Bellator MMA 100 Rewind
Friday nights are now Bellator MMA’s on Spike TV. This week Bellator 100 took place at the Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, AZ featuring the opening round of the Season 9 welterweight tournament.The main event featured the final of last season’s welterweight tournament in a rematch between Douglas Lima and Ben Saunders. This night was also about the man who was not there – Bellator MMA welterweight champion Ben Askren.
As far as the tournament’s opening round was concerned it went well. In the opening fight Brent Weedman defeated Justin Baesman with a slick belly-down armbar in the first round.This was the type of win that helps a fighter in this tournament. Weedman suffered no damage of any kind and will be fresh for his next fight. To win the tournament you need to win three fights in three months.
He will take on the tough tournament veteran Rick Hawn who was moving back up to welterweight. He had previously won the lightweight tournament and lost to champion Michael Chandler. He looked good in his return to welterweight but he had to work a little harder in taking a three round UD over Herman Terrado. It should be an exciting matchup between the two veterans in the semi-final round.
On the other side of the bracket Ron Keslar took a SD win over Sergio Junior in a close competitive fight. Keslar looked solid in the fight but he will have his hands full in the semi-finals. He will take on the man known as War Machine who defeated Vaughn Anderson via Rear-Naked-Choke in the second round.
Before the fight Anderson tried to draw War Machine into a war of words. It was obvious that he was trying to get Machine off of his game but it did not work. In fact it kind of blew up in his face. Here is one of his quotes that Spike TV played before the fight, “If I have to give him credit for anything I guess I can say he has a better bench press than me, but when I’m wrapped around his neck like a snake his bench press is not going to help him.” He then promptly lost when Machine wrapped his arms around around his neck and choked him out. It was a competitive first round but the second was dominated by Machine who took him down early and worked him over before taking the back. Once he got the back he methodically worked for the choke until he locked it in.
Based on this opening round you have to like War Machine over Ron Keslar. Machine looks like he is putting things together inside of the cage. He mixed in some good ground and pound to go with some slick jiu jitsu. The other matchup will be a battle as two veterans Rick Hawn and Brent Weedman clash. The next two rounds will be some good close fights it is what comes next that is where the trouble starts.
The main event of the night was the final of last seasons welterweight tournament matching up Douglas Lima and Ben Saunders. This was a rematch of their welterweight finals in 2011. They both ended in similar fashion with Lima violently finishing Saunders. Each time Saunders gamely battled but Lima was too much for him. Lima might be too much for anybody at welterweight in Bellator MMA with the exception of Ben Askren.
His nickname is “The Phenom” and it is accurate as this is his second welterweight tournament win and he is only twenty-five-years old. He is still a couple of years away from his prime. On this night he showed his toughness fighting through a first round right hand injury. He also showcased some powerful high level striking skills. Lima throws everything hard, even his jab snaps back heads. Near the end of the first round Saunders blocked a kick but it still moved him backwards. The first round was close but you could see that Lima was getting more comfortable and finding his timing as the round went on. At the end of the round Saunders had a cut on his right eye lid and another on outside his left eye.
In the second round it went south for Saunders quickly. He first came out without his mouthpiece and did not notice it until Lima cracked him once across the mouth. He got his mouthpiece and a minute later Lima sent him crashing down with a wicked right uppercut than landed cleanly. Somehow Saunders survived and actually attempted a couple of submissions. His face was a bloody, swelling, black and blue mess and his left eye was almost completely shut Rocky style. Saunders gamely attempted a leg lock and Lima escaped bring the fighters back to their feet. At this point Saunders looked like a zombie coming forward at Lima swinging and kicking away desperately. Lima was calmly stepping back measuring and waiting for the right opening. He threw a body kick to the liver that Saunders partially blocked. Lima danced back and to his left way from Saunders power, he knows just how dangerous Saunders still is at this moment. Proving that Saunders launched a nasty left head kick that Lima blocked. He circled away and then started to walk down Saunders. A couple of punches keep Saunders moving. Now he is circling to his right, away from Lima’s power right. The problem is Lima is at another level with his striking and is dangerous from both sides. Lima stepped in and landed a stunning left hook to the liver. This stiffened Saunders for a beat and Lima in one motion threw the right leg head kick that knocked Saunders out cold.
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Now Lima stands poised for another title shot. He dominated this tournament finishing each fight via TKO/KO. He is now 7-1 inside of the Bellator cage with 6 TKO/KO wins. As dominant as he has looked against the other welterweights in Bellator, Askren looked that way against him. This is the problem for Bellator MMA right now. Do they resign Askren and set up another boring welterweight final or do they let him walk? If he walks it seems like it would be the winner of the current tournament against Lima for the vacated title.
This a difficult position that Bellator MMA and Bjorn Rebney find themselves. Askren is a dominant champion, he does not get into trouble outside of the cage and would seem like the perfect fighter for an organization to build around. The big problem is that his style is not fan friendly. For many it is boring as his wrestling is so dominant that he just overwhelms people. The prospect of Lima and Askren 2 will not sell a PPV or help one increase its buy rate. As Bellator MMA moves into the PPV world this is more of a concern for them. Rebney has been very clear with his vagueness in answering questions about Askren and his contract status. He is clearly trying very hard to avoid the mess that they went through with Eddie Alvarez and do what is best for Bellator MMA.
Letting Askren go makes the most sense for them. They do not currently have the type of wrestlers at welterweight to give Askren a competitive fight, much less an entertaining one. If Askren walks then Lima and the winner of the current tournament is an exciting fight, especially if it ends up being War Machine. His leaving would open up the division and allow them to sell the welterweight title fights on PPV. They would have a hard time getting people to watch a Lima vs Askren 2 much less pay $35 to $45 for it.
As we wait to find out what will happen with Askren, we can keep enjoying Bellator MMA on Friday nights on Spike TV. Up next is the baddest man on the planet Joe Warren making his return to the cage in abantamweight semifinal matchup with Nick Kirk in the main event. The main card will be the start of a another lightweight tournament. It has been an another exciting season from the fine folks at Bellator MMA so far.
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