Bellator Fighting Championship wrapped up its fourth season tonight, with two championship fights, a tournament qualifier, and a lot of Joe Warren trying to steal the spotlight from basically everyone.
The televised fights started off with Sam Alvey taking on Karl Amoussou. "Smilin Sam" stayed true to his nickname, entering he cage with a wide, somewhat cheesy grin, and 'Bellator' shaved into the side of his head. Amoussou looked like he meant business as he walked out. There would be no smiling for the ex-PRIDE and Strikeforce fighter. Round 1 saw Amoussou throw several flurries of kicks and punches. At one point, Amoussou wobbled Alvey with a punch and punched on him, taking him to the ground. In the subsequent action, Alvey was badly cut in two different spots. Somehow, Alvey was able to reverse Amoussou at the end of the round and spent the last 40 seconds or so on top. I gave the round to Amoussou 10-8.
The second and third rounds were almost identical. Amoussou clearly gassed a bit in the first, and wasn't the same afterwards. That being said, I still felt like he landed more significant strikes and did more damage. Unfortunately, Alvey was able to score takedowns, and end up on top at the end of the 2nd and 3rd round. I had Amoussou winning Round 2, 10-9, and Alvey winning Round 3, 10-9, giving Amoussou the decision victory with a 29-27 margin. Mysteriously, the judges viewed it differently (two of them anyway), and Alvey was given the split decision win.
In the next fight, Patricio 'Pitbull' Freire took on Daniel Straus for the Featherweight tournament championship, $100,000 and a chance to make Joe Warren stop talking. Unfortunately, the aforementioned Warren was onhand to assist with the color commentating duties. These duties included Warren telling the world (or the portion watching anyway) that he is the baddest man on the planet (no worries, Sean Wheelock helped affirm this 'fact' repeatedly, just in case we didn't hear Joe Warren).
In the fight between Pitbull and Straus, Round 1 was a melee of strikes and takedown attempts. It was as advertised. No significant damage was done but it was very entertaining. I scored it a 10-10 tie.
Round 2 saw more back and forth exchanges. Straus shot for a multitude of takedowns, but no matter what happened, Patricio always bounced right back to his feet. Near the middle of the round, Straus was in bad position against the cage. Pitbull was nailing him with knees when referee Jason Herzog stopped the action, citing Pitbull for an illegal knee to the head of a grounded opponent. Patricio was adamant that the knee was to the body and not the head. The replay showed him to be correct. Luckily, a point was not deducted. I had Patricio winning the round 10-9.
At the outset of Round 3, Straus came out swinging. It looked like he knew he was behind. He continued to unsuccesfully shoot for takedowns and looked frustrated. A couple minutes in, Pitbull was able to land a few strikes during a flurry that clearly hurt his opponent. Patricio took Straus down and went for the choke. After 20 seconds or so, Freire gave up on the sub attempt and let Straus get back to his feet. The last minute or so of the fight was uneventful, as Pitbull began to taunt Straus, ostensibly hoping to engage him in a brawl where he could finish the fight. Straus did not go for it, but did look agitated with the "showmanship". I had Pitbull winning this round 10-9 as well.
The judges scored the fight 30-27, giving Patricio Freire the victory. He will go on to fight Joe Warren later this year.
Right away, it was clear that Hale had a clear size advantage. He immediately tried to come forward, and M'Pumbu nailed him with a few good, loud leg kicks. At about 2:33, M'Pumbu hit Hale with a strike that appeared to hurt him. Shortly thereafter, M'Pumbu jumped on him and went for a D'arce choke attempt. He was unable to secure the choke, and ended up letting Hale get back to his feet. When the round ended, Hale had a large hematoma over his left eye (not Mark Hominick bad, but, what is?). I scored the round 10-9 in favor of M'Pumbu.
Round 2 saw a much more aggresive version of Rich Hale, who was constantly coming forward and pushing the pace. Hale threw a ton of jabs and crosses, most of which missed or were blocked. M'Pumbu landed a decent amount of legkicks, and ended the round with a good knee to the body. I scored the Round 10-9 M'Pumbu.
In Round 3, you could just tell that Christian M'Pumbu had gotten loose. He had found his range and was ready to really throw. He landed quite a few shots, none of which were as savage as the right hook that hit Hale with a little less than a minute left. M'Pumbu countered with a right that instantly sent Hale to the floor like a sack of potatoes. Thinking his opponent was out, M'Pumbu threw up his hands in victory. Much to his (and everyone else's) surprise, Hale was still conscious, and was working on getting back up. M'Pumbu, still seeming to be fueled by the same adrenaline rush that was behind the right hook, shot in on Hale, kept him down, and then finished the fight with strikes at 0:45 by way of TKO. It was an impressive victory, and it was easy to feel good for him, seeing how emotional he was about the win. He certainly has a lot of potential, and it will be interesting to see where he goes from here.
**Post-Fight Presser Notes: Nothing super out of the ordinary here. Bjorn Rebney did say that Bellator HW Champ Cole Konrad should be back in action as early as August, as is probably going to be pitted against former UFC fighter Paul Buentello. Bjorn also said that the Bellator Heavyweight tournament will begin sometime in September and that he is very excited about the crop of fighters who will be involved. He did not divulge any names of new signees, but said that the info would be forthcoming shortly.**