(Editors Note: sorry that this didn’t get published earlier. Had a hard time getting to watch the actual event.)
Bellator made their 2017 debut live from Ingelwood California with Bellator 170 on Saturday. The main draw for the event was the showdown that was Chael Sonnen vs. Tito Ortiz in what was, and might actually be Ortiz’s final MMA fight. If you want a preview of the main card fights you can check out our 170 preview here. This was the biggest event in Ballator history and kicks off what seems like a series of nearly weekly shows that Bellator is going to be putting on. There’s a lot of speculation coming out or the main event, and we’ll discuss that when the time is right, but let’s jump right into the main card fights.
Derek “The Barbaric” Anderson (14-2-0) vs. Derek “Stallion” Campos (17-6-0)
155 pounders who are both middle of the pack in the Bellator “rankings” is what this was supposed to be, but Anderson came into the fight over 5 pounds heavier than Campos and had a 4 inch reach advantage over him. Lot of stand up in the first round with both fighters exchanging punches and kicks. Campos did a good job of getting inside on Anderson and rocked him with a nice left about 2 minutes in. Very tough first round to call. Not sure why Anderson didn’t use his reach advantage more. Second round was much the same with Campos landing the bigger shots including a vicious right uppercut that dropped Anderson to the mat, but he was able to recover rather quickly. Compos most certainly won round 2. Campos finally got a take down about halfway through the third, was surprised he didn’t try for more give how easy he’d been able to get inside. Third round was another one that was very tough to call. This one went to the judge’s cards and it was a 29-28 unanimous decision for Campos. Tough break for Anderson, he just didn’t use his size advantage effectively. I’d like to see these two go at it again. This was a great fight to kick off the show.
Emmanuel “El Matador” Sanchez (13-3-0) vs. Georgi “Insane” Karakhanyan (26-6-1)
Featherweight battle between two fighters in a very crowded division. Much like I predicted in my preview this was very much a grappling contest throughout the first round with Georgi looking to get something going against the cage for nearly the entire round but he got caught in a standing rear-naked choke for about the last 30 seconds of the round. More of the same in the second, but this time with Sanchez being much more the aggressor in half guard. Second round marred a bit with back to back fouls, one from Georgi with an illegal up kick, that from his position I’d honestly excuse as an accident, the two knees to the head of a downed fighter from Sanchez should have cost him a point in my opinion and left Georgi so shaken that a doctor had to come in. It also put the ref in an uncomfortable position as this was a close fight up til this point and he didn’t take a point from Georgi. Sanchez did get a point taken from him that resulted in a 9-8 second round in a round that he dominated. Much more active round 3 from Georgi keeping control on the ground, while Sanchez looked happy to just ride out the round and go to the score cards. This one had to go to the score cards again and Sanchez take a majority decision 28-28, 28-27, 28-27 in a lackluster fight.
Hisaki Kato (6-2-0) vs. Ralek Gracie (3-0-0)
I said in my preview that this was one of the fights that I was most looking forward to. I liked the idea of a pure striker, Kato, taking on someone who was born into Jiu-Jitsu, Gracie. I was soooo wrong. There’s a lot of talk about “ring rust” in MMA with guys coming back after injury and the like, and Bellator tried to play up Ralek is the next generation of the family. Gracie said before the fight that he’d taken so much time, 7 years, off to see if MMA was really what he wanted, and according to him it was. I didn’t see it. I honestly didn’t see it from either of them. The crowd was loudly booing them throughout a first round where nothing happened. Kato looked like he was almost afraid to go to the ground with Gracie despite knocking him down a couple of times including with a nice Superman punch. I’m gonna stop with the play by play here and go straight into the opinion section. I’m not saying that Gracie got this fight purely based on his last name and the fact that his uncle was part of the legends meet and greet, but I will imply that is what happened. You know it’s a bad fight when the ref has to stop both guys and remind them it’s a main card fight and they need to do something. The commentators were even openly mocking Gracie in the third round. This was an embarrassment for both Kato and Gracie and did nothing to help either of their careers. I hope Bellator looks at this fight and learns that booking a fighter, especially in the main card, based purely on name value is a very bad idea. Oh yeah.. Kato won by unanimous decision.
Brennan Ward (15-4-0) vs. Paul Daley (38-14-2)
The welterweight co-headliner got just about as much hype throughout the night as Ortiz vs. Sonnen. These two guys were definitely going to be throwing bombs at each other and that’s exactly what they did. Just a side note before we get into it, referee Mike Beltran looks like a legit badass. It took less than 2:30 and it was all over. Ward got rocked by a stiff punch early in the second and took it to the ground to clear his head. The problem was when they got back to their feet. Daley threw a nice spinning back elbow that caught ward and followed it up with a jumping knee that knocked Ward out for just the second time in his career. Ward had to be carried out of the ring on a stretcher, and Daley cemented his position as a top contender for the title. It’s a shame that Daley was banished for life from the UFC back in 2010, because him against any of the top welterweights would be a definite headline caliber fight.
Chael Sonnen (28-14-1) vs. Tito Ortiz (18-12-1)
Okay. This fight happened. But that’s not really what I’m gonna talk about here. Ortiz won with a rear-naked choke in the first round after escaping a guillotine from Sonnen early on. Ortiz is now free to ride off into the sunset. Ortiz got to have a nice moment in the ring with his son and got to go out on top in front of a very supportive crowd. Bellator should be ecstatic. But wait…
To me and I think anyone not named Tito Ortiz or Chael Sonnen this “fight” was much more about the lead-up and fallout. Let’s start with the lead-up.
Chael Sonnen knows how to sell a fight. He’s done it for years. He trash talks his opponents and about 2/3 of the time he’s able to back up what he said. He was the UFC’s biggest draw for years setting pay-per view and attendance records for the company. He did the same thing here. He trash talked Ortiz, his legacy and his family. His intro video was just more trash talking. For Ortiz, this was all about being his final match in MMA and avenging a loss in college wrestling from 19 years ago. These two didn’t and seemingly still don’t like each other. Which is great and adds to any fight. But they’re both old and well past their primes.
Now let’s look at the fallout. Here’s where things get really interesting. I’ll come clean with you all, I didn’t watch this fight live and while I tried to avoid spoilers all I kept seeing was articles and videos talking about how this fight looked fixed in the opinion of some people. I watched it at normal speed, I watched it in slow-mo, I listened to people talking about what they found odd about the fight. Here’s what I have to say. I don’t think it was fixed. Ortiz was doing some weird stuff with his hands, but okay. Did Sonnen tap to a badly placed choke? Yep. Did it still probably hurt? Yep. Can anyone, as of yet show any physical evidence that this fight was fixed? Nope. So there you go.
For me, and I hope for Bellator there are two issues that they need to take a long hard look at coming out of this fight. Firstly, this is the second time that people have said a fight looked fixed in recent memory. This needs to be addressed by Bellator. They need to make a statement either out right saying nope it wasn’t fixed or saying they are investigating.
Secondly, and I think just as importantly, they really need to think about what they are going to do with Chael Sonnen. According to him, and I haven’t seen anything from Bellator to refute the claims, he signed a 6 fight contract. This is another reason that Sonnen throwing the fight doesn’t make sense. They now have a 39, going to be 40 in April, year-old man who has a contract for 5 more fights. Sonnen hasn’t won a fight since 2013, he’s 1-4 in his last 5 fights. I know he used to be able to talk fans into the building but I have a hard time believing that he’s still the draw that he once was. Bellator for the amount that they are paying him is going to put him in anything but main event fights, but who is he going to fight? Bellator, in my opinion went all-in on Sonnen and at the moment it looks like it’s coming back to bite them in the ass.
That’s it. Did you watch? Do you ever watch Bellator?
Image from bellator.spike.com