The Last Word on WSOF 18, Legacy 38 and Bellator 133

Alexander ShlemenkoWith tonight’s UFC Fight Night 60 in Colorado ahead of us, we are already three action-packed cards into the extended mixed martial arts weekend. The big show awaits and kicks off with the preliminary card at 8pm ET on FOX Sports 1, and I am hungry for it, even though I’ve already had three spoonful’s of terrific fights. Thursday night’s WSOF 18 delivered an entertaining four-fight main card, which was live on NBCSN and saw three bouts end inside the distance, with only one seeing it’s way to the judges’ scorecards. After five rounds of action in the main event of the evening, the judges had a say in the outcome, and they ruled WSOF’s 135-pound champion Marlon Moraes the winner over Canada’s Josh Hill. Hill started off well early in the fight, winning the first round and looking like he could be en route to an upset. Unfortunately for him and the Canadian crowd in attendance at the Edmonton Expo Centre, Moraes came back to life in a close second round, and then convincingly took the third, fourth, and fifth to successfully defend his WSOF bantamweight title for the first time. The Canadian put up a good fight and gave the Brazilian the biggest challenge we have seen anybody give him thus far in the Decagon. Moraes showed great heart and saw his stock rise after the victory; and Hill may have suffered the first defeat of his professional mixed martial arts career resume, but despite the loss, he also saw his stock rise following his impressive performance. The WSOF 18 co-main event was a rematch between lightweights Shane Campbell and Derek Boyle. In their initial meeting three years ago, Campbell outstruck Boyle for a unanimous decision victory. Things were looking different in the first frame of the rematch, as Boyle got the better of Campbell on the feet to win the first round. Unfortunately for him, the tides took a turn in the second, as Campbell found his rhythm and began soundly outstriking Boyle. A brutal kick to the body was what did the job for Campbell just seconds into the third frame, giving Boyle no choice but to drop to his knees and wince in pain. After a quick Street Fighter ‘fireball’ pose, Campbell jumped all over Boyle for the TKO finish. It was an impressive comeback victory for Campbell, and likely because of the quick Street Fighter celebration following the body-kick, this TKO makes my list for the most beautiful finishes I’ve ever seen. Cody McKenzie saw his two-month long retirement come to an end when he took on Canadian welterweight Andrew McInnes in a 170-pound scrap on the WSOF 18 main card. After back and forth action, a powerful and blatant headbutt by McKenzie in the tail end of the first round brought the contest to a controversial stoppage. While McKenzie had been staying busy on top position in McIness’ guard, McIness was pulling his hair. With seconds remaining in the frame, McKenzie launched at the Canadian with a headbutt that deemed him unable to continue. McKenzie did not attempt to lie and say it was accidental, fully admitting to doing so in response to having his hair pulled and giving the referee no choice but to rule McIness the winner via disqualification. With the victory, McIness rises to 6-0 in his last six fights, while McKenzie drops to 3-7 in his last 10. I used to like watching McKenzie fight and hoped to see him pull off his famous McKenzietine submission, but nowadays I seem to find that hard to do. His story, I think is quite a sad one, and I hate to think about where he will be in five years, much less 10 or 15. Hakeem Dawodu is a talented Muay Thai kickboxer based out of Canada who has successfully made the transition into mixed martial arts and has had all of his professional MMA bouts under the WSOF banner. After picking up three victories in the promotion with all three wins coming by way of T/KO, Dawodu kicked off the WSOF 18 main card taking on Tristan Johnson and extended that streak, knocking Johnson out in the third round of action. Last night’s Legacy FC 38 on AXS TV featured a number of entertaining bouts, and the night was heavy with stoppages. In a pair of bantamweight scraps, undefeated Augusto Mendes defeated also-undefeated Evan Martinez via second round TKO and Steven Peterson defeated Caio Machado via guillotine choke in the very first round of action. Both 135-pounders looked impressive in victory, and they both hold hope of competing for the vacant Legacy FC bantamweight title in their next outing, which could potentially be against each other. The co-main event of the evening in Allen, TX saw Jason Sampson make his flyweight debut against two-time UFC veteran Joseph Sandoval. After scoring an early takedown, Sampson took Sandoval’s back, and after being