Saturday, March 26, 2011

March Madness, MMA Style

As I sit here typing, I am literally engulfed in the hype of March Madness. Yes, I've been watching all the excitement of the NCAA College Basketball Tournament, but right now I am enjoying March Madness MMA style. I am checking out the light-heavyweight (205 lbs.) tournament quarterfinals of Bellator 38 on MTV2, while at the same time watching the preliminary fights of UFC Fight Night 24 on Facebook. Yes, I am watching both events live, one on TV and the other on my computer. Can you tell I love MMA?

With the main card for the UFC still a couple of hours away, I'll start with Bellator and for those that did not bother to tune in, you missed a good one. A couple of upsets, a slick submission and a come from behind KO victory were all part of the first ever 205 lbs. tournament in Bellator's history. In the main event, Tim Carpenter (7-0, 3 subs) surprised everyone, but himself, as he won a split decision victory over celebrated jiu-jitsu world champion Daniel Gracie (5-3-1, 4 subs). In a very close fight throughout, it was Carpenter, not Gracie, who was the aggressor on the ground attempting numerous submissions.

The biggest upset of the night came in the third fight, where a back and forth battle saw relative unknown D.J. 'Da Protege' Linderman (9-1, 3 KO's 3 subs) take out the early favorite in this tourney Raphael 'Noodle' Davis (10-2, 2 KO's 7 subs). Early on, it looked like Davis was going to have it easy as he was drilling Linderman with knees from a Muay Thai clinch in the first round. However, Linderman had other ideas as his own vicious stand up attack finally took its toll in the third round. There, after an inadvertent low blow against Davis that caused a pause in the action, Linderman pummeled Davis with punches that eventually forced the referee to jump in and stop it.

The submission of the night, and early candidate for submission of the year, goes to Rich 'Rare Breed' Hale (16-3-1, 6 KO's 8 subs) for his inverted triangle choke on Nik 'The Machine' Fekete (4-1, 2 KO's) in less than two minutes of the first round. Fekete, shot in for the takedown and got it, but in a scramble, Hale landed on Fekete's back upside down and pulled off the move that made Toby Imada a household name in Bellator's first season. Ironically, in my preview of tonight's fights I posted a photo of Imada's inverted triangle against Jorge Masvidal.

In the first fight of the night, Christian 'Tonton' M'Pumbu (16-3-1, 5 KO's, 8 subs) won the battle of the Chris's with a come form behind third round TKO over Chris 'The Professional' Davis (10-3, 5 KO's, 5 subs). Although he held his own and attempted a couple of submissions in the first two rounds, he was clearly behind going into the third. Knowing that and seeing Davis all but riding on gas fumes, he turned up the intensity and finished Davis with punches in bunches forcing the ref to step in and stop the onslaught. Bellator continues to show strong with young up and coming talent and excellent matchmaking.

Light-heavyweights were also the feature in the main event of the UFC as once again it was a young lion pitted against a crafty veteran. This time the lion, Nittany Lion that is, 'Mr. Wonderful' Phil Davis (9-0, 2 KO's, 3 subs) won a lackluster unanimous decision over Antonio Rogerio 'Minotauro' Nogueira (19-5, 5 KO's 6 subs). Davis, a 2008 national champion from Penn State, used his wrestling to control the fight, but surprisingly it took a while. He was unsuccessful at numerous takedown attempts in the first round, but found his range in the second and third.

Muhammad Ali once quipped, "Rumble young man rumble" and that's just what welterweight (170lbs.) Anthony 'Rumble' Johnson (9-3, 6 KO's, 2 subs) did as he used his superior size and wrestling to outlast 'The Outlaw' Dan Hardy (23-9, 11 KO's, 4 subs). Johnson, coming back from a knee injury that sidelined him for 16 months, dominated all three rounds with a ground and pound attack for a unanimous decision victory. Hardy, who fought for the title almost a year ago to the day, has now lost his last three in a row.

Finally, picking up where they left off a year ago, featherweights (145 lbs.) Leonard 'Bad Boy' Garcia (15-7-1, 3 KO's 9 subs) and 'The Korean Zombie' Chang Sung Jung (11-3, 2 KO's 4 subs) put on another exciting fight with a different outcome. After losing a disputed split decision last year, Jung (pictured above) left no doubt this time around pulling off a rare Eddie Bravo 'Twister' submission with one second left in the second round. Incredible, two 'submission of the year' candidates in one night; that's March Madness, MMA style.

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