premiere homegrown talent Michael Chandler and former Strikeforce champion Josh Thomson was scrapped when Thomson pulled out injured on May 2.

Worse than that, one of the sport’s most impressive rising stars Jordan Parsons, was the victim of a hit and run on May 1. Tragically Parsons, who was scheduled to fight Adam Piccolotti at the event, passed away on May 4. He was only 25 years old.

Piccolotti (7-0) is now facing Ray Wood (7-1) while Andre Fialho (6-0) and Rick Reger (7-1) join them for a welterweight clash. Completing the main card is a potential barnburner between Evangelista Santos (21-16) and Saad Awad (18-7).

A PRIDE and Strikeforce veteran who embodies everything memorable about the Chute Boxe Academy, Santos has had unforgettable battles with Nick Diaz, Melvin Manhoef and Jordan Mein and many, many others in his near-20-year career. He made his Bellator debut last month with a shocking 30-second submission of Brennan Ward.

Saad Awad is a former Bellator tournament finalist who holds a win over current lightweight champion Will Brooks. After winning three straight inside the Bellator cage through 2014-15, Awad’s momentum was halted when he lost to Patricky “Pitbull” Freire at Bellator 141 in August 2015.

The full card for Bellator 154: Davis vs. King Mo is as follows:

Main Card:

  • Phil Davis vs. Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal
  • Ray Wood vs. Adam Piccolotti
  • Rick Reger vs. Andre Fialho
  • Evangelista Santos vs. Saad Awad

Prelims:

  • Mark Dickman vs. Thomas Diagne
  • Jeremiah Labiano vs. Josh San Diego
  • Jorge Acosta vs. Joshua Hardwick
  • Jaimelene Nievara vs. Stephanie Frausto
  • Doyle Childs vs. Sam Spengler
  • Steven Gruber vs. Josh Paiva
  • Martin Sano vs. Danasabe Mohammed
  • Anthony Taylor vs. Victor Jones
  • Andres Alcantar vs. Nick Pica
  • Sean Tucker vs. James Chapman

For up to date MMA news, live event coverage, and more, follow @mmalatestnws on Twitter

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Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet

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Bellator 192 fight card has gone through a shake-up over the past week. Bellator president Scott Coker revealed last week that the scheduled welterweight title fight between Rory MacDonald and champion Douglas Lima will now be serving as the co-main event and the heavyweight matchup between Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson would instead take top billing. At the time no explanation was made for the change. Monday Douglas Lima was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss this change.

“I was little bummed, but it is what it is, it’s business you know. I was pretty excited you know? Being the main event, having Rampage fight as the co-main event, I was happy there. Then I was bummed out that they changed it back to the co-main event. It’s not going to change a thing for me, I’m just focusing on the fight.”

Lima has been notoriously looked over in the eyes of fight fans. A longtime member of Bellator and a two-time champion has not gotten the notice he deserves and hopes to get.

“I found out through the internet, nobody tells me anything, I didn’t know. the same thing happened in New York, I thought my fight would be before the two main events there, but it ended up being the first fight of the night on Pay-Per-View. Hopefully, it doesn’t take anything away from the fight, you know spotlight and stuff.”

Lima is looking to make all the naysayers take notice at Bellator 192 that takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Califonia on January 20th.

“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time. To get my name out there, to get people to know who I am. I’ve been delivering a lot of good fights, fights fans like to watch but no attention yet. I’m hoping though that after a win over Rory this week it will really put my name out there and show all these welterweights out there that I am for real.”

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Refereeing’s Loss is Bellator’s Gain

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When former Bellator color commentator Jimmy Smith left the organization last week, not many expected MMA veteran referee, John McCarthy, to be his replacement. There is little doubt that McCarthy will make an excellent color analyst. However, it’s hard not to be disappointed that the sport is losing one of the best and most experienced referees.

McCarthy has been part of the fabric of MMA and the UFC in particular, since 1993. He was hugely influential in creating and enforcing the rules of the cage that have changed MMA into the respected sport it is today. Back in early to mid-nineties, the ‘sport’ was fairly labeled by some critics as ‘human cockfighting’. Without McCarthy as an instrumental player in changing regulations and rules, who knows where the MMA would be today.

What we have grown to appreciate most about McCarthy over the past two decades is how simple he makes this tough job look, which can be credited to years of experience and dedication. To the layman, it would appear that it’s a simple as stopping the fight when a fighter is knocked out or submitted. MMA fans know there’s a lot more to it than that.

It’s difficult to remember a moment in recent memory where McCarthy has let a fight go too long, or even stopped a fight too soon. His timing is almost always perfect. His composure and rationale in the cage are unmatched. When McCarthy is the third man in the Octagon we know the fighters are in safe hands.

It’s worth reiterating how important McCarthy is in maintaining the standard of referring and judging in the sport. The sport of MMA is still very young and is growing rapidly and so are the rules. The former LAPD police officer created his own training school known as C.O.M.M.A.N.D. The course teaches the next generation of MMA referees and judges, and there is no better person to be educated by. Referees must complete this or a similar course run by Herb Dean to be licensed as an official.

Former fighter Frank Trigg, who has pursued refereeing since his career wound down, has taken the course. He recently appeared on The MMA Hour to explain just how tough C.O.M.M.A.N.D is. It took Trigg three attempts to pass, emphasizing just how difficult a career path officiating is.

While ‘Big John’ as he is more affectionately known hasn’t completely left refereeing, he will likely no longer be seen in the cage at the biggest shows. The pool of referees trusted with the big title fights is rather small. Normally McCarthy and Herb Dean are tasked with the important title fights.

It’s not all bad that McCarthy is stepping aside for the time being. The likes of Mark Smith, Jason Herzog, and Chris Tognoni have all shown they are capable officials. There is now a great opportunity for them to move into the main event slots. There are also the likes of Yves Lavigne, Mike Beltran and Marc Goddard who can be trusted to referee the big fights.

While it is surprising, it’s understandable that McCarthy is looking for new career ventures. It is no secret that MMA referees are poorly paid relative to other sporting officials. Las Vegas often discloses referee pay when assignments are announced. The pay tends to range between $1000 and $2000 for the night. Trigg explained on The MMA hour that there is no money in becoming a referee and that most also have full-time jobs. McCarthy’s passion for the sport of MMA has been the biggest incentive for refereeing. It is totally understandable that he would take a bigger payday and put all his knowledge of the sport to good use in the commentary booth.

McCarthy will almost certainly be as dedicated to his new job as he was with his refereeing duties. He can also offer a fascinating insight into the officiating of a fight that nobody else can offer. If there wasn’t already an excuse to watch Bellator 192 on January 20th, headlined by Rory MacDonald vs Douglas Lima, then there most definitely is now.

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Chael Sonnen vs. Rampage Jackson the new main event at Bellator 192

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Bellator is getting ready to kick off their heavyweight grand prix at Bellator 192 on January 20th. The grand prix gets started with two former UFC greats who have now set their sights on Bellator gold, Chael Sonnen and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson. Today it was announced that this heavyweight matchup of two ordinarily light heavyweights will be getting the bump up to the main event. The reason for the change has not been announced.

The main event was scheduled to be the much anticipated welterweight matchup between champion Douglas Lima and former UFC title challenger Rory MacDonald. Bellator has been promoting this event as such the welterweight title fight would get top billing. Earlier this week the fighters involved in the main and co-main event were part of a conference call. At the time there was no mention of the switch to the lineup.

This fight between Sonnen and Jackson is just the first in a series of heavyweight fights leading up to the crowning of the Bellator heavyweight championship in December. There has been great interest shown in this heavyweight grand prix between fans and media, which could attribute to the last minute change.

Lima vs. MacDonald will now serve as the co-main event on January 20th. Lima, who has been with Bellator since 2011 has been accused of being overlooked by the organization. He has held the welterweight title since November 2016 and perhaps has not gotten the showcases he deserves. This event will take place at The Forum in Inglewood, California.

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