Emanuel Newton: Most Underrated Light Heavyweight On The Planet?

Bellator-94 Is it possible that Emanuel Newton is the most underrated light heavyweight fighter in mixed martial arts today? The winner of the Bellator Season 8 Light Heavyweight Tournament, Newton has won nine of his last 10 fights dating back to December 2009, which was over 40 months ago. His lone defeat during that time period came via controversial split decision to Attila Vegh last summer at Bellator 71 in a fight that many felt Newton deserved to win. But the judges gave the fight to Vegh, and instead of Newton fighting Christian M’Pumbu for the Bellator Light Heavyweight Championship earlier this spring, it was Vegh that did so, and he ended up winning the belt. Seeing Vegh win the title that Newton feels should be his has motivated the California native to the extreme, and after defeating Mikhail Zayats to win Bellator’s latest 205-pound tourney, Newton will get to have his revenge sometime later this year when the two meet with Vegh’s belt on the line. But it most definitely wasn’t an easy road to get back to the top for Newton. While Vegh sat out for six months waiting for his shot against M’Pumbu, Newton had to enter yet another Bellator tournament, and the odds were stacked against him from the beginning. In the opening round of the tourney, Newton squared off against little-known Atanas Djambazov. He entered the fight as a pretty sizeable -325 favorite, and he was able to prove the oddsmakers right when he submitted his foe in the second round with a rear-naked choke, one of his favorite moves. But most fans and observers felt the win over Djambazov was the only one Newton would get this spring, considering the way the bracket lined up meant that he had to fight former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal in the semi-final round. Although Newton closed as a gigantic +975 underdog against Lawal, who closed as a massive -1175 favorite, Newton was able to score the historic upset when he caught Lawal with a spinning back fist 155 seconds into their fight, knocking him out cold and proving to all the doubters out there that he’s not someone to take lightly, which is exactly what Lawal — who had his hands down the entire fight — did. And yet, despite the win over the world-ranked Lawal, Newton closed as an underdog in the light heavyweight tournament finals against Zayats, closing at +115. And he won that fight too, picking up a close unanimous decision in the main event of Bellator 94, and soon he’ll get his chance at revenge against Vegh. If you bet on Newton throughout this latest tournament, congrats, because he certainly made you some cash considering he closed as a dog twice in three fights. That’s because for some reason the Inglewood native keeps getting overlooked despite his solid 21-7-1 record in a career that started a decade ago, in 2003, and that’s included victories over Lawal, Zayats, Roger Hollett, David Heath, Rodney Wallace and James McSweeney — you know, guys that have fought in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. There’s no doubt that Newton went through a rough patch in the year 2009, when he lost all three of his fights. But with nine wins in 10 tries since then, it’s clear that Newton used that losing skid as a chance to refocus and improve as a fighter, and that’s exactly what he’s done. The UFC’s official rankings will never make a mention of Newton as long as he’s signed with Bellator, but make no doubt about it, Newton is one of the top light heavyweight fighters in the world and probably the most underrated 205 pounder out there today.

Written by Adam Martin.

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