Bellator 120 Results: The Real Winners and Losers from Jackson vs. Lawal
You'd be forgiven for forgetting, but Bellator actually had some fights on Saturday night.
Bellator 120 was the first pay-per-view event in the promotion's history, but the whole thing felt like a limp toward the finish, rather than the celebration of a new phase in the life cycle. In other words, the big day arrived despite the circumstances around it, not because of them.
Not up on your Bellator history? Follow me to the blackboard. See, it wanted to make its pay-per-view debut seven months ago with Bellator 106 but slapped the whole thing back down to cable after main-eventer Tito Ortiz pulled out on late notice. It only comes now despite the highly conspicuous absence of the promotion's biggest star, Eddie Alvarez, who pulled out of his main event title fight with Michael Chandler.
When Bellator announced that the pay-per-view, this time, would go on as scheduled, insiders and hardcore fans howled with indignation and, yeah, laughter. The card, went their argument and/or punch line, wasn't strong enough to carry a PPV in the first place. No way was this a viable, big-time card without the promotion's two best fighters to anchor it.
Maybe, maybe not. But put aside the armchair quarterbacking on buy numbers and the future of the company for a moment. Laboring in the long, dark shadow of the UFC, Bellator has always struggled for respect and probably always will. When Saturday night finally rolled around, fighters had their day in court to determine the worth of the event.
What kind of argument did they present? That rubber match between Alvarez and Chandler will have to wait, but in the meantime, Chandler faced a dangerous (if lesser-known) lightweight in Will Brooks for the interim lightweight strap. And in the main event, former UFC light heavyweight champ Quinton "Rampage" Jackson took on Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal. And there were some other interesting (from one point of view or another) fights to be found across the card.
As always, the final stat lines only reveal so much. Here are the real winners and losers from Bellator 120.
Winner: Quinton "Rampage" Jackson
Qunton "Rampage" Jackson rode some home cooking and heavy right hands to a close win over Muhammed Lawal, his third win in the Bellator cage and a shot at light heavyweight champion Emanuel Newton.
It wasn't exactly a barnburner. When Lawal wasn't visibly concerned about any punching exchange of any kind, Jackson was sitting on his backside against the fence wondering how to get back up.
But even after the fight was over, these two were still jawing at each other, as they had been for months running up to the fight. That was interesting, I suppose. It was certainly interesting to Jackson, who, after the fight, took the opportunity to challenge Lawal—the man he had just beaten to earn a title shot with Newton, mind you—to a rematch, according to combat sports broadcaster Mauro Ranallo.
Your guess is as good as mine. But he's now a winner in three straight. We'll see what, or whether that title fight, happens. Should be interesting.
Loser: Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal
Muhammed Lawal did what he thought he had to do. No more, no less.
A wrestler by background, Lawal clearly wanted to get the takedown, and that's what he did. He wanted no part of a striking battle with Jackson. That was probably smart. Unfortunately for fans, however, it was boring.
It turns out that was kind of unfortunate for Lawal, too. Apparently the judges were more impressed by the greater visible damage inflicted by Jackson, and they handed him the title on his own stomping grounds (the fight card took place near his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee).
On something of a bright side for King Mo, the winner of this fight got a shot at Newton. Lawal has already lost twice to Newton. So hey, there's that.
No, these were, in many cases, not elite fighters.
Yes, the card had a "freak show" air to it in places (Ortiz vs. Shlemenko, Rampage vs. Mo). And yes, the latter of those two fights was not good. Neither of them was good, now that I think about it.
Yes, the show moved slowly (it didn't end until after 1 a.m. ET). And yes, the whole production had that sort of carnival-barking, hyperbole-laden, Napoleon-complex-having feel that is so very familiar to Bellator viewers.
No, it probably won't do "huge numbers."
But you know what? It wasn't all bad, as Jordan Breen of Sherdog.com suggested. The card contained some high drama, including Will Brooks breaking out vs. Michael Chandler, old buzzard Ortiz shocking Shlemenko and Michael Page proving why he's a future star in the sport.
We'll know more in the coming days as the data roll in, but for now, Bellator's first pay-per-view was a pretty solid event inside the chain link.
Looking back, I'm just not sure I would have paid for it.
Winner: Will Brooks
Michael Chandler was bigger inside the cage, and in the beginning, Will Brooks was unable to stand up to his strength. Over and over, Chandler scored thunderous takedowns, cracked Brooks with ground-and-pound and powered out of any disadvantage. And it looked as if Brooks would cave easily.
But the tide turned as the fight went on. Brooks is one heck of a good fighter, to which his four-fight winning streak over some of Bellator's best lightweights can attest. Still, no one expected him to batter Chandler the way he did on the feet.
Brooks looked to press the action forward even as Chandler worked to stall from the bottom. Brooks may have won a 10-8 round in the third when he landed a head kick, among many other things, and gashed open Chandler in the process.
Ultimately, Chandler simply made too many mistakes, including giving up his back too many times and allowing himself to be beaten to the punch while the action was vertical. There was a case to be made for either fighter; two judges saw the card, 48-47, for Brooks (one saw it by the same score for Chandler), and Brooks leaped around the cage in jubilation as the announcer read the verdict.
That was a controversial decision, but no matter how you slice it, Brooks fought a great fight and deserves to be recognized for a breakthrough moment.
