This weekend was a monster for combat sports, with both MMA and boxing cards going head to head on Saturday night, the return of Evolve, and the final Invicta show of the year. In addition, the premier kickboxing organization in the world had their biggest show in the year, leaving combat sports fans everywhere are thankful for DVR’s and on demand replays.
Let’s keep going!
Saturday, December 9, 2017
Bellator 190 — Nelson Mandela Hall — Florence, Italy (SpikeTV)
Throughout the week, several members of the Bellator middleweight division questioned why Alessio Sakara was fighting for the title, and called him unworthy of the shot. Given that this fight was in Sakara’s native Italy and he was coming off two knockout wins, this seemed a little harsh.
Turns out they may have had a point.
Bellator Middleweight Champion Rafael Carvalho (15-0, 6-0 Bellator needed only forty-four seconds to finish off the UFC veteran, hurting with a one-two after a kick to the body. Sakara (19-12, 2-1 Bellator) backed into the fence, and Carvalho followed up with a flying knee and a big elbow strike and ref Dan Miragliotta stopped the fight immediately.
This is actually a record-setting third defense of the title for Carvalho, but the big test is probably going to come in his next fight, which logic tells you will probably be against recent signee Gegard Mousasi. That seems like pretty easy matchmaking.
In the co-main, Columbian Alejandra Lara made an impressive Bellator debut, submitting Ukrainian kickboxer Lena Ovchynnikova in the third round. After an even first round, Lara (7-1, 1-0 Bellator) used her strength and superior wrestling to take down Lena several times and control her on the mat, but she also was able to strike with the kickboxer when she needed. Ovchynnikova (12-5, 3-2 Bellator) made the mistake of continually going for the WMMA favorite, the head and arm throw, which Lara continually used against her.
Finally, after Lena hit the move in the third, Lara used to take her back and she was eventually able to pound her enough to lock in the RNC, and force a tapout at 4:10 of the final round. The win just may get Lara a fight with Bellator flyweight champion
Also that night, Brandon Girtz (15-7, 7-5 Bellator) broke a three-fight losing streak, knocking out Croatian Luka Jelcic (10-3, 0-1 Bellator) in the first round. The 5’7 Girtz had no problem getting inside on 6’ Jelcic, luring him into a slugfest early. In the end, Girtz dropped Jelcic with an overhand left, and when Jelcic tried to get up, Girtz drilled him with a right uppercut and followed with a few sick shots to force the ref to stop it. It was nasty.
Top Rank Boxing on ESPN — The Theatre at Madison Square Garden — New York, New York (ESPN)
To quote Nate Diaz, I’m not surprised.
Unless the other guy is Roberto Duran; the fighter who is bigger, stronger, fresher, and younger should be the guy who is coming up two weight classes to fight him, even if the other guy has two gold medals. Especially when the bigger, faster, stronger, and fresher guy has two gold medals too.
Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KOs) dominated Cuba’s Guillermo Rigondeaux (17-1, 11 KOs), forcing him to quit at the end of the sixth round. From Round 1 on, Vasyl was using his footspeed to find angles to land jabs and body punches. Rigo tried his best to land punches early, but by the end of the second round, Lomachenko had reduced Rigo to holding excessively, with Loma doing all he could yank his body away, and even at times, nailing Rigo on the break.
By the fourth, Lomachenko was playing with Rigo, going behind his back at one point, tripling up on punches. Rigo’s defense did allow him to duck and slip many shots, but it didn’t hurt Loma as it had most of the Cuban’s opponents, as Vasyl wasn’t selling out on every shot, but was content to pepper away on Rigondeaux. Meanwhile, like most Lomachenko opponents, Rigondeaux couldn’t touch him, average a pathetic three punches per round. Yes, three.
There was plentiful fouling in this fight, with Rigo holding so much referee Steve Willis finally docked him a point for it in the sixth, Rigo landing an occasional low blow, Rigo holding behind the head and punching, and Vasyl tapping Rigo on the back of the head on occasion. By the end of the sixth, Loma was landing the will, and before they could come out for the seventh, Rigo quit, claiming a broken hand. Many have joked that you have to land punches to break your hand, and Rigo landed barley any. But no matter what, it was clear that Vasyl had eaten Rigo’s heart.
This Vasyl’s eighth stoppage victory in the row, and Top Rank has tweeted out consistently how this is the fourth opponent in a row to quit on his stool. (Jason Sosa’s trainer stopped it two fights ago; this is a little different.) He will probably move to 135 pounds after this, and maybe, just maybe, someone there will challenge him.
The undercard was nothing to write home about, but did feature some of TR’s brightest prospects. Michael Conlan (5-0, 4 KOs), the 2012 Olympic Bronze Medalist and 2015 World Champion, was forced to handle a hand injury and go the full six rounds with Argentinean Luis Fernando Molina (7-4-1, 2 KOs). 2016 Olympic Silver Medalist Shakur Stevenson (4-0, 2 KOs) dominated Oscar Mendoza (4-3, 2 KOs), with referee Sparkle Lee choosing to stop the fight at 1:38 of Round 2, even though Shakur had not landed truly concussive blows. It was probably a smart one. 2016 Olympian Makayla Mayer (3-0, 2 KOs) was pushed the full four rounds with Nydia Feliciano (9-9-3), but walked away with a majority decision victory.
HBO Boxing After Dark — Mandalay Bay Events Center — Las Vegas, Nevada (HBO)
Some fighters can only go out on their shields.
Three-time world featherweight champion Orlando Salido (44-14-4, 31 KOs), one of the best action fighters of this era, was stopped for the first time in seventeen years by another great Mexican action fighter Mickey Roman (58-12, 45 KOs), going down three times before referee Robert Byrd stopped the fight in the ninth round. Salido announced his retirement after the fight.
