Bellator MMA returned to The Forum in Inglewood on Saturday night for Bellator 228, featuring a rematch between Lyoto Machida and Gegard Mousasi. Plus the second half of the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix, and an unnecessary 20-minute non-fighting segment.
Various Prelim Fights Thoughts
As usual with Bellator events, the prelims were mixed with unknowns and locals. While most casual MMA fans won’t care about the fights that take place on Bellator’s prelims, hardcore MMA fans know that their prelims oftentimes overshadow the main cards. There are always a lot of hungry scrappers looking to make names for themselves on a larger scale, so the fighters on these prelims tend to put on really good shows. Bellator 228’s prelims featured eight bouts, and seven of them had a finish. Four were KO/TKO finishes, while three were submission finishes.
Weber Almeida was able to extend his undefeated record to 3-0 with a TKO win over Castle Williams. Almeida looked really sharp in his performance. He landed several heavy shots that dropped Williams a few times and scored a takedown early in the first round. Almeida was both aggressive on offense and sharp o defense, which stifled Williams’ ability to do anything to Almeida.
This was a dominant performance that went two rounds before Almeida put Williams away after catching him with a wide counter hook as Williams rushed in with some wild punches. Williams showed a lot of heart and toughness, but Almeida was simply the better fighter overall on this night. This was certainly one of the biggest highlights of the overall card.
One of the other highlights of the prelims was the professional MMA debut of boxing star Ava Knight. Knight, the first woman to ever win a WBC Diamond belt, went up against a more experienced MMA fighter, Shannon Goughary. Knight got the superstar treatment, as she was walked out to the cage to the cage with rapper O.T. Genasis, who is best known for his 2014 “CoCo.” O.T. Genasis performed his song “Bae” for Knight’s entrance. It was hilarious seeing some dudes a few rows in front of me singing along to these lyrics in the first verse:
“Some of these hoes got no choice“Bea” by O.T. Genasis
Meat in her throat that’s no voice
I’m rich, I’m lit, a bitch gon’ suck this dick
I’m fresh, I’m hood, I look good”
During the first round, it seemed like Goughary was overmatching Knight after taking the fight to the ground and getting the better of Knight with her grappling. That didn’t last long though, as Knight began to find her rhythm and used her boxing background to start getting the better of Goughary. By the third round, Knight was teeing off on Goughary, leading to an impressive body punch knockout win. While Knight wasn’t very experienced in MMA, she showed that she could handle herself against a pro and fight through adversity. It’ll be interesting to see where she goes from here in the sport.
The prelims also featured grappling standout AJ Agazarm, who was able to get victory over Jonathan Quiroz via unanimous decision in the only prelim that went the distance. James Barnes, Joshua Jones, and Leandro Higo accounted for submission finishes on these prelims. Johnny Cisneros’ scored a TKO win in the second after his opponent, Mike Jasper, suffered what appeared to be an ankle injury. after taking some kicks to his leg
Also on the prelims, Antonio McKee defeated William Sriyapai in the second round via TKO with some ground and pound in a battle between two longtime veterans of MMA. Both fighters each have nearly 20 years of experience, with both their careers dating back to October 1999. For McKee, this was his first fight since defeating Gadzhi Zaipulaev on November 22nd, 2014. His opponent, Sriyapai, made his return to MMA this past March at King of the Cage after a six-year layoff. While Sriyapai came in having last fought more recently, McKee performed much better than Sriyapai.
Main Card Thoughts
Later in the night on the main card, Antonio’s son A.J. McKee competed in the opening round of the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix. He also made history when he stepped into the cage that night, making it the first time in American MMA history a father-son duo fought on the same card. To add to this new bit of MMA trivia, A.J. went to 15-0 and advanced to the quarterfinals when he knocked out Georgi Karakhanyan in eight seconds after a huge overhand left. So not only did Antonio and A.J. become the first father-son dup in American MMA history to fight on the same card, they also became the first father-son duo in American MMA history to score KO/TKO wins on the same event. If you’re not familiar with the story of the McKee family, you should look them up.
Aside from A.J. McKee’s knockout win, the rest of the main card didn’t feature a finish. This isn’t to say the fights were bad. They just weren’t the type of fights that most casual fans would want to see. The other bouts in the second half of the opening round in the Featherweight World Grand Prix were an example of that.
Daniel Weichel vs. Saul Rogers started off the main card. This wasn’t a bad fight, but the crowd wasn’t happy about the pacing in this, resulting in some loud boos from the impatient audience. Former Bantamweight Champion Darrion Caldwell vs. Henry Corrales followed up. That one saw Caldwell out grapple Corrales to a decision victory. In the card’s advertised main event, current Featherweight and Lightweight champ Patricio “Pitbull” Freire vs. Juan Archuleta saw Pitbull put on a strong performance to retain his Featherweight title and advance in the tournament along with Weichel, Caldwell, and McKee. They went on to join the other quarterfinalists in a “selection show” later in the event. More on this bullshit later.
Gegard Mousasi vs. Lyoto Machida, the advertised co-main event and only non-tournament fight on the main card, headlined the main card. This was a rematch of their February 15, 2014 bout in the UFC where Machida got a decision victory over Mousasi. This time, Mousasi was able to avenge his loss in a great showing against Machida. Mousasi was the clear fan-favorite in this fight, but the crowd came alive when Machida was threatening to get a submission when he had Mousasi in a Guillotine Choke during the last 20 seconds of the fight after being in Mousasi’s guard during the final minute of the fight. Despite it not being a title fight in Bellator, I really wish this fight was a five-rounder. I imagine the fight could’ve been much better had it kept going.
