West Valley City, Utah isn't exactly the Vegas strip. But for a few hours on Thursday night, it was the center of the MMA universe when Bellator 90 beamed out from the Salt Lake City suburb.
What happened at Bellator 90? And I don't mean the W's and the L's. You can get the actual fight results anywhere. And hey, maybe that feels adequate to you. But I must warn you, sir or madam: Actual results and real results may differ. To get to what is truly real, sometimes we must venture beyond the stat line.
Welcome to the other side of the looking glass. Do not be afraid. Feel free to take a little break if it gets too real for you.
It was a long two hours for all those fight fans who don't feel satisfied until they witness a nice, juicy judges' decision.
They long for that suspense. They wallow in the bafflement. To them, watching a fight without a decision is like walking out early on a great film.
But they were disappointed on Thursday night. Three one-shot knockouts on the main card, one submission, only one fight seeing the second round, not a scorecard in sight. It stinks for the judge lovers. Personally, though, I'll take it.
Another Bellator event, another dominant display from the Russians.
In this case, the appetizer—the beluga caviar, if you like—was light heavyweight Mikhail Zayats, who handled Jacob Noe with a first-round armbar.
Next stop: tournament final.
Ben Saunders only needed one kick to knock out Raul Amaya during the prelim card. Douglas Lima only needed one right hand to put down Bryan Baker.
The two friends and "ATTmates" embraced and squared off in the cage after Lima's victory. They'll meet in the finals of this season's welterweight tournament.
Emanuel Newton might be on the short list of early favorites to be named one of the very realest of the real winners of 2013. Now we'll have to actually create that contest.
That little regicide on Muhammed Lawal on Thursday night probably also put Newton in the running for biggest upset and knockout of the young year thus far. Well, maybe not knockout. That's probably still Uriah Hall.
Anyway, in the opening round, the massive underdog (and we're talking like plus-1000 here) took advantage when Lawal lowered his defenses at the tail end of a standing exchange. Almost reflexively, Newton fired a spinning backfist. It didn't look very powerful, but it landed perfectly (and give the assist to a suspect Lawal lower jaw).
Newton will now face Zayats in the light heavyweight tournament final.
Be sure to break off a generous chunk of this slide for Bellator, too. Those guys are undoubtedly tooting their sad trumpets after watching the crowned head of their 205-pound division—and maybe the most high-profile signing in their history—crumple to the mat like an ill-constructed mannequin.
On the bright side for King Mo: Now he can focus entirely on his pro wrestling career. It's like when David Caruso left NYPD Blue to make Kiss of Death. It's freeing, is what I'm saying.
Remember when I said Zayats was the appetizer of Russian dominance? Well, Shahbulat Shamhalaev was the main course, the Caesar salad, the unsweetened iced tea with lemon and the chocolate ganache cake.
I don't know why the dinner is now happening in a chain-hotel ballroom. Maybe that's the kind of space we'll need to accommodate Shamhalaev's bandwagon overflow after this wolverine of a featherweight put a stone-cold beating on hometown favorite Rad Martinez.
The win netted a tournament title for the 29-year-old Shamhalaev and a shot at the strap, which will be worn by either Pat Curran or challenger Daniel Straus, who face off in April.
Martinez and Shamhalaev were originally supposed to fight in December, but a late injury forced the eventual winner out.
But in a move right out of the silver linings playbook, because of the delay, Utah native Martinez got to fight in front of a friendly audience.
No stranger to feel-good stories, Martinez, who gained some mainstream prominence for chasing his fighting dreams while caring for his ailing father, was undoubtedly the sentimental favorite in the arena and in many living rooms. As such, I was all set to mark him as a winner, regardless of the fight outcome.
But when you're on the bad end of that kind of bansheeing, it's tough to see the good. Or anything, for that matter, because of the unconsciousness.
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