MMA Review: #588: Bellator 170

-Like I was going to skip this one – it’s Tito Ortiz vs. Chael Sonnen for Chrissake! Sure, Bellator hadn’t put together their best card for it but that main event plus Brennan Ward vs. Paul Daley sure had my interest. As did Ralek Gracie I guess because I’m still a bit of a Gracie fan. And on a weekend without a UFC what’s not to love?

Bellator 170

01/21/17
Los Angeles, California

-Your hosts are Sean Grande and Jimmy Smith.

Lightweight Fight: Derek Campos vs Derek Anderson

Announcers seem pretty pumped for the Battle of the Dereks, as Anderson had previously beaten Patricky Pitbull and Saad Awad, while Campos had KO’d Melvin Guillard on the infamous Shamrock vs. Gracie show. Personally I’d have considered putting Guilherme ‘Bomba’ Vasconcelos’s fight on here due to the whole Demi Lovato connection, but this looked like a decent fight too.

Round One begins and they trade punches from the off with Campos pushing forward and both men missing with some heavy hooks. Body kick from Anderson is caught and Campos lands a couple of shots before releasing. Good left hand gets through for Campos. Announcers mention that Anderson struggled to make weight for the fight. He lands with a body kick as Campos continues to throw punches. Nice knee inside connects for Campos but Anderson comes back with one of his own from the plum. Left hand drops Anderson to a knee for a second but he pops back up. Random taunt from Anderson leads to a pretty wild exchange that sees both men land before Big John McCarthy has to step in to replace Anderson’s mouthpiece. These guys are throwing BOMBS. Crisp leg kick lands for Campos and he adds another knee in for good measure as they continue to exchange. Flying knee misses for Anderson but he lands with a hard leg kick. Beautiful right hand from Anderson as he’s mixing it in with a jab. Campos comes back with a combination as they just keep on trading shots. Seconds to go and Anderson looks to be backing Campos up with his punches, but Campos turns the tables and comes back with some of his own. Wheel kick misses with Anderson and they continue to exchange til the round ends. Probably 10-9 Anderson but a close round for sure.

Round Two and Anderson fires some kicks to begin the round but he gets hurt by a left hand from Campos, who backs him up with a big flurry. Anderson tries to fire back but he’s hurt here and he’s taking punches. Great chin though as he doesn’t seem on the verge of going down or anything. No grappling whatsoever thus far. It’s basically a boxing match with the odd kick thrown in. Exchange continues and Anderson seems to have found his range a bit more again now, landing the better punches, particularly the left jab. Big combo from Campos connects at the halfway point of the round. Nice combination lands for Campos with absolutely zero defense from Anderson. Campos is potshotting him at times here. Couple of body kicks answer for Anderson but he gets dropped by an uppercut and Campos gets full mount before somehow losing the position, allowing Anderson to his feet. Clinch now and they exchange knees before breaking off. Back to the exchange and Campos uses a superman punch to set up a combo. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Campos to even things up I’d say.

Round Three and both guys throw out some kicks as the announcers seem to hint at the fight being a bit dull. Brief clinch from Campos is quickly broken and yeah, I really wish one of these guys would change things up a bit as watching a boxing match isn’t that exciting. Couple of good punches land for Anderson before Campos lands a left hook and gets to the clinch. They jockey for position before breaking off and then Campos lands a quick combo. Looks like Campos is busted up around the right eye. Takedown from Campos puts Anderson on his back though and he avoids a kimura attempt and practically takes the back. Anderson manages to escape though and they’re back on their feet. Takedown attempt from Anderson is blocked and they continue to exchange punches. This is going to be a super tight one to score. Hard right hand from Anderson and Campos responds with a takedown, and finds himself stuck in a guillotine. Full guard for Anderson but Campos slips his head free and passes into half-guard. A bit of top control here could win the fight for him. Lot of blood coming from Campos’s eye now. Scramble from Anderson but he takes some pretty decent punches. Campos attempts to take the back, but Anderson manages to escape and ends up on top in Campos’s guard. Campos kicks him away though and they get back up, where they jockey for position in the clinch and then exchange to end the round. Probably 10-9 Campos, could go either way.

