Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fast and Furious: Bellator 54

If you are a fan of the 'Fast and Furious' movies, no you did not fall asleep and go into a time warp. While that franchise is currently in production of filming part six, which will be out in 2013, the Bellator Fighting Championships franchise is already up to 54 events. However, while last nights fight card may have started off slow, the last three fights were definitely fast and furious.

Featuring the semifinals of the season five middleweight (185 lbs.) tournament, along with a featured non-title bout for bantamweight (135 lbs.) champion Zach 'Fun-Size' Makovsky (Pictured @ left), Bellator delivered for the amped Atlantic City, NJ crowd. It all started with Makovsky (14-2, 1 KO, 6 subs), a product of my hometown Bethlehem, PA, who now fights out of Philadelphia, he was the local favorite going in and he did not disappoint.

Facing a tough opponent in Nebraska corn fed Ryan 'Are you Ready?' Roberts (16-10-1, 7 KO's 3 subs), Makovsky offset Roberts wrestling with his own, which he combined with a superior submission game. After using his speed advantage in the stand-up striking game, the champ used a couple of take downs that he was able to garner on the former two-time Nebraska state wrestling champion. Roberts was able to get up from the first, but the second proved a different story.

It was after the second take down that Makovsky, he himself a former wrestler at Drexel University, secured a north-south position and subsequent choke on his opponent that forced Roberts to tap with just 12 seconds left in the first round. When asked about the submission after the fights, Makovsky said, "I've been working that one a lot at the 'Fight Factory'; it's definitely one of my favorite chokes." Up next for the champion, he awaits the winner of this season's bantamweight tourney, which continues with the semifinals next week.

Speaking of tournament semifinals, the Makovsky win was followed by the middleweight tourney semis and it was not a good night for anyone named Bryan/Brian. First fight up, featured Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu wizard Vitor Vianna (12-1-1, 5 KO's 4 subs) against 'The Beast' Bryan Baker (16-3, 8 KO's, 3 subs). Vianna may not be a household name yet, but hardcore MMA fans know that this former two-time jiu-jitsu world champion can do more than submit his opponents and he showed it last night.

After going the distance in his last fight and facing a personal crisis with an illness his wife was battling during training, Vianna vowed to make a point this fight and he did as the submission fighter came out swinging. However, so did Baker as he had no respect for Vianna'a stand-up and he paid for it dearly as he got caught, though not flush, right above the ear with a looping right hand. It was enough to drop Baker and Vianna pursued, pouncing on his fallen opponent and finishing him with a flurry of unanswered hammer fists forcing the referee to step in and save a defenseless Baker.

It took a total of 54 seconds, in a fight where the introductions probably lasted longer than the actual bout. Afterwards, a visibly emotional Vianna couldn't help but shed some tears as he had explained during the pre-fight interview that his wife was hospitalized with a thyroid issue and he was at her bedside for ten days straight. Once his wife got better though, she told him to get back to training. Sounds like something right out of 'Rocky II'. Vianna said afterward, "there are no easy fights here in Bellator" and he was right.

Up next for the Brazilian is a "Russian Storm" as his opponent in the tournament finals will be Alexander 'Storm' Shlemenko (42-7, 26 KO's 7 subs). Unlike the other two fights, Shlemenko needed one and a half rounds to defeat his opponent, but that's probably because he was fighting 'The Predator'. Brian Rogers (8-3, 7 KO's, 1 sub) may have been virtually inexperienced compared to his Russian counterpart, but he was not intimated. He took it to Shlemenko right from the start and it looked at first like he might actually win.

Looking a lot more fluid in the boxing game, Rogers was tagging Shlemenko at will with both left and right hands in the first round that had the Russian in trouble. However, experience was a big factor as Shlemenko was able to weather the storm (no pun intended) and survive the first round. The tide turned, so to speak, in the next round as it was Shlemenko who hurt Rogers with a spinning back fist and proceeded to just unload bombs.

Smelling blood, Shlemenko continued his onslaught with heavy punches and pulverizing knees to the body eventually forcing Rogers to buckle and bend to the ground twice. It was during the second time that Shlemenko just went to town on his downed opponent and this time there was no getting up. The end came at 2:30 of the second round in a very entertaining back and forth affair. The finals should produce a worthy opponent for current middleweight champ Hector Lombard.

In the first fight of the night, it was an inspired Jacob Kirwan (9-3, 1 KO, 5 subs), who in his first fight in Bellator defeated previously undefeated Rene 'The Brazilian Bomber' Nazare (10-1, 4 KO's 4 subs). Kirwan used his wrestling to grind out a unanimous decision. Bellator Fighting Championships gets overlooked a lot because many times it is being overshadowed on a Saturday night by a UFC card. However, on this night it had the MMA stage all to itself and it made the most of its performance as it was fast and furious.

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