Bellator 89 went down Thursday night from Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, N.C. Come for the combat sports. Stay for the biscuits. Seriously. They are delightful.
But if it's possible, things even more delightful than biscuits distinguished Bellator 89. The rollicking event gave fight fans everywhere a chance to escape from the hideous clutches of Valentine's Day, the IOC news cycle, and the dead-ass middle of February in general.
Every fight was good, but the main event was the main event, an emotional and meaningful bantamweight title fight between two friends and teammates.
Soon we return to winter's midnight dreary. But for this moment, let us glimpse back at the main-card winners and losers, and map out the next steps in their respective paths toward (or away from) glory.
Result: Doug Marshall def. Andreas Spang by KO, 3:03, Rd. 1
You may remember Doug "The Rhino" Marshall from such films as Answer to Random WEC Trivia Question. But now you know him for his one-punch knockout of heavily favored Andreas Spang, which he punctuated by walking away before the ref actually called it, a la Gilbert Arenas circa whatever that year was when he was good.
Marshall's a big talker, but if that big right hand keeps covering his back, he'll probably keep getting away with it.
Up next for The Rhino is Sultan Aliev.
Big-talking, hot-headed Andreas Spang comprised the losing half of this quarterfinal bout from the tournament's Diego Sanchez Region. It's a bitter situation for the Sweet Swede, as he's now dropped two straight.
I'd suggest Wanderlei Silva training partner Vitor Vianna for Spang's next opponent.
Result: Brett Cooper def. Norman Paraisy by unanimous decision.
This was a good fight, but the outcome was never really in doubt. Cooper repeatedly scored hard takedowns and nearly finished the Frenchman in the second frame.
Cooper's very easy to like, and if he can get past Dan Cramer in the semis, his star will continue to rise.
Paraisy was game, but he just didn't have enough. I don't know that there's a compelling case to be made for his continuing with Bellator, though it certainly isn't crazy to think he could go back into circulation against another one of tonight's quarterfinal losers, possibly Mikkel Parlo.
Result: Dan Cramer def. Brian Rogers by unanimous decision
Heading into the fight, the tweeters didn't show a lot of love to Dan "Cosmo" Cramer, the underdog who looked like he'd be more comfortable playing touch football on a manicured lawn somewhere.
But Cramer was crisp on the feet, got the better of the ground exchanges and did just enough to win a very close fight. He now faces Brett Cooper, who also looked great Thursday night, in the tournament semifinals.
Brian Rogers has nothing to be ashamed of. He was his usual swang-for-the-fences self. But nothing happened to connect, and Cramer was just the sharper (and perhaps luckier) man at Bellator 89.
I'd say he's a lock for the next middleweight tournament. I'd match him up with Maiquel Falcao. Now there's a fun fight.
Division: Bantamweight (for the Bellator bantamweight championship)
Result: Eduardo Dantas def. Marcos Galvao by KO, 3:01, Rd. 2
In keeping with the namesake of this North Carolina venue, Dantas was delectable like a Bojangles biscuit Thursday night. But he was also bittersweet, like a, uh, Sierra Mist, when the syrup runs out but they haven't figured it out yet.
In the early going against training partner Galvao, Dantas was downright blurry, firing his jab like a sports-car piston. Ultimately, though, it was a relatively tentative affair on both sides.
The second round saw Dantas open up with kicks and larger shots while staying clear of Galvao's hot zone. About halfway through the frame, Dantas dropped his friend and mentor with a right uppercut.
A few final hammerfists sent Galvao into unconsciousness. About a minute after the stoppage, the camera found Dantas sitting back, weeping, against the cage.
These two Nova Uniao colleagues set an interesting example Thursday night for some of the sport's larger stars, who steadfastly refuse to fight teammates because it would upset their interpersonal constitutions. This one was ugly. But they did it, and they should both be commended for that.
And finally, the fight was just as important to Bellator as it was to Dantas, following Dantas's momentum-killing loss to non-Bellatorian Tyson Nam last year. This re-established Dantas as a marketable commodity.
Up next for Dantas? Honestly? I have no idea. Presumably, Season 9 of Bellator will include a bantamweight tournament. They need one.