Judges have it 29-28 all round for Derek Campos, same as I had it. The fight was decent I guess, but it did get frustrating in a sense that neither guy really took over the fight but neither man seemed to want to change their boxing-esque gameplan up to actually push for the win, if that makes sense. Some of the exchanges were definitely exciting though so fair play.

Featherweight Fight: Emmanuel Sanchez vs Georgi Karakhanyan

Karakhanyan is one of those guys I’ve heard a ton about but never actually seen fight, which is weird. He was coming off a pair of wins here – one over once-hot prospect Bubba Jenkins – and was talking a load of shit coming in, saying he’d tear through Sanchez and then move onto Melvin Guillard. Sanchez meanwhile had lost to Daniel Wiechel in his previous fight, a loss that snapped a decent Bellator run for him. Purely based on reputations I was taking Karakhanyan to win.

Round One begins and Karakhanyan comes out throwing hard left hands and blocks a couple of kicks from Sanchez. They exchange kicks and Sanchez follows with a decent combo. Clinch follows and Sanchez goes for a trip, but Georgi blocks it and forces him back into the fence. Takedown attempt from Karakhanyan now and he works and gets Sanchez down, but it looks like Sanchez is looking to lock up the left arm. Sanchez manages to work to his feet, but Karakhanyan sneakily takes his back, getting one hook in briefly before losing it. He does hold onto a rear waistlock though and works a couple of knees to the hamstrings. Action slows down a lot as the announcers discuss BJ Penn in a weird spot. Sanchez manages to turn into Karakhanyan who drops for another takedown attempt, and after a struggle he gets Sanchez down again. Again Sanchez manages to muscle up to his feet, but he can’t shake Georgi off him here at all. Finally Sanchez manages to spin out of a back take attempt and gets on top, taking Karakhanyan’s back and getting both hooks in for good measure. Karakhanyan stands with him on his back, and it looks for a second like Sanchez might have the choke, but he can’t finish it before the bell. Very close round, I’d probably go 10-9 Karakhanyan for the amount of time he spent in control, although Sanchez did better at the very end.

Round Two and Sanchez opens with a really clean combo that backs Georgi up. Single leg attempt from Karakhanyan comes in response and he shoves Sanchez into the fence and gets the rear waistlock again as the crowd boo. Sanchez spins free this time though and opens up with a nice combo, but Georgi swings back and suddenly this is getting good. Takedown from Sanchez and he lands in half-guard, where he delivers a bunch of hammer fists as Karakhanyan tries to get a butterfly guard. Sanchez prevents that and drops some more decent elbows, then stands over him to deliver a big left hand down into the guard. Really good ground-and-pound from Sanchez here as he moves into half-guard again. Karakhanyan is taking a ton of shots. Crowd are still booing though and I have no idea why as Sanchez is being so active. Karakhanyan kicks him away momentarily and then lands with a blatantly illegal upkick, so ref Blake Grice calls time ad despite Sanchez seeming fine, he offers him the doctor. Sanchez says he’s fine and they restart in the same position, with Sanchez posturing up over Georgi to land more punches. Karakhanyan keeps trying to kick him away and now Sanchez knees HIM while he’s down. Crowd are really pissed off now. Replay shows Karakhanyan was clearly down despite Sanchez protesting. He seems more hurt than Sanchez did from his illegal blow, and Grice calls the doc in to check him over. Doctor decides Georgi can continue, and then Grice TAKES A POINT, which is BIZARRE given he didn’t take a point from Karakhanyan for the earlier infraction. He tries to justify it because Sanchez did land two illegal knees, but eh, bad call in my opinion. They restart on the feet and Sanchez seems angry because he comes right out and TAGS Karakhanyan with a combo. Georgi responds with a takedown, but Sanchez sweeps him right off and takes the back! Well, that was awesome. Both hooks in for Sanchez and then he slaps on a body triangle and goes for the choke. Karakhanyan manages to defend it, but the round ends with Sanchez in firm control. Sanchez’s round but it’s a 9-9 due to the point deduction, so I’d call it 19-18 for Karakhanyan going into the third.

