MMA from across the pond is on the agenda as we take a look at the quarter-finals of the featherweight tournament at Bellator 99, shown this past Friday night on Viva here in Britain.
The broadcast began with the aforementioned featherweight tournament. Quarter-final #1 saw Andrew Fisher taking on Joe Taimanglo.
With the height and reach advantage Fisher had I had expected my fellow Brit to use these natural gifts to good effect. Sadly, that wasn't part of his game plan, and he ended up paying the price.
For three rounds these two engaged in what could be termed as a rather interesting striking encounter. There were a few brief trips to the ground, but apart from that it was all about the punches, and how Taimanglo dominated most of the action.
The man from Guam put in a good performance, but while most of it was due to the clean shots he was getting in it was also due to Fisher's apparent inability to keep his man at bay. He hardly ever used his jab, and there were times when he didn't throw any shots in at all. This made it all the more easier for Taimanglo, and as time went on he grew more and more confident, so much so that for the last six or seven minutes of the fight he fought with his head in the air and his hands down by his waist.
Fisher threw a few jabs in the final round, but by then the horse had already bolted, and Taimanglo was at his most confident. What the Brit really needed was a big knockout or submission, but it just wasn't forthcoming.
With no finish in sight the judges were called in to give their view as Taimanglo took the unanimous decision.
Quarter-final #2 saw Justin Wilcox going up against Akop Stepanyan.
This was a fine example of how a fight can turn in an instant. For the first six minutes Stepanyan dominated the action with a series of kicks to Wilcox's left ankle. Most of them sent Wilcox down to the mat, and by the time the first round ended he was starting to limp quite badly.
The same thing happened when the second round began, and this time around the Russian's kick sent Wilcox cart wheeling down, and a few seconds later Stepanyan connected with a spinning back kick that opened up a nasty cut on the back of Wilcox's head.
But then Wilcox scored with the takedown. Stepanyan tried to shut him down until Wilcox managed to work out of that position. Then, when Stepanyan tried to get back to his feet Wilcox took his back and synched in a rear naked choke. The Russian fought it for as long as he could, which wasn't very long, and when he passed out the referee stopped the fight to give Wilcox the submission win.
The non-tournament fight featured light heavyweight action as Houston Alexander took on Vladimir Matyushenko.
These two had a combined age of 83, and at times this was like watching two old men staring at each other. It took them nearly a minute after the start of the fight to actually touch each other, and although the early exchanges were okay, what followed just wasn't that good.
For most of the second round they basically did nothing. They circled each other as the threatened to hit each other, but most of the time they didn't do much. There were a couple of blows, but most of the time it was as interesting as watching paint dry. Things got a little better in the third round, but not by much. There was a little ground action but it was hardly inspiring.
So after three rounds of not much at all the judges were given the less than envious task of scoring this one as Matyushenko took the unanimous decision.
Then it was back to the featherweight tournament, and quarter-final #3 saw Des Green taking on Fabricio Guerreiro.
This was certainly a lot better than the last fight. Guerreiro took control of the action early on with some crisp shots, and although Green got in some nice blows of his own he looked like a fighter who just couldn't get out of the starting blocks, and it took him a while to actually get into the fight.
By the time Green did get into the swing of things Guerreiro's performance was getting even better. His best moment came when Green took his back and was trying to take the fight to the ground. The Brazilian dropped down a level and immediately went for a triangle choke. It was a nice fluid move, although Green managed to get out of danger within seconds.
Green upped his game from the end of the second round onwards when he scored with a nice takedown, but by then it was too little too late, and I couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if he'd put in this kind of performance earlier in the fight.
As for the judges they were in complete agreement as Guerreiro took the unanimous decision.
The main event, and quarter-final #4, saw Diego Nunes taking on Patricio Pitbull.
We had quite an extensive feeling out period at the beginning of this one, with both fighters testing the waters with a few kicks. But then, just when it looked like it was going to go on for a while Pitbull connected with a short left that dropped Nunes like a bad habit. He then followed Nunes down for a couple of more blows before the referee stepped in to give Pitbull the knockout win.
In conclusion - this certainly proved to be something of a mixed night for Bellator.
I really enjoyed the tournament fights, even though my fellow Brit Mr. Fisher fell at the first hurdle. There were some nice performances there, and I'm looking forward to see how this tournament develops.
The show was let down a little by the Alexander/Matyushenko fight though. Both fighters looked their age in the cage, and it certainly didn't make for riveting viewing. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if this gets a worst fight of the year nomination when the various internet polls open in a few months time.
As for my fight of the night no-prize I'm going to plump for the Justin Wilcox/Akop Stepanyan encounter. For some reason I really like fights that can turn on an instant, and Wilcox's win was an example of how a fighter just can't take anything for granted.
So with all of that out of the way there's only one more thing to do, and that's to give Bellator 99 the thumbs up. Who knows, if it hadn't been for that light heavyweight fight that thumbs up may have been a bit bigger.