It was a blow to Chandler, who had only lost once previously, to one Eddie Alvarez. This was the worst fight of his pro career, and he acknowledged as much in his post-fight interview.
"Worst performance of my life," Chandler said in the cage after the fight, as documented by MMA Fight Corner's Heidi Fang. "A lot of different things going on. Congrats to Will Brooks. I'll be back stronger."
Laugh or scoff all you want at this crazy upset and this crazy night and crazy Bellator and all its crazy stuff. But reserve a moment of silence, please, for a good guy, a very good fighter and now a new champion in "Ill" Will Brooks.
Loser: Alexander Shlemenko
Alexander Shlemenko looked solid at first. That is, until a much bigger (and natural) light heavyweight in Tito Ortiz rode him to the mat, put an arm around his neck, worked his way into a choke and elicited the referee to call the technical-submission stoppage.
A huge upset win for Ortiz, a devastating loss for Shlemenko. The Russian won't be able to live this one down anytime soon, despite the one-off quality it has for being a class above his normal division.
"Guess who's back?" Ortiz told broadcaster Jimmy Smith in the cage after the fight. "I worked hard as hell for this...I'm just inspired to inspire others. It shows what hard work and dedication can achieve."
Ortiz then went on an extended rant against the UFC, the doubters and so forth.
Yes, he was a winner Saturday night, and it will ensure he'll be able to stay around for a few more tasty paychecks, but it probably didn't get him much closer to anything resembling his former contender status. If was, after all, Ortiz's first win in three years, and it came against a much smaller fighter—a converted middleweight in Shlemenko.
"Storm," on the other hand, lost quite a bit. He was arguably the best Russian fighter in the game today, and he will remain Bellator's middleweight champ. But there's no way he can't be considered damaged goods for the foreseeable future.
Winner: Blagoy Ivanov
It didn't matter what happened to Blagoy Ivanov in the cage Saturday night. Well, maybe it did a little.
But it all paled in comparison to what happened to him in February 2012, when he was stabbed in a bar fight and nearly died as a result. A long, slow but successful slog back to full function—and, eventually, the MMA cage—was genuinely remarkable.
He was 4-0 on his comeback trail coming into Saturday night. The path hit a bump when he became an unlikely submission victim, but he's still a winner every time he steps inside the cage, as cliche as that might sound.
Winner: Michael Page
In the biggest fight of his young but phenomenal career, Michael Page spent about four-and-a-half minutes dancing and about one second KOing. That's not a bad ratio.
Facing Ricky Rainey, a tough knockout artist in his own right, Page shuffled and fluttered through the first round, landing a few solid counters but mainly staying out of the danger zone. He even walked away from Rainey on a couple of occasions, nearly turning his back completely on his opponent.
Perhaps it was just the relative lack of combat engagement, perhaps it was something else, but the Mississippi crowd didn't care for Page's style, according to Breen.
In any event, it only took Page one punch to turn it around. A straight counter right behind Rainey's ear sent him down, and the referee waved it off. It may have been a touch early, but it was clear who the better fighter was.
Page is 6-0 now at age 27 and 2-0 in Bellator. Time to move this guy up the ladder.
Loser: The Heavyweights
A good heavyweight is hard to find.
Bellator's roster proved that in triplicate. First, Mike Wessel and Justin Frazier waged a sloppy slugfest that ended in a Wessel TKO in the first round.
Then, aging veteran Cheick Kongo worked his clinch-attrition magic, going all slow-motion hero on a gassed-out Eric Smith—and in the final televised bout before the pay-per-view, no less—to get a TKO nearly by default.
On the main card, Alexander Volkov took out a flat Blagoy Ivanov by submission in the second round of their contest. It was only the second submission win in Volkov's 26-fight career. He did earn a $100,000 check for winning this Bellator tourney and grabbed a rematch with the man who took his Bellator belt, Vitaly Minakov, but his performance didn't inspire a ton of confidence in a different outcome there.
This problem isn't specific to Bellator. The UFC doesn't have a lot of great heavyweights, either. As the poets say, it is what it is.
Full Card Results
Quinton Jackson def. Muhammed Lawal by unanimous decision
Will Brooks def. Michael Chandler by split decision (wins interim Bellator lightweight title)
Tito Ortiz def. Alexander Shlemenko by technical submission (arm-triangle choke), 2:27, Rd. 1
Alexander Volkov def. Blagoy Ivanov by submission (rear-naked choke), 1:08, Rd. 2
Michael Page def. Ricky Rainey by KO, 4:29, Rd. 1
Cheick Kongo def. Eric Smith by TKO, 4:35, Rd. 2
Marcin Held def. Nate Jolly by submission (armbar), 4:20, Rd. 1
Fabricio Guerreiro def. Shahbulat Shamhalaev by submission (kimura), 3:29, Rd. 1
Goiti Yamauchi def. Mike Richman by unanimous decision
Austin Lyons def. Zach Underwood by technical decision
Mike Wessel def. Justin Frazier by TKO, 4:28, Rd. 1
Ben Brewer def. Andy Uhrich by KO, 2:40, Rd. 2
Codie Shuffield def. Anthony Lemon by submission (rear-naked choke), 2:15, Rd. 2
Brian Hall def. Cortez Phelia by TKO, 0:24, Rd. 3