Round Three and they trade some kicks before Sanchez closes Georgi down with some punches. Takedown from Karakhanyan though and Sanchez is on his back in full guard. Few punches get through for Karakhanyan but Sanchez stays active from his back going for a triangle and an armbar. Georgi avoids both and manages to scramble into back control with both hooks, really good ground work there. Sanchez needs to do something here ASAP. Karakhanyan isn’t coming close to a submission or anything but he’s in firm control. Crowd are booing again now as Karakhanyan isn’t really doing a lot with this position, but it’s not like a stand-up would be justified at all. Body triangle is now locked up by Karakhanyan. Seconds to go and Sanchez desperately tries to shake his way free, but he can’t get out of the position and Karakhanyan ends the round with some punches. 10-9 Karakhanyan and I’d call it 29-27 for him; you could probably argue 28-28 too though if you gave Sanchez the first round.

Judges have it 28-28, 28-27 and 28-27 for Emmanuel Sanchez, meaning those two judges gave him a 10-8 – well, 9-8 – second round! Didn’t expect that but to be fair it *was* a one-sided round. I wouldn’t have gone 10-8 just because Karakhanyan wasn’t close to being finished or anything but fair play to the judges for giving it as there aren’t enough 10-8’s handed out anyway. Fight was good from where I was standing with a ton of back-and-forth action, and while there were a handful of slower spots I don’t get all the booing from the crowd at all.

Middleweight Fight: Ralek Gracie vs Hisaki Kato

So yeah I have to admit, any Gracie fighting in MMA will always have my interest even if they turn out to be pretty bad (like Rolles for instance) and hey, the last time Bellator showcased a Gracie in Neiman he looked great. Ralek though hadn’t fought since 2010 (!) when he beat old family rival Sakuraba in DREAM, which meant that this was an odd match in general. Kato meanwhile shot to fame back in 2015 with his superman punch KO of Joe Schilling, and with all of his wins (and losses) coming by KO or TKO, this was clearly a striker vs. grappler match.

Fight begins and both guys look pretty tentative and keep their distance. Low kick lands for Kato but Gracie comes back with a pair of side kicks to the chest. A third one misses and Gracie goes down, but Kato won’t follow him and he glances on a couple of shots as Ralek stands. Both men keep throwing ineffective kicks and two minutes in and the crowd aren’t really into it at all. Decent inside leg kick does land for Kato. Non-action continues as it looks like Gracie’s stand-up game is non-existent while Kato doesn’t want to open up for fear of the takedown. Seconds to go and a superman punch leads into a flurry for Kato. Gracie goes down but it looks like he’s trying to spin for a submission and sure enough Kato quickly pulls out and stands, forcing Ralek to join him. That’s the round. One of the worst rounds I can remember seeing in a long time; 10-9 Kato for that one flurry.

Into the 2nd and the first minute is more of the same, a bunch of ineffective kicks from Gracie and some slightly more effective ones from Kato. My God this is a bad fight. Gracie hasn’t even gone for a takedown or a clinch yet. Halfway through the round and the ref gives both guys a warning for inactivity, fair play. Kato comes forward with some more aggression and easily stuffs a takedown. He doesn’t really land much though and then circles right back out. Quick flurry lands again for Kato and Gracie leans in for a takedown but doesn’t come close. Boos are DEAFENING now. Inside leg kick lands for Kato. Another lean-in takedown attempt is easily shrugged off. Round comes to a merciful end with another Kato flurry of sorts. Can you score a round 0-0? Because I reckon you would with that one. 10-9 Kato I guess.

Third and final round and Kato opens with a low kick. Gracie just seems to have nothing to offer at all. Another low kick lands for Kato and given Gracie’s takedown attempts so far I’m surprised he hasn’t opened up with more strikes. Crowd are now chanting FIGHT FIGHT like in a schoolyard, but it’s wishful thinking I reckon. Body kick actually connects for Gracie and then he finally goes for a decent takedown attempt, forcing Kato into the cage with a bodylock. He can’t get Kato down though and Kato shrugs him off and comes in with a flurry. Another takedown attempt from Gracie is successful and he gets Kato on his back in guard, but Kato ties him up from the bottom and Gracie opens up with a headbutt to the chest, garnering a warning. Announcers are already moving on now, talking up a special announcement a bit later on. Gracie manages to pass into side mount and then steps to full mount. There’s only seconds to go though and it doesn’t look like he can pull anything off. Fight ends with Gracie in mount and I guess the third goes his way, but it’s 29-28 Kato overall.

Scores are 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 for Hisaki Kato. Well, that was one of the worst fights I’ve ever seen point blank. If there’s a worse televised one from any of the major promotions in 2017 I’ll be very surprised. Kato just didn’t open up at all apparently for fear of Ralek’s takedown game, which seemed to be non-existent anyway and the aggression was absolutely zero from both men. I don’t like to rag on anyone who fights professionally but I mean, I’d rather watch two totally unskilled brawlers than that, you know?

-Our special announcement follows and it’s unfortunately Bellator making a rematch between Rampage Jackson and King Mo. Don’t get that really as the first fight wasn’t that great and I expected Bellator to look to put Mo back in with Phil Davis at some stage. Rampage looks seriously out of shape here too, worse than he was in his semi-retirement stage in 2009 even.

Welterweight Fight: Paul Daley vs Brennan Ward

Well, while we know the limitations of Daley at this point (he’s been around for what feels like forever now and hasn’t really evolved past being a deadly striker with a questionable ground game) and realistically, Ward’s never lived up to the early hype Bellator gave him back in the Bjorn era, I was still super-excited for this fight because if nothing else, Ward ALWAYS comes to fight and that meant likely fireworks for as long as this lasted. Despite being a Brit I was actually hoping Ward would win because I really want to see him in the UFC at some point and he’ll only get there with a bunch of wins!

Round One and both guys look pumped up and ANYTHING is going to be better than the previous match, surely. Low kick glances early for Daley and then they exchange punches before Ward catches a kick and throws the Brit down. He lets Semtex back up and then glances on a nice left hook. Takedown from Ward has the crowd booing again but he lets Daley up to land a quick combination. Lot of aggression early from Ward as you’d expect and he backs Daley up to land another quick combo. Big overhand right glances for Daley. Left hook lands nicely for Daley in another exchange but Ward shoots for the takedown again. Daley goes down and Ward almost gets full mount, but a scramble sees Daley get to his knees. Ward slaps one hook in but he can’t take the back and the Brit works back up to his feet. Spinning back elbow (!) from Daley breaks and has Ward hurt, and Daley follows that up with a BRUTAL FLYING KNEE THAT KILLS WARD DEAD!~!

Holy shit that was a scary finish from Paul Daley. Maybe the best of his career and that’s saying something considering his ridiculous KO’s of Dustin Hazelett and Scott Smith. Ward literally looked like he’d been shot when he went down, stiff as a corpse. Post-fight he’s going out on a stretcher. Dude brought the fight exactly as he advertised; he just ended up in a shootout with the wrong guy this time. I won’t post the picture of his face post-fight but needless to say it was one of the nastiest looking cuts in MMA history, like Daley had somehow carved Ward’s left eye almost off his face. This lived up to all the hype and then some, and will undoubtedly end up as one of the best KO’s of 2017. Post-fight Daley calls out Rory MacDonald and I hope Scott Coker gives it to us!

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Tito Ortiz vs Chael Sonnen

So yeah, this was a totally irrelevant fight in every possible way with regard to sport or rankings, but when it was announced in October there was no way I was ever missing it – Tito is the guy who got me into MMA as I’ve mentioned a bunch of times and this was to be his final match (supposedly, didn’t he already do that in 2012?) and it was against Sonnen, the best trash talker in MMA history. Definitely a huge rabbit for Scott Coker to pull out of his hat of wackiness and it basically guaranteed eyeballs and thus ratings, even if going forward it wouldn’t exactly help anyone. You could argue that Bellator ought to be trying to build newer guys off the big names of Tito and Sonnen but then they already did that with Liam McGeary and basically got nowhere, so hey. I had absolutely no idea who was going to win, either. I suspected Sonnen was less shot than Tito but realistically, Tito’s ceiling was far higher than Chael’s back in the day and Chael’s prime was most likely completely fuelled by PED’s, too.

Pre-fight we get the US NATIONAL ANTHEM because of course we fucking do, I guess it wouldn’t be a Coker tentpole show without stuff like that. Crowd are firmly behind Tito as it’s in California I guess. Chael also looks pretty out of shape to me.

First round begins and Chael comes charging out but gets hit with a couple of early punches. Kick to the body from Tito and he goes for a single leg, and gets Chael down. Sonnen grabs onto a front headlock and manages to sweep into a guillotine attempt, then switches off to what looks like a decent D’Arce attempt. He can’t quite lock it up though and winds up dropping to his back for a guillotine, which turns out to be a mistake as Tito hops into half-guard. Chael keeps trying the guillotine but Ortiz frees his head and then slices his way into full mount! Couple of short elbows get through as Chael tries to defend, and then he gives his back and Tito has both hooks in! Rear naked choke attempt follows for Tito and it looks like it might be sunk as you can see Chael turning purple. Looks more like a neck crank in fact, but regardless it’s tight and CHAEL TAPS OUT! Cue the GRAVEDIGGER for one last time, nice.

Post-fight Tito puts over his training partners and his fans, then brings his son into the cage to lay his gloves down in the cage to finally end his career. Pretty poetic actually even if it doesn’t quite feel right for him to not be retiring properly in the UFC. At least from all reports he’s buried the hatchet with Dana White (again!) so he shouldn’t be persona non grata like Frank Shamrock. Fight was actually fun while it lasted as they put on a pretty decent grappling match, and I don’t buy into the accusations of a work at all – Tito’s grappling and submission game was always underrated and realistically Sonnen hadn’t fought since 2013 and was probably fighting clean here for the first time in years too. So Tito’s now done of course and I’m not sure what Bellator should do with Chael now – I don’t think there’s any point in using him to put over younger talent as really, they don’t have anyone like that at 185lbs or 205lbs so I say if they can somehow do it legally, bring in Wanderlei Silva and finally give us that fight. And shit, do it in Texas too and let them roid up to their heart’s content!

-Show ends with Tito and his son walking up the ramp as the big screen shows a massive THANK YOU graphic. Pretty cool really.

Final Thoughts….

This show ended up drawing a pretty big rating for Bellator due to the Ortiz/Sonnen fight and overall it was decent I guess; Campos/Anderson and Sanchez/Karakhanyan were both perfectly acceptable, the main event delivered in the best way it probably could’ve and Paul Daley’s knockout was insane. Kato/Gracie was a HUGE black eye on the whole thing though, not that you can blame Bellator or Scott Coker really though as nobody could’ve expected it to be that bad. Overall I’d say the show is worth a look, just skip that fight or shit, you could even skip right to Daley/Ward and go from there, particularly if you got into the sport because of Tito Ortiz like I did.

Best Fight: Ward vs. Daley
Worst Fight: Kato vs. Gracie

Overall Rating: ***

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com