Bellator 120 Recap: Judges Steal Spotlight From Lawal, Chandler

Bellator finally made it to pay-per-view on Saturday night, and the results seemed very appropriate for a promotion which over the years has managed to put on numerous exciting fights and memorable moments, yet has failed to gain the amount of traction one might expect from the world’s second-biggest MMA organization. There was a time when Bellator was putting on fantastic fights that people simply weren’t seeing because they were taking place on ESPN Deportes and MTV2, or pre-empted by local baseball coverage on Fox Sports Net. Now they have the TV deal in place, but the decision-making by the promotion doesn’t seem particularly sound. A business model which used to be centred around developing their own talent — and was quite successful in garnering exposure for fighters like Michael Chandler, Ben Askren, Eduardo Dantas and a slew of featherweights — now seems to have been cast aside under Viacom’s leadership for old UFC veterans like ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Tito Ortiz and Cheick Kongo. Still, despite losing the biggest drawing card this event offered — the third bout between Eddie Alvarez and Chandler — the organization marched on with their PPV attempt, and by all accounts it was… fun. There were times when it was infuriating (for instance massive stretches of time between bouts, and 53:04 of fight time in total going over the three hour PPV block) and perplexing (when the judges scorecards were announced for the final two bouts of the evening), but overall it was a memorable event, and that should be the biggest takeaway for fans. The light heavyweight tournament final between Jackson and ‘King’ Mo Lawal was promoted to the main event of the evening when Alvarez was forced out. This was never going to be a particularly exciting fight unless ‘Rampage’ landed a big shot early to put an end to things. Aside from the promotional angle, their styles simply didn’t play well to create an entertaining fight. Luckily, nobody will remember the actual fight, as the judges scoring the bout for Jackson even though most onlookers had it for Lawal overshadowed the 15 minutes in the cage. Following the decision, Lawal’s tirade about Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney even outshone the decision.

Personally, I scored the bout 29-29, so the decision didn’t bother me. In my eyes it wasn’t even the worst decision of the night — let alone the year, as some were claiming. There was talk of a rematch after the fight, and I hope for two things in that regard: 1) There is no rematch. 2) If there is a rematch, that it goes on Spike TV instead of PPV. I’d much rather see Jackson take the title shot against Emanuel Newton that comes along with being tournament champion, or even fight Tito Ortiz (yes, seriously), than a rematch with Lawal. The interim lightweight title bout between Chandler and Will Brooks is really what this PPV should be remembered for, even though the organization itself made it play second fiddle to Jackson/Lawal. The fight was an entertaining, back-and-forth affair, as all Michael Chandler bouts seem to be. The drama in the fifth round was exquisite, as Brooks looked to be winning the round before Chandler nearly finished him by strikes and then submission in the final minutes. This was after Chandler had taken the first two rounds, then Brooks stormed back in the third with a 10-8 round and also took the fourth by outgrappling the former champion.

Opinion was split from fans and media members. Would the judges score the bout a draw? Or, would they forego the 10-8 score in the third round and award the fight 48-47 to Chandler? Most assumed the latter, as he clearly took the first, second and fifth rounds. Well, in typical MMA judging fashion, they did neither. Two judges scored the third round a 10-9 for Brooks (wrong), and two scored the final round for Brooks (WRONG!) somehow. One judge, Rob Hinds, committed both of these errors when turning in his scorecard. When everything was tallied, Will Brooks was crowned the interim lightweight champion and posted one of the biggest upsets in MMA history, as he was a +800 underdog at Several Bookmakers heading into the bout. This is the second consecutive contentious decision that has gone against Chandler, who in the eyes of most rational observers should still be undefeated, but instead may have to enter another tournament if he wants to get his title back. Luckily, the remainder of the PPV left no room for the Mississippi commission to steal the spotlight. Tito Ortiz, fighting for the first time since July 2012, caught Alexander Shlemenko in an arm-triangle choke and put the organization’s middleweight champion to sleep halfway through the first round to provide another shocking upset. It was only Ortiz’ second win since 2006, and even though the bout was at light heavyweight, it certainly puts a dent in Rebney’s claims that Shlemenko is among the five best middleweights in the world. The season ten heavyweight tournament final was the second bout to air on the PPV, and fittingly, Alexander Volkov picked up the victory in the second round to win his second Bellator tournament and earn another bout against reigning champion Vitaly Minakov. Volkov showed improved skills on the ground, creating a scramble and catching Blagoi Ivanov in a rear-naked choke for the win. The opening bout of the night featured a strange, yet effective, performance from striking wizard Michael Page. While he seemed uninterested in the actual fight and more interested in… dancing (can you call that dancing?), Page proved the far superior striker and ended opponent Ricky Rainey’s night with an overhand right 30 seconds before the end of the opening round. Bellator’s first foray onto PPV was fun, memorable, frustrating, and definitely wacky. Kind of a fitting card for a promotion that embodies all of those qualities.

Written by Brad Taschuk

Leave a Reply

Bellator 120 Closing Odds & Results

Five Crazy Bellator 120 Prop Bets That Cashed Big