BUSY SATURDAY IN MMA WORLD, BIG NEWS DAY
What had to be one of the busiest days in major-league MMA history went down on Saturday with two UFC events on two continents and a newsworthy Bellator show from San Jose.
The first event of the day was the UFC Fight Pass show from Belfast, Northern Ireland headlined by a rematch between Gegard Mousasi and Uriah Hall. The first four minutes of the first round were actually more competitive than in the first fight last year. That was until Mousasi got Hall to the ground, at which point Hall looked lost and quickly succumbed to the smothering ground and pound attack of Mousasi, who avenged his shocking knockout to Hall of a year ago.
Most of the fireworks in Belfast occurred on the preliminary card with six of the nine fights ending by finish and all four performance of the night bonuses going to preliminary fighters. The first went to Abdul Razak Alhassan who opened the card with a mauling of Conor McGregor teammate Charlie Ward. McGregor could be seen standing in the front row watching his teammate get knocked out.
The next bonus went to Kevin Lee who made waves by choking out Magomed Mustafaev to the point of unconsciousness and then using his interview time to call out the aforementioned McGregor.
The two other Belfast bonuses went to Justin Ledet and Jack Marshman for respective submission and TKO wins. Marshman’s win was exceptional as he was bloodied and recovered from a tough first round to take out Magnus Cedenblad.
The UFC focus shifted immediately to Sao Paulo, Brazil for a 12-fight card. Again the prelims were finish-heavy with all six early bouts ending decisively. Like Belfast, four performance bonuses were handed out. The first went to Thomas Almeida, who looked to have returned to old form with an impressive second round TKO of Albert Morales after a back and forth barn burner.
Performance bonuses also went to Cezar Ferreira, Gadzhimurad Antigulov, and Pedro Munhoz, all of whom secured second round submissions over their respective opponents.
Sao Paulo’s main event saw another rematch, only this one saw the same winner as the original. Ryan Bader convincingly pounded out Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in the third round in a one-sided beat down that had Bader repeatedly taking Nogeuira down and bludgeoning the legend with punches and elbows on the ground. Bader, who may be next in line for a Light Heavyweight Title shot, is now a free agent and could find himself in Bellator if a deal isn’t reached with UFC.
Speaking of Bellator, they held an event of their own, head-to-head on cable with the UFC Sao Paulo show. The main event saw Michael Chandler defend his Lightweight Championship successfully against former UFC Lightweight king Ben Henderson by split decision. Our own Michael Grocke scored the fight 48-47 for Chandler and thought the main event was “great.” Henderson, who suffered his second Bellator loss, recovered well from a nasty first round suplex from Chandler to nearly win the fight.
The biggest news of all was likely the official announcement that Bellator has signed Fedor Emelianenko and that he will be fighting Matt Mitrione on Feb. 18. A Bellator press release stated that Fedor has signed on for a multi-fight, exclusive deal with the Viacom-owned fight promotion.
Thirty-six fights from two promotions on three continents is impressive on its own, but the Fedor announcement may have trumped anything that went down in the cage.
Hiscoe’s Analysis: Yesterday was crazy, and I’m still trying to catch up on all of the action that went down this weekend, including Friday’s Invicta show. The Tonya Evinger loss was a shocker as she appeared to be undoubtedly the top 135 pound woman outside of UFC. The confusion over whether she was allowed to put her foot on the face of her opponent during the armbar is disappointing since we don’t know if it contributed to her tapping out. Now that she’s not a champion for Invicta, it would be nice to see her get a crack at UFC. If that doesn’t happen, a rematch is warranted.
I wouldn’t advise UFC to have two shows in a day very often. It’s too much for the average fan to consume and too much gets lost in the mix to the point that both Bader’s win and Mousasi’s win will fail to resonate compared to if they had been the sole focus for the weekend. They experimented with this a couple years ago and appeared to back off from it, so I’m hoping it was more of a scheduling thing they couldn’t avoid rather than a strategy they hope to employ going forward.
Mousasi looked great, but not great enough to leapfrog Yoel Romero for a shot at Michael Bisping’s title. Considering the disparity in the platforms, Romero and Mousasi had to make an impression; it was a longshot at best anyway.
Ben Henderson has had a tough run since he lost his title to Anthony Pettis three years ago. He’s still a top ten lightweight, but he’s a far cry from the fighter he was when he was champ. Having guys like Michael Chandler beat him goes a long way to legitimizing Bellator champions as being at least close to UFC championship level.
The Fedor signing is interesting in that it probably didn’t come cheap and shows that Viacom is willing to spend money to get big names. This may spell the end of any hope Fedor finds his way to UFC one day.
SUNDAY NOTEBOOK ITEMS…
-GSP was present at the Bellator show last night and posted pictures to his social media working out in the Bellator cage and posing with Scott Coker and Fedor Emelianenko. Let the speculation begin.
-Claudia Gadelha said at last night’s post-fight press conference that the kick to the head of a downed Cortney Casey didn’t land. After the kick, the fight was stopped for a few minutes so that Casey could recover from the illegal blow. Casey appeared dazed and took some time to get up and recover from the kick.
NOW CHECK OUT YESTERDAY’S UPDATE: SATURDAY NEWS DIGEST 11/19: Benson Henderson promises a better performance tonight, plus Notebook (w/Cervantes Analysis)
(MMATorch’s Daily News Digest features the top story of the day with added analysis, plus smaller tidbits in the News Notes section. Mike Hiscoe, who writes the News Digest Sundays through Thursdays, has a background in film criticism and previously wrote for the DVD Town and Movie Metropolis websites. His passion for Mixed Martial Arts goes back to 2005, but it was in the promotion for UFC 60: Hughes vs. Gracie that he really got hooked.”This is my house, I build it,” is still among the all-time great UFC promos. You can follow Mike on social media under the tag @mikehiscoe. He now provides his experienced writing and perspective on live MMA events for MMATorch.)