Bellator 85 Grades for All Main-Card Fighters
Bellator kicked off its season on Spike TV on Thursday night with a solid three-fight card that saw champions Pat Curran and Michael Chandler both retain their titles.
Curran defeated Patricio Freire in a very close split decision, while Chandler was able to finish Rick Hawn in the second round.
The night also provided a possible last look at one of the longtime greats, Renato Sobral, who was knocked out of the lightweight heavyweight tournament by Mikhail Zayats.
By all accounts, the kickoff was a success. Here are the grades for all the main-card fighters.
Renato "Babalu" Sobral: F
With all due respect, I am giving Babalu an F here to send him a clear message: It's time to move on.
Thursday night was his final chance to return to relevance in the light heavyweight division. He showed that he has nothing left to offer against even middle-of-the-pack competition anymore.
Sobral looked old and rough, and that was before the opening bell. His best move on the night was the dreaded press against the cage.
Big John McCarthy had to separate the fighters to jump start the action on two occasions in the first four minutes of the fight. Zayats' spinning back fist triggered the beginning of the end, and Sobral suffered a TKO at 4:49 of the first round.
Mikhail Zayats: C
The largely unknown Zayats should get credit for taking on a name like Sobral. Combine that with the spinning back fist and determination to get the finish, and Zayats could have earned a decent B here.
I settled on an average C because the fighters did get the jump start twice in Round 1. Also, Sobral looked so awful it's hard to tell just how good Zayats is.
Rick Hawn: D
Rick Hawn was supposed to present a formidable challenge to lightweight champion Michael Chandler. No one really picked Hawn to hand Chandler his first loss, but it was supposed to be one of the champion's toughest fights.
It was a bit surprising at how easily Chandler dominated Hawn. For that reason, Hawn gets a D for his efforts.
Yes, Chandler is that good, but Hawn looked inferior in every aspect of the fight. It's tough to tell where the former Olympian and Tristar product goes from here.
Michael Chandler: A
With a dominant performance in his first title defense, Michael Chandler earns an A for his win over Rick Hawn.
Chandler was able to take Hawn down early to establish his superior wrestling and athleticism. Save for one second in the fight when Hawn landed a power shot, Chandler was not tested in any way.
Chandler appears to be a man among boys in the Bellator promotion, and it is going to be tough for Chandler to stay sharp and strong if worthy opponents cannot be found.
He belongs fighting with the best of the best, and all of those fighters (except for Eddie Alvarez, for the time being) are in the UFC.
Patricio Freire: A
Patricio "Pitbull' Freire gave Pat Curran all he could handle in a split-decision loss on Thursday night.
Freire stood strong and was aggressive all night. He was winning the fight slightly after three rounds. He used quick and effective leg kicks and excellent head movement to get in on Curran and score shots.
I had it scored two rounds to one for Pitbull heading into the championship rounds.
Curran turned it on in the final two rounds, scoring with more activity and accuracy, while the gas tank emptied and the damage started to show for Freire. Curran was able to jab Freire's face all night on his way to the win, but Freire performed admirably in the loss and should stay sharp for a rematch later this year.
Pat Curran: A
It took Pat Curran a round to warm up and get comfortable, but he came on strong once he did. In the end, he was able to use the championship rounds to his advantage to get a split-decision win.
Curran was content to counter Freire in the early going of the fight. Once he found a home for his jab, he started to take control and open up. He threw knees, elbows, kicks and punches to some success in normal Curran fashion, but the jab did the most damage and earned Curran the win.
This was a very close fight and one that nearly got away from Curran. Due to his somewhat slow start and the fact that he didn't come close to getting the finish, he falls short of an A+ here.
Curran will now face tournament winner Daniel Straus in his next title defense.
Dwight Wakabayashi is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report UFC and regular contributor to Sportsnet.ca's UFC section. Follow him on Twitter @wakafightermma.