unsuccessful at a couple of rear naked choke attempts, he began to rain down heavy ground and pound that made the UFC veteran cover up and give the referee no choice but to call off the action. I think Sampson looked solid at 125-pounds, but then again, that isn’t very hard to accomplish against Joseph Sandoval, who missed weight by more than five-pounds for the contest. Sampson’s goal is to make it to the UFC, and if he can continue to successfully make the weight and put on impressive performances, I think it is likely that UFC match-maker Sean Shelby will be giving him a ring and bringing him over to the big show. He could be real trouble for many flyweights on the UFC’s roster, but that can’t be said with confidence until Sampson shows that he is capable of going three full rounds in the division. The main event for Legacy 38 saw Anthony Njokuani return to the cage for the first time since his UFC release four months ago, and he took on Arkansas native Dave Burrow in a fight that proved to be very entertaining. Three eye pokes in the first round resulted in a one-point deduction for Burrow, who was getting outstruck on the feet by the Njokuani. The UFC veteran hurt him in the second frame, but Burrow survived and recovered, ending the round with a takedown, just as he had ended the first; and both times, it was too little, too late. Clearly down on the judges’ scorecards heading into the third and final round of the Legacy FC main event, Burrow knew he needed a finish, and the best way to earn one would be to score another takedown and employ his superior submission game. He began shooting early into the final stanza, and Njokuani did a successful job of defending his attempts. Burrow did not quit though and kept at it, eventually taking the fight to the mat and a moment later Njokuani’s back. It looked as if Burrow was going to try to finish the fight with a rear naked choke, but he brilliantly transitioned into an armbar. Njokuani did his best to defend, but Burrow kept moving with him and kept the hold tight, giving the UFC veteran no choice but to tap. Undefeated welterweight prospects Chris Honeycutt and Clayton MacFarlane kicked off last night’s Bellator 133 main card on Spike TV. With a third round TKO, Honeycutt continued to impress in extending his winning streak to six in a row. In a featured bout on the main card, women’s 145-pounder Julia Budd defeated Gabrielle Holloway via a very one-sided unanimous decision, and Budd is now 5-0 since losing to someone named Ronda Rousey back in 2011. The co-main event for Bellator 133 saw a pair of talented featherweights go at it in the form of Daniel Weichel vs Pat Curran, and it was Curran’s first non-title fight in nearly four years. Some people in my Twitter feed had scored the bout 30-27 for Weichel, with others including myself gave it to him 29-28. According to one judge at cage-side, Curran deserved the nod, as the result of the contest was Weichel winning a split decision. It was an impressive outing by Weichel, and the upset of Curran puts him on a seven-fight winning streak and in line right behind number-one contender Georgi Karakhanyan for a shot at the Bellator featherweight title. For Curran, it’s back to the drawing board, and a bout against either Fabricio Guerreiro or Goiti Yamauchi would make sense for his next outing. Bellator 133’s main event featured what was arguably the most highly anticipated fight of the extended four-card MMA weekend in Alexander Shlemenko vs Melvin Manhoef. However, the scrap did not start out as many fight fans had expected. After an uneventful first round, the Russian picked things up in the second and the action culminated with him landing a spinning backfist to put Manhoef away. Returning to the win column with another highlight-reel finish, Shlemenko was quick to call out Bellator middleweight champion Brandon Halsey for a rematch. I don’t think it is wise of the Russian to be asking for another fight against the undefeated 185-pound champion, considering Halsey is considerably bigger than him and has a massive edge on the mat, which resulted in him needing only thirty-five seconds to take Shlemenko’s back and put him to sleep with a rear naked choke in their initial meeting. I think he needs to wise up and move down to the welterweight division, where even there he would be noticeably undersized against Bellator’s 170-pound champion Douglas Lima. It has been a very solid couple nights of fights, and with three cards down, there is one more to go, so I look forward to UFC Fight Night 60 in Colorado tonight and hope it produces another entertaining night of scraps to wrap-up this extended weekend of exciting mixed martial arts action.

Written by Gabe Killian

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