The Sunday Aftermath: The New Bellator, UFC Fight Night 50, MMA Drama and Invicta 8


Another weekend, another three MMA events as it seems the fighting calendar gets more and more packed with every week that passes. To kick off the month of September we were treated to Bellator going up against UFC on Friday before all-female promotion Invicta returned after a long break on Saturday night.

Bellator enters a new era

For Bellator, it was maybe the most unusual show in the history of the company. For the first time ever, founder Bjorn Rebney was not part of the production after being released of his duties by Viacom – the company which purchased the promotion from him in early 2013. Instead, Strikeforce founder Scott Coker was given the reigns after his contracted period with the UFC elapsed.

The card had Coker’s influence printed all over it with a title fight on top of bouts from former Strikeforce competitors “King” Mohammed Luwal and Bobby Lashley. It was former WWE star Lashley up first in his return to MMA as he submitted Josh Burns with rear naked choke in the second after a sloppy comeback to the cage. Before that, opening the main card, were former UFC heavyweights Cheick Kongo and Lavar Johnson who threw down in a lacklustre one round fight which saw Kongo also sink in the rear naked choke for the win. King Mo had a similarly easy evening with a second round TKO of Dustin Jacoby after winning the first. The main event, though, was the most important action of the night and saw defending champion Pat Curran give up his featherweight title to Patricio Pitbull in a dominating five round performance.

Unfortunately, the fights were overshadowed by a professional wrestling style announcement that former UFC champion Tito Ortiz is to fight Stephan Bonnar at Bellator 131 on November 15th. The pair squared off in the cage as Bonnar unmasked Ortiz’s former teammate Justin McCully before Ortiz “pushed” Bonnar and a melee ensued. A fight which had no heat whatsoever behind it has now, amazingly, become the talk (or laughing stock) of the MMA world.

Friday Night Wars

Coming into UFC Fight Night 50 much of the talk was about counter-programming Bellator; and there’s certainly a case to be made for that being true – despite UFC president’s constant denial of it. For one, the show was placed in an arena fifteen minutes from where Bellator’s event was hosted on a Friday night when UFC events almost always happens on a Saturday. Unusually, for a fight night, the card was stacked from top to bottom with exciting fights, seemingly a clear sign that the UFC wanted to out draw Bellator both at the gate and in the TV ratings.

On the other hand, the card was a couple of weeks after UFC 176 was cancelled and improved because of it while Invicta’s placement on Saturday night was reason enough to throw down a day earlier. The fact of the matter is we don’t know and will never know. If I was to guess, the UFC probably planned the event for Saturday and had invicta penciled in for Friday but when they saw the opportunity to counter program Bellator they took it. Until those TV rating come out, though, a victor can’t be crowned.

Jacare Of Light

Whatever the case was the Foxwoods fights certainly delivered; with shocks throughout the night. The fight of the night winner opened the main card as Michael Chiesa and Joe Lauzon went to war for two rounds before a huge cut on the face of Chiesa forced the doctor to call a stop to the fight. Then, two heavyweight fights ended inside the opening round. Firstly, Matt Mitrione battered Derrick Lewis with a straight right hand and then Ben Rothwell took advantage of the increasingly suspect chin of Alistair Overeem to put him away in the early exchanges. Retirement calls have been muted for Overeem with the level of damage he has taken recently. Add to that the unlikely-hood of the UFC wanting to continue to pay his extremely high salary and it’s hard to argue with that retirement might be “The Reem’s” best option at this stage of his career.

The main event, though, was the stand-out bout of the weekend and went how many had predicted with Jacare Souza putting on an imperious display of striking and grappling in dominating Gegard Mousasi from the opening bell. The Brazilian gave the man who knocked him out in 2008 an MMA clinic for three rounds before choking Mousasi out with a guillotine that he had been threatening all night. Jacare looks set to be the man to challenge the winner of Chris Weidman’s championship fight with Vitor Belfort scheduled for December 6th. On current form, you wouldn’t bet against him securing that strap.

Almost Entirely Impressive Invicta

For the first time in ten months, all-female promotion Invicta returned on Saturday night for its eight event. The past seven shows have been a huge platform for women in the sport and have produced wonderful fights as well as a number of potential stars. The problem, though, was a constant feeling of one step back and two steps forward with constant technical issues and online platform changes. That was until Invicta president Shannon Knapp struck a deal with the UFC to air all future events, starting last night, on Fight Pass – the UFC’s online video platform. And it went without a hitch entirely until the stream gave out halfway through the main event. It was horrible issue which shouldn’t have happened on Fight Pass but it’s equally a tough break for Invicta who had been hoping to put the tech issues in the past. They were, on the plus side, more impressive than ever throughout the night with the stream quality and general production which was running perfectly up until that point.

Getting to the action and two titles were up for grabs on the night with an array of notable prospects spread throughout the undercard. The stand-out early performances came from Mexican Bantamweights Alexa Grasso and Irena Aldana who both emerged with victories and calls for them to be matched on the upcoming UFC card in their home country. The low point of a great night was the sloppy 155 lbs affair where Charmaine Tweet finished Veronica Rothenhausler after a tired looking first ever promotional lightweight fight which is best forgotten. The top four fights, though, were where all the quality was. WMMA legends Tara LaRosa and Roxanne Modafferi put on an enjoyable three round scrap with Modafferi taking the unanimous decision after a career best performance. Then, Tonya Evinger armbarred Ediane Gomes in the first before the strawweight title was on the line between Katja Kankaanpaa and Stephanie Eggink. It was Eggink who dominated the fight and looked to be cruising her way to the decision win but out of nowhere Katja went all out in the final round and tapped Eggink with a wonderful d’arce choke. Topping the bill was the atomweight championship fight between Michelle Waterson and Yasuko Tamada. Unfortunately, the fight was marred by the stream going down. Nonetheless, Waterson put on wonderful striking display and got the standing TKO in the third. Invicta are so close to getting everything perfect and by the time IFC9 comes around lets hope all the growing pains are finished and we get to see the return of Cris Cyborg without any issues

Podcaster, lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Sunday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Also write for Sherdog. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook

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