Normally when it comes to high profile MMA, Saturday night is usually the time it takes center stage. However, with 'The Ultimate Fighter's new season debuting on FX and Bellator's new season debuting on its new night, Friday night was the prime time for mixed martial arts; and with a long history of boxing on Friday nights, that's definitely alright for a fight or two.
That was the case last night as Bellator 60 from Hammond, Indiana had five fights on the main card headlined by the featherweight (145 lbs.) championship between now former champion Joe Warren (7-3, 2 KO's), pictured @ left above, and new champion Pat Curran (17-4, 5 KO's 5 subs), pictured @ right. The other four fights on the card were the quarterfinals of this season's featherweight tournament. While all that live action was taking place on MTV2, over on FX there was live action as well.
That is because for the first time in its history, 'The Ultimate Fighter' reality television series, the UFC's recruiting ground for new talent, is trying a new concept as they are going live every week. It remains to be seen if this will be a good move or not once the fighters move into the house, but last night it was fight night to see who gets that privilege; 32 fighters in 16 fights to determine who gets in and who goes home.
However, as if that weren't pressure packed enough, with the new live format, the UFC instituted a new rule in the elimination fights; all fights would be one five minute round, that's it. If you finished your opponent within those five minutes, the winner would receive an additional $5,000 bonus besides entry into the house. Two big incentives in a sudden death type format brought about but one thing, a lot of action.
With all those fights, there's too much to cover, that is why my focus will solely be on two fighters from last night, Justin Lawrence of 'TUF' and Pat Curran of Bellator. You may ask why those two and my response are checking out my blogs dated January 24 and July 24, 2011 respectively. In those blogs I wrote exclusively and specifically about these two young fighters and I predicted the following.
In my piece from January, I had just interviewed a then 20 year old Justin 'The American Kid' Lawrence, who then at the time had only one professional fight under his belt. I explained that the reason I was hyping up such a young inexperienced fighter was because he was talented enough to impress the management and fighters of Blackhouse MMA enough to warrant them signing him. I also said, "Look out world, there's a new kid on the block."
Well since that interview, Justin has won two more fights to boost his record to (3-0, 1 KO 1 sub) and last night he defeated a 19 fight veteran in James Krause who is (15-4) as a pro. Not only did Lawrence win, he demolished Krause, whose experience includes both Bellator and the WEC, in winning by KO. I told you before and I'll say it again, look out world there's a new kid he's not just on the block this time, but in the TUF House; his name is Justin Lawrence.
In the blog from July, I recapped the Bellator 47 card and in it I talked about how then contender Pat Curran easily had won his tournament semifinal bout against renowned Ronnie Mann. I also said, "I am picking Pat Curran to defeat Marlon Sandro next month, and this time eventually winning a world championship when he gets that shot again."
Of course I was referring to Curran's failed attempt at winning the lightweight (155 lbs.) title against then champion Eddie Alvarez a year earlier. Well, not only did Curran make my prediction come true, he did it in grand fashion. He withstood the pressure put on him from the self professed "Baddest man on the planet" Joe Warren as in typical Warren fashion, he charged at Curran, attempting to control his opponent using his world class Greco Roman wrestling skills.
Although he had some minor success in the first two rounds, Curran withstood the pressure, showed great take down defense and clearly had the better striking. This all came to fruition early in the third as Curran caught Warren charging in with a knee flush on the jaw. The result was the beginning of the end as Warren was clearly dazed and Curran pounced on him with punches from all angles and more Muay Thai style knees that eventually ended Warren's night and reign.
Up next for Curran is the challenge of last season's featherweight tournament winner Patricky 'Pitbull' Freire, a very dangerous opponent. Nonetheless, I'm predicting Curran will hold this title for a quite awhile as at age 24, he is showing skills and experience beyond his years and will only get better. Pat Curran and Justin Lawrence are two more young stars of the new generation of mixed martial arts to look out for.