Bellator 123 @ Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, CT
Over 7000 enthusiastic MMA fans filled the Mohegan Sun Arena last weekend for the season opener of the Scott Coker era Bellator promotion. With the tournament format now a thing of the past, the fight card was packed with marquee fights featuring some of Bellator’s top talent.
There were plenty of celebrities in attendance, including former football star turned MMA fighter Herschel Walker and boxing legend Larry Holmes.
UFC hall-of-famers Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar were also hanging out ringside, before president Scott Coker introduced them as the main event of the season’s closer on November 15th. For the past month (ever since Bonnar signed on to the promotion) the two fighters have made it abundantly clear that they dislike each other, and this animosity came to a head during the announcement (on national TV no less) when a good ol’ fashioned pro-wrestling brawl broke out in the cage after a heated exchange between the two fighters, during which Bonnar trotted out a masked “former friend” of Ortiz’s (who turned out to be Justin McCully). I’m no big fan of this kind of theatrics since the last thing this sport needs is to lose hard-won credibility points in the public eye, but judging by the reaction of the crowd in attendance that night, the confrontation went over great with most people. I guess time will tell whether this approach (should the trend continue) is beneficial or detrimental to the promotion in the long run.
But of course the night’s real entertainment was provided by the stellar fight card. The rematch between Pat Curran and Patricio Pitbull for the Featherweight strap proved just as exciting as their first match-up, and after five rounds of back-and-forth action Pitbull came away with the decision ~ becoming the new champion in the process. Clearly, a rubber match is in order between these two and I for one can’t wait to see it.
King Mo Lawal earned a TKO stoppage after raining punches on Dustin Jacoby early in the second round. It was a great performance by King Mo against a very tough opponent.
Tamdan McRory easily earned my Performance of The Night award by stopping local favorite Brennan Ward with a flurry of devastating crosses. McRory, returning to MMA after a 4-year hiatus, made a very clear statement in his Bellator debut: the rest of the Middleweight division is officially on notice.
Speaking of Bellator debuts, former pro-wrestling champ Bobby Lashley made his count with an impressive victory over Josh Burns. Lashley showed good striking and even better ground skills and eventually caught Burns in a merciless rear-naked choke in the second round.
Cheick Congo weathered an early striking assault by the very tough Lavar Johnson before getting him to the ground and sinking in a deep choke for the win. Cheick’s star is on the rise again and he’s got his eye firmly on the Heavyweight belt.