Following the main card, there were four bouts still to be fought. By this time, it was almost 10:30 PM. My friends and I had been at the event for almost six hours. We’ve done this before for UFC, but the way UFC structures their cards makes it so that the biggest fights are at the end of the card. There’s no fatigue, and excitement builds for the main event fights. With Bellator, they sometimes can’t squeeze all their fights onto the prelims, so they hold some fight after certain main cards. This is usually when most of the people in attendance tend to head for the exits too.
As you’d expect, a lot of people began to leave. Meanwhile, a helpless usher n sections 101/102 stood by as over a hundred people rushed passed him to get to the floor section. On the other end in 135/136, one of his fellow ushers loudly scolded him for allowing that to happen. He tried to explain to his co-worker he couldn’t do anything, but she was obviously still upset. It’s not like it matter anyway. There were less than 1,000 people in the building at this point. That poor guy didn’t deserve that.
One of my friends wanted to leave, but my other friend and I wanted to stay for these fights. Usually, much like the prelims, postlim bouts tend to be exciting scraps that produce fun, fan-friendly fights. We ended up making a pact where we’d stay for the card until there’s an underwhelming fight. The postlims started out with Ian Butler vs. Emilio Williams in a fun, fast-paced bout. Williams had Butler in trouble towards the end of the first round, and it seemed like he was about to finish him. Instead, Butler came out strong in the second round and finished Williams with a series of unanswered ground and pound strikes.
In the second postlim bout, Ozzy Diaz faced Andre Walker. During this fight, the mother of Ozzy Diaz was sitting in the section to my left. I’ve been at events where relatives, girlfriends, and wives were present. I’ve seen the crazy emotions, both good and bad, that they go through. This, however, was the first time (that I can recall) I sat near a fighter’s mother watching her child fight. It was interesting seeing how she reacted with fear and excitement as her son fought in the cage. So many things could go bad, as this is a dangerous sport. Thankfully for Mrs. Diaz, her son won with a beautifully executed Rear Naked Choke in the first round. This fight was all Diaz, who out-grappled Walker to help set up his RNC. After her fight, she celebrated and cheered with joy in the stands.
Following that bout, it was time for Benji Gomez vs. Johnny Santa Maria. During this fight, my friends and I decided to leave. We were tired and didn’t feel like striking around. On top of that, we just weren’t into this fight.
On the way back to our friends’ house, we caught the rest of the postlims on the Bellator Mobile App. The final bout on the card was Adrian Najera vs. Jason Edwards, It was a really fun back-and-forth fight that saw Najera submit Edwards with an RNC in the third round. There was a crazy moment in the second round where Najera sent Edwards’ mouthpiece flying after hitting him with a knee strike during a scramble. Moments later, Najera nearly had Edwards on the brink of defeat when he had him an an armbar before Edwards was saved by the bell.
I would’ve loved to have seen this live, but as I said, my friends and I were tired before it happened and felt like leaving. Mostly because of one thing…
The Featherweight World Grand Prix Selection Show: A Massive Waste Of Time
After the Pitbull vs. Archuleta fight, Bellator had the bright idea of hosting a live selection show on the stage in front of the audience before the co-main event. Daniel Weichel, Darrion Caldwell, A.J. McKee, and Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, who all advanced earlier in the night, were part of this. Also joining them were Derek Campos, Adam Borics, Pedro Carvalho, and Emmanuel Sanchez, who advanced in the tournament earlier this month in San Jose.
Each fighter was given a card with a number on it. Paced on the order of the cards, they each selected a month where they wanted to fight next. There was a catch though, as Pitbull had a “Champion’s Choice” and could choose any date he wanted and switch one person to a different event. This meant one fighter didn’t get to have a choice on when he got to fight and that their pick was useless.
The concept isn’t a new one. It’s been done before with K-1 Kickboxing, but never in American MMA. There’s a good reason for that: it’s a time-wasting concept that dragged on and on. As this was happening, I was bored out of my mind. It came off like a cheesy game show based on its presentation. Thankfully, my friend got the Errol Spence Jr. vs. Shawn Porter fight on his phone to entertain us. I don’t know who thought this was a good idea, but it was the most boring experience I’ve had at an MMA event. To put that into perspective, I was at UFC 157. That card featured Brendan Schaub vs. Lavar Johnson and Lyoto Machida vs. Dan Henderson in two of the most boring fights I had seen live.
And THIS segment was way more boring than those fights.
While there was some drama over what Pitbull’s choice for his next fight would be, this entire thing didn’t need to happen on this event. When the fans were hoping Pitbull would pick the undefeated A.J. McKee as his next opponent and didn’t get their wish, the vibe died.
None of this did anything to build up interest in these fights. I doubt more than 50,000 people will even see this thing, so having this entire go down after a five-hour card with five bouts left was so fucking dumb. I love MMA, and I always have a great time at an event, even if the fights aren’t the best. But this was the worst experience I’ve had at an MMA event. Even Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz 3 at The Forum wasn’t as bad of an experience as this segment was. Seriously, this fucking sucked! I hope Scott Coker never does this again.
Of all the Bellator events I’ve been to, this was probably the least entertaining one. Mostly because of that selection show. The main card wasn’t that great, but it had its moments. The prelim and postlim bouts were mostly fun and continue to be one of the strongpoints of Bellator events. Bellator also did a good job at hyping Cris Cyborg’s upcoming promotional debut vs. Bellator Women’s Featherweight Champion Julia Budd on January 25th at The Forum in Inglewood.
So yeah. That’s about it. If you want to check out the prelim fights, head over to Bellator.com to check them out. I also can’t wait for Budd vs. Cyborg in January. That should be a fun card, as Bellator’s new yearly tradition of holding January events at The Forum tends to produce fun moments and fights with big name stars.