Frodo Khasbulaev is the best kind of young fighter—fearless. The 26-year-old from Dagestan was stepping in against one of the all-time featherweight greats. But rather than give Marlon Sandro too much respect, he seemed to give him none at all