Salido didn’t go quietly into that good night, however. He came out in great shape, and notoriously the slow starter, he came out and was landing hard, fast combinations in the first few rounds. Seemingly out of nowhere in the fourth, Roman landed a three-punch combination and Salido went down, despite the lack of a devastating looking punch. Roman did his best to try to take advantage and apply pressure, but Salido was able to find his legs and land combinations in the next few rounds. He seemed to be winning a close fight until the eighth, when Roman caught him going back with a right to the chin, then dropped him with a combination. Salido got up at nine and did his best to fight Roman off, but Mickey put him on the ropes and ninth and dropped him again, and Byrd decided that was enough.
The win, the biggest of Roman’s ridiculous seventy fight career, puts him in position for a title fight with the excellent WBC junior lightweight champion Miguel Bercholt. Salido goes out with a Hall of Fame caliber career, a nice bank account, and the respect and adoration of Mexican and action fight fans.
The co-feature featured one of the worst robberies of the year as Japan’s Kenichi Ogawa (23-1, 14 KOs), despite being outlanded in all but one round and landing a hundred less punches than Philadelphia’s Tevin Farmer, got a pathetic split decision victory. Farmer used excellent footwork, speed, and upper body movement to set up sharp combos to the head and body. He never hurt Ogawa, but Ogawa could barely lay a hand on him in most rounds. Ogawa was the agressesor, especially in the second half of the fight, but you still have to hit the other guy to win, and Ogawa wasn’t doing it. It ended Farmer’s eighteen fight winning streak, and if he had not been shot this summer, would have been the worst thing to happen to him all year.
The opener saw former WBC junior lightweight champion Francisco Vargas return from an eleven-month layoff to outbox and outfight England’s Stephen Smith, but all people will remember is the visual of Smith’s ear split almost in half from an accidental headbutt in what of the ghastliest injuries you will ever, ever see in combat sports. It was a truly disgusting site. The fight ended as a technical decision in the tenth, and Vargas got a unanimous decision. He looked very good and should be in position for another big fight in this very good division.
Evolve 96: Battle of the Breakout Stars — Elmcor Youth Center — Corona, New York (WWNLive.com)
One of America’s best Indy wrestling promotions closed out their year with two big events, the first of which featured an excellent battle between giants and continued their attempt bring new stars to the forefront.
Keith Lee made a successful first defense of his WWN Title, defeating the 6’4, 300-pound Austrian tank known simply as WALTER. After the bout, he was confronted by the returning AR Fox and his new posse, so that may be his next feud. Fox made his return earlier that night, defeating Jason Kincaid, who has come quite the ways in this past year.
Also returning to the promotion was former Impact X-Division Champion DJZ, who had the honor of facing Evolve Champion Zack Sabre Jr his first night back. Sabre, fitting his status a member of the Suzuki Gun stable in Japan, is being depicted as more of a badass, and he was sure to beat up and torture Z before he made a comeback. Sabre did go home with the win though.
Evolve’s two brightest young stars, Austin Theory and Darby Allin went toe to toe in a great match, where Allin got the win. Allin is kinda like the goth 1-2-3 Kid of the promotion and he plays the role to perfection. The co-main was a no ropes break match between Matt Riddle and Fred Yehi and two mat grapplers used the ropes in all different ways before Riddle submitted Yehi with a twister.
The tag team title match between Tracy Williams and Jaka against Anthony Henry and James Drake ended when the new heel stable The End appeared, kicking off a wild brawl that gets plenty of coverage on the YouTube recap of the show and it is NUTS. It’s well worth going out of your way to see.
Sunday, December 12, 2017
Evolve 97 — Melrose Memorial Hall — Melrose, Massachusetts (WWNLive.Com)
Zack Sabre Jr will go into 2018 as the Evolve Champion after submitting Evolve Tag Team Champion Jaka with a modified calf killer in the third bout the two have had this year. After Sabre beat Jaka in an impromptu match at Evolve 86, Jaka came back and beat Sabre in a non-title at Evolve 90. But Sabre came out the victor in the back and forth main event.
His next challenger may be Darby Allin, as he pinned the other half of the Evolve Tag Team Champions, Tracy Williams, in a three-way match that also included WWN Champion Keith Lee. The winner gives Allin the right to make any match he wants in 2018 and there really can be no other match to make than against the Evolve Champion. With two wins this weekend, Allin puts himself in a good position.
AR Fox also racked up two wins this weekend, pinning DJ Z this night. Matt Riddle joined him in the two-win club, when another no rope breaks match, he defeated WALTER in a violent match. These two have faced the pain all over Europe and they were sure to bring the violence in their first bout in America. The finish came when Riddle escaped a submission and took WALTER’s back, and pounded him out with elbows to the back of the head. Riddle tried to shake his hand after the match, but WALTER laid him out with a boot to the face.
So ends a tough year for Evolve, who saw many of their top stars go to WWE NXT, as well as the ugly end to their relationship with FloSlam. But their recent shows have stabilized the company, and hopefully, they can bounce back in 2018.
Also This Weekend: Like a phoenix from the ashes, MLW ran their second show in ten years, Never Say Never, in Orlando, Florida last Thursday. I will be watching the show sometime this week. Friday on FS1, heavyweight Luis Ortiz, who was supposed to fight WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder last month, returned from a brief drug suspension to knock out Daniel Martz the eff out in the second round with a straight left hand.
And if you didn’t get the chance to see the World Tag League Final this past Sunday in New Japan Pro Wrestling you can read all about that over at FightBoothPW.com.
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