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Throwback Thursday: Bellator and Pride, Oh my my…

Vinny Craig

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This Week in MMA History

Throwback Thursday is a weekly article written about the events and news that have happened in the world of MMA during this week. The twist, we’ll be going back in time to show you the events that already happened and are forever stitched into our minds. This week we take a look at May 18 to May 24.

UFC 84: Ill Will

Just a month after one of the most anticipated rematches in UFC history, UFC 84 was the event of the night. It was headlined by a Lightweight title match between champion BJ Penn and Sean Sherk. It was a solid card from top to bottom that had 6 preliminary fights and 5 main card bouts. The night started with the debut of a familiar name as former Interim-Heavyweight champion Shane Carwin got his ninth straight first round finish. We saw the debut of another popular fighter as ‘The Stun Gun’ Dong Hyun Kim got a knockout win over Jason Tan. Two of the remaining four fights ended in submission when Yoshiyuki Yoshida beat John Koppenhaver (aka War Machine) by Anaconda Choke and Rousimar Palhares (aka leg collector) beat Ivan Salaverry by armbar.

The main card saw a submission due to punches to start off as Thiago Silva beat Antonio Mendes. In another Light Heavyweight fight, Goran Reljic got a TKO win over Wilson Gouveia. Lyoto Machida continued his career long collection of legends he’s faced as the UFC put him against former Light Heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz. The fight would be all Machida as the new breed of MMA fighter showed in this old school vs. new school matchup. In the co-main event, former Pride Middleweight champion Wanderlei Silva got his first win since returning to the UFC. It took Silva only 36 seconds to get the knockout win. The main event was a good one as three rounds of good fighting ended with a TKO from a flying knee and the punches that followed as BJ Penn defended his Lightweight strap.

UFC 98: Evans vs. Machida

Right in the middle of the game of hot potato we called the Light Heavyweight belt, UFC 98 would determine the next man to keep or take the title. Champion Rashad Evans looked to defend his title against undefeated rising star Lyoto Machida. Seven different former or future title challengers fought on this card. The 11 fight card started when George Roop got the nod in a split decision over Dave Kaplan. The next five fights ended in the first round with three being by submission. Former TUF runner-up Phillipe Nover lost by TKO against Kyle Bradley. The Submission of the Night came from Brock Larson when he got an Arm-Triangle choke over Mike Pyle over half way through the first round.

The main card started with a pair of Lightweight title contenders as future Lightweight champion Frankie Edgar beat former Lightweight champion Sean Sherk by decision. The next fight was the first of three straight wins from Chael Sonnen. Those three wins would earn him a title shot with former champion Anderson Silva. He would beat Dan Miller by decision in this fight with a dominant performance. The co-main event was just the third fight since returning from The Ultimate Fighter: The Comeback for former champion Matt Serra. Another former champion Matt Hughes would get the hard fought win in a decision. In the main event, the Light Heavyweight belt changed hands for the fourth time in two years. It was a sight to behold as Machida gave Evans the first loss of his career when knocked him out cold in the second round.

UFC on FX: Belfort vs. Rockhold

In the last event exclusively on FX, we saw the debut of two former Strikeforce Middleweight champions. One was the headliner as the last Strikeforce Middleweight champion Luke Rockhold got his chance in the UFC against one of the best in Vitor Belfort. The other was Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza as he fought Chris Camozzi in the co-main event. The 13 fight card was spread across three platforms with the main card on FX. The night started on Facebook with Lightweight Lucas Martins getting the third round knockout win over Jeremy Larsen. Also on the prelims a pair of Lightweights got a pair of submission wins. Journeyman Gleison Tibau got a Guillotine win and Francisco Trinaldo with an Arm-Triangle. Starting off the main card was a Middleweight bout where Rafael Natal got the decision win over Joa Zeferino. In the next fight, now Lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos picked up his fourth straight win in a decision win. The co-main event didn’t last long as Camozzi was submitted with an Arm-Triangle in the first round. In the main event, a re-invigorated Belfort got his second head kick knockout victory. Vitor set it up perfectly and won with a spinning heel hook in the first round.

UFC 173

In the annual Memorial Day weekend event, the UFC Bantamweight champion was put on the line. The champion Renan Barao came in the fight with a 33 fight unbeaten streak and the challenger TJ Dillishaw had won 5 of his last 6. To start off the televised prelims, Al Iaquinta was dominating the first two rounds against Mitch Clarke. Clarke would get an unexpected D’Arce choke in the third round to tap out Iaquinta. TUF 17 winner Chris Holdsworth made his return where he got the decision win over Chico Camus. Tony Ferguson got the knockout over Katsunori Kikuno in the first round.

James Krause started off the main card with a spectacular first round. The fight would end when his opponent Jamie Varner couldn’t continue due to an ankle injury. Bantamweight contender Takeya Mizugaki had a great performance over Francisco Rivera in a unanimous decision win. Just two months after losing a title fight for the vacant Welterweight championship, Robbie Lawler agreed to fight Jake Ellenberger. It would prove a good move as Lawler got back to the winning column with a third round TKO win.

In the co-main event, Daniel Cormier fought for the second time at Light Heavyweight. His first was just 3 months prior against promotional newcomer Patrick Cummins. He was placed against former Pride two-division champion Dan Henderson. Both are former Olympic wrestlers, but DC would get the better of Henderson. He would dominate Henderson from start to finish, throwing him around quite often. The fight ended with a third round Rear-Naked choke from Cormier. The main event was expected to be a give-me fight for Renan Barao to get to former champion Dominick Cruz. The fight did not go that way as Dillishaw set the tone early with a first round knockdown with an overhand right. The next four rounds would be Dillishaw out striking the man no one ever thought would lose this fight. Dillishaw finally broke Barao in the fifth and final round when he got him on the ground and threw punches in bunches where the fight was called and Dillishaw was crowned the new champion.

WEC 10: Bragging Rights

In the tenth event by the World Extreme Cagefighting organization, we saw 10 of 12 fights end in a finish. The card had two title fights as the Welterweight and Lightweight belts would be decided.  5 of the 11 ended in submission (2 of which came from submission due to punches) with the remaining 5 coming via KO/TKO. Future UFC fighter Lavar Johnson got a first round TKO win. One of two decisions of the night came when Ryan Schultz beat Gil Castillo by majority decision. The Lightweight title fight ended with only 6 seconds to spare in the 3rd round when Gilbert Melendez beat Olaf Alfonso by TKO.  For the Welterweight title, champion Shonie Carter lost to Karo Parisyan.

WEC 12: Judgement Day

In yet another two title fight event, we saw 10 of 12 fights end in a finish. The Middleweight title would be decided as well as a title defense try for Heavyweight champion James Irvin. The night started with a unanimous decision win by Jay Hieron. The next five all came from submission; the first two by Triangle and the next three by Rear-Naked Choke.  Lavar Johnson once again got a first round finish with a TKO. The Middleweight title was won by Joe Riggs as he submitted Rob Kimmons with punches. In the Heavyweight title fight, champion James Irvin defended his belt with a knockout over Doug Marshall.

Strikeforce Challengers: Lindland vs. Casey

The 8th Challengers event put on by Strikeforce was headlined by a Middleweight fight between Matt Lindland and Kevin Casey. The prelim card had only one finish as Patrick Whittington submitted Jason Lambert with a Triangle Choke in the first round. Starting off the main card was future Strikeforce champion Pat Healy as he got the decision win against Bryan Tavers. Future Middleweight champion Tarec Saffiedine got a KO win over Nate Moore. In the co-main event, future Middleweight title challenger Tyron Woodley narrowly beat Nathan Coy by split-decision. In the main event, it took Lindland almost an entire three rounds to get the TKO win over Casey. He had only 19 seconds to spare in the fight when it was ended.

Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier

In the final of the Heavyweight Grand Prix, underdog Daniel Cormier made it this far and was matched with former UFC champion Josh Barnett. The co-main event was a Lightweight championship fight between champion Gilbert Melendez and number-one contender Josh Thomson. The prelims produced five straight decisions, with the last three by split decision. Gian Vilante, Bobby Green and Isaac Vallie-Flagg all picked up wins. The main card starter finally gave us a finish as Chris Spang got a TKO win. Future Light Heavyweight champion Rafael Cavalcante beat Mike Kyle by Guillotine. Feijao was popped for PED’s in the post-fight test and the fight was ruled a No-Contest. In the Lightweight title fight, Melendez barely came away with his belt as he beat Thomson by controversial split-decision. In the main event, Cormier shocked everyone with a unanimous decision victory to win the Heavyweight Grand Prix.

Pride: Bushido 3

In the third event under the Bushido mark, Pride saw some great fights. A 12 fight card produced half finishes and half decisions. The first fight of the night was a KO by Bertrand Ammoussou. The next two fights ended by Rear-Naked Choke with Katsuhisa Fuiji and Alexander Emilianenko being the victors. Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Flipovic and Ricardo Almeida each picked up decision wins. The next fight took only 6 seconds to decide a winner as Takanori Gomi beat Ralph Gracie by TKO. In the main event, Ryan Gracie beat Ikuhisa Minowa by split decision.

Pride: Bushido 7

In the mainland of Tokyo, Bushido 7 saw seven stoppage wins. The first two by way of KO as Charles Bennett and Jens Pulver each earned their win. In the next fight, another American got a finish as Yves Edwards submitted Dokonjonosuke Mishima by Armbar.  Aaron Riley got a headkick KO of Omigawa before two consecutive decision wins. Ikuhisa Minowa lost by second round TKO and in the main event Takanori Gomi continued his excellence with another first round knockout.

Bellator 19

In Texas, where everything is bigger and better, Bellator put on Bellator 19. Starting off the prelim card was a Guillotine win for Doug Frey. In the Featherweight division, Chas Skelly beat Daniel Pineda by kneebar in the second round. In a bout to determine a spot on the Season 3 Heavyweight tournament, Scott Barnett beat Ty Lee by TKO. The main card had two Welterweight semi-final fights on it. The first was a kimura win for Dan Hornbuckle and a decision win for Ben Askren. Future UFC title challenger Joe Soto won the main event against Diego Saraiva by doctor stoppage.

Bellator 45

To end Season 4 for Bellator, two tournament finals took place. The Featherweight and Light Heavyweight finals would be determined as well as a Middleweight bout to boot. On the prelims, Rene Nazare got a Rear-Naked Choke and future UFC fighter Shawn Jordan got another TKO win. To start the main card, Sam Alvey got a decision win over Karl Ammoussou. In the Featherweight final, future champion Patricio Freire won the final over Daniel Straus by decision. In the main event, Christian M’ Pumbu won by third round TKO to win the tournament.

Bellator 69

In Lake Charles, Louisiana, Bellator 69 happened. The main card started with Heavyweight Mark Holata getting Abe Wagner to verbally tap with a straight ankle lock in the first round. In a Women’s 125 pound fight, Megumi Fuiji beat future WSOF champion Jessica Aguilar by decision. In a Welterweight semifinal fight, David Rickels punched his ticket in for the finals with a split decision win over Karl Ammoussou. In the main event, Maiquel Falcao beat Andreas Spang to win the Season’s Middleweight tournament.

Future: UFC 187: Johnson vs.  Cormier, ONE Championship 27: Warriors Quest

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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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