Bellator 85 Superlatives: Best and Worst from the Entire Fight Card
Bellator MMA made a successful debut on Spike TV Thursday night, providing fans with two championship bouts and an entire fight card of solid matchups.
In the featherweight division, Pat Curran retained his belt in a back-and-forth kickboxing match with Patricio Freire. With Bellator recently instituting a championship rematch clause, there's a good chance Freire could meet Curran again without having to fight his way through a 145-pound tournament.
Meanwhile, lightweight titleholder Michael Chandler remained champion in much more dominant fashion by submitting Rick Hawn in the second round of the main event.
There was much more to Bellator 85 than the title fights, though. Let's take a look at the best and worst from the entire fight card.
Fighter of the Event: Michael Chandler
Rick Hawn's judo was supposed to cause some problems for Michael Chandler.
It didn't, though.
Chandler sliced through Hawn with double-leg takedowns and took his opponent's back in the second round, leading to an almost effortless submission victory in his first defense of the Bellator lightweight championship.
Fight of the Event: Pat Curran vs. Patricio Freire
The first Bellator fight ever aired on Spike TV was one that did its job of getting fans to stick around for the rest of the fight card.
In a fight for the featherweight belt, champion Pat Curran and challenger Patricio Freire stood toe-to-toe for five rounds.
Though their pace was slow in the opening round, the frequency of their striking increased as urgency set in later in the fight.
Ultimately, Curran's jab made the difference and earned him a split-decision win in his first title defense as 145-pound champion.
Snoozer of the Event: Cleber Luciano vs. Mario Navarro
Cleber Luciano put on a strong performance at Bellator 85, but it wasn't an overly exciting one.
Opponent Mario Navarro had no answer for Luciano's takedowns or ground game, and he ended up spending almost the entire fight on his back.
Navarro attempted some submissions early in the fight, but he became more and more frustrated in the later rounds, which resulted in a lackluster contest.
Round of the Event: Pat Curran vs. Patricio Freire, Round 5
In an extremely close and entertaining fight, Pat Curran and Patricio Freire had to let everything go in the fifth round to gain an edge on the scorecards.
Both fighters moved forward and clashed over and over again in the center of the cage.
Curran was able to land with more frequency despite a late surge from Freire, and his strong finish to the five-round fight helped him to a narrow victory.
Moment of the Event: Pat Curran
It might not have the same historical impact when all is said and done, but Pat Curran vs. Patricio Freire was Bellator's answer to the UFC's Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar.
The first fight Bellator has ever shown on Spike TV was an entertaining five-round championship bout, and it ended with both fighters grinding their teeth while the scorecards were read.
The first judge gave the fight to Freire and the second to Curran. Then, the tension was broken when it was announced Curran was still Bellator featherweight champion.
Knockout of the Event: Savant Young
In the second round of his bout with Mike Guymon at Bellator 85, Savant Young scored a devastating knockout to record his first Bellator win.
Guymon began throwing leg kicks with his hands down early in the round, and Young was clearly trying to counter with looping overhand punches.
Less than a minute into the stanza, Young was able to land a left hand that flattened Guymon, who was out before he hit the canvas.
Submission of the Event: Jason Lambert
UFC veteran Jason Lambert had been in a downward spiral prior to his Bellator debut on Thursday, losing six of his previous eight fights. However, Lambert bounced back in style at Bellator 85.
With Hector Ramirez on top of him, Lambert was able to catch his opponent in a loose triangle. However, instead of trying to tighten the submission, Lambert used Ramirez's focus on defending the triangle to attack a straight armbar.
Lambert tightened the somewhat rare submission hold and forced a pained Ramirez to tap.
Performance of the Event: Michael Chandler
In a fight against an opponent who had been successful at welterweight, 155-pound titleholder Michael Chandler made it look easy.
Chandler took Rick Hawn to the ground multiple times and eventually forced his opponent to give up his back. That allowed Chandler to lock up a rear-naked choke and bring an end to the one-sided fight.
Disappointment of the Event: Seth Petruzelli
Though he's never really been considered a highly ranked fighter in any weight class, Seth Petruzelli is a well-known fighter and one who was supposed to bring attention to Bellator's light heavyweight tournament.
Instead, it appeared as though he injured his knee in attempting a takedown in the first round of his quarterfinal fight with Jacob Noe. Petruzelli was left defenseless on the ground and took a couple punches from Noe before referee Jason Herzog was forced to step in.
Petruzelli wasn't the only notable 205-pound fighter to be eliminated from the competition on Thursday.
Renato "Babalu" Sobral also fell to Mikhail Zayats and left the door wide open for Muhammed Lawal to make a run at a title shot.
Upset of the Event: Mikhail Zayats
Despite his age and fight mileage, Renato Sobral was expected by many to provide some high-level competition for Muhammed Lawal in the finals of Bellator's light heavyweight tournament.
Things didn't pan out that way, though.
In his quarterfinal fight with Mikhail Zayats, Sobral was clipped with a spinning back fist. Recognizing Sobral was hurt, Zayats stormed forward and finished his opponent to complete the upset win.
Comeback of the Event: Savant Young
Before knocking Mike Guymon out with a punishing left hand, Savant Young had to survive on the ground with his opponent.
Guymon scored a takedown early in the fight and was able to control Young for a significant amount of time on the ground, which gave him a decided edge on the scorecards for the first round.
However, the second frame provided a completely different story and rendered the scorecards meaningless.
Breakthrough Fighter of the Event: Mikhail Zayats
With a number of wins with M-1 Global, Mikhail Zayats didn't come out of nowhere to beat Renato Sobral at Bellator 85, but it was certainly a win that has boosted his profile significantly.
Prior to defeating Sobral, Zayats' most notable victory was probably a decision win over UFC veteran Lucio Linhares.
Now, Zayats has a great chance to reach the finals of Bellator's light heavyweight tournament, which could mean a meeting with Muhammed Lawal.
Comeback Fighter of the Event: Savant Young
Savant Young had a career night at Bellator 85.
After a July 2008 loss to Mark Hominick, Young did not compete for more than three years before making his return with Tachi Palace Fights.
Young went 1-1 with Tachi Palace Fights before signing with Bellator, who took a chance on the veteran fighter coming off of a loss.
That chance paid off, as Young's knockout of Mike Guymon gave him his biggest win since perhaps a March 2005 submission of Kendall Grove.
Gym of the Event: Alliance MMA
Even with UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz on the shelf, Alliance MMA is continuing its success.
At Bellator 85, Michael Chandler represented the gym by defending the Bellator lightweight title with a submission victory over Rick Hawn.
Additionally, Jason Lambert, who also trains at Alliance MMA, was able to pick up an impressive win over Hector Ramirez with a straight armbar submission.