Melvin Guillard is the first to make his way to the Bellator Cage inside Mulvane’s Kanas Start Arena looking extremely calm as if he is going to get his morning coffee. Perhaps even too relaxed in a worrisome type of way. He is sporting shorter hair than usually and in a shade of orange as opposed to his traditional blonde hair color. People have questioned how hard the veteran on 53 fights has prepared for this fight as he is already scheduled to fight in Korea fifteen days from now.
For what is undoubtedly the biggest fight of Dallas, Texas native Chidi Njokuani’s career, he walks out looking stoically focused. His confidence surely at an all-time high after going 3-0 in the promotion and losing only 2 bouts in the last 6 and a half years. Chidi, whose middle name is Godson, says a prayer before he steps onto the canvas where 6′ 3″ “Chidi Bang Bang” appears to be almost as tall as the cage post. In his first ever Bellator Main Event, Njoukuani will enjoy an 8-inch wingspan and 6 inches in height advantage, as well as and a pound and a half over his opponent. The fight is being contested at an 180 lbs catchweight as opposed the earlier agreed upon 175 lbs catchweight due to the Njoukuani taking the fight on short notice, and also perhaps because of Guillard’s well-documented history of missing weight.
As the introductions take place Guillard appears a little nervous as he paces back and fourth, and Njokuani is now the fighter looking quality looking cool and collected. As the third man in the cage “Big” John McCharthy calls them to the center for the ceremonial touching of the gloves, the size difference between the two men is almost as great as you will ever see it.
The first round starts with Guillard cautious circling on the outside not looking eager to mix it up just yet against the longer man. It is a very slow start for the first minute and a half. Through the first minute and a half, only two or three of the body kicks thrown by Njoukuani have found their target. As the boos start reigning in from the crowd who has just watched their hometown hero, David Rickels, win in the co-main event, “Big” John halts the fight and warns the men to start engaging. As Njokuani throws a kick that partially lands Melvin shoots for a takedown which he misses terribly. He ends up pinned on the cage where he lands a knee to the groin of his taller opponent. John McCarthy again calls to stop the action momentarily. When the action resumes a good body kick from the Texan lands as “The Young Assassin” shoots again and this time is successful. Guillard’s upper hand is extremely short lived as the bigger and stronger Njokuani almost immediately gets back to his feet. With less than two minutes left it has been Njokuani is clearly winning the round by staying at range landing a very high percentage of kicks. Mostly to the midsection with a few bouncing off his opponent’s shoulders. After a big shot rattles Guillard he is back against the cage and soon sitting on his rear end. Just as it looks like Njokuani may finish him, “Chidi Bang Bang” illegally knees the grounded fighter just as Melvin appeared to be trying to rise to his feet but did not. McCarthy calls yet another stop to the action and gives Chidi a stern warning. At the end of the round, Guillard attempts to start moving forward to pressure his man but Njokuani continues to throw an array of kicks and knees to his body and then ties Melvin up again. This is very close to 10-8 round under the new scoring system. The only thing Melvin did of any substance was secure one brief takedown which is not to be taken into account under the new scoring criteria because the round was predominate a striking affair.
The second has a quicker start that the first frame as Njokuani continues keeping Guillard at the range, but this time he is using punches instead of kicks. The veteran shoots for another takedown which is easily reversed by the power of the oversized and more natural welterweight. Njoukuani works some left hands to the body and elbows to the face before scrambling to partial side control. He then moves to a North-South position momentarily before trying to take Melvin’s back. Guillard rolls out the of the position getting back to his feet. Then he is right back down, again absorbing some light ground and pounded from Chidi. The crowd begins to boo again, this time for a much shorter period of time, as Njokunai postures up, picks his shots a with better precision and puts more power behind them. It is still somewhat sloppy work on the ground but it is having the desired effect. Back to their feet just as the rounds ends and the Muay Thai expert lands a hard left kick to the liver that almost buckles the veteran who noticeably winces and clutches his right side as the bell sounds. Guillard was very lucky that there was no more time on the clock or this fight could have been over.
Njokuani 10-8 (Njokuani 20-16)
The former UFC is looking like he has already been defeated as it comes out for the start of the third. He immediately starts circling, this time at a faster pace from even further outside. Moving frantically to both left and right to avoid his fresher adversary. Njokuani walks down his gassed opponent and lands a couple more body kicks followed by a knee to the body. The body kicks over last 10 minutes have noticeably sapped the former title contenders energy. Njokuani closes the distance and ties up Melvin. When Guillard attempts to spin free Chidi snatches him for the back and basically ragdolls him to the floor. Guillard puts up some very decent defense from his back in half-butterfly guard but it is not enough to avoid some damage. More punches find their home from Njoukuani, who continues to mix in both blows to the body and head causing Guillard to sustained a cut around his eye. An exhausted Guillard tries valiantly to avoid the mixture of body and head work by creating some space but has little success due to the size of his opponent and the damaged he has taken to his body. Njokuani chooses to stand where he employs an ax kick to get back on top on a of his nearly defeated foe. After more slow paced ground work the referee calls for a standup with only 30 seconds remaining. Guillard catches Chidi’s final kick and takes Njoukuani’s back looking for a choke but it with too little effort and far too late as the final bell rings.
Njokuani 10-9 (Njokuani 30-25)
The official scores read 30-25, 30-24 and 30-26
Chidi Njokuani defeats Melin Guillard via Unanimous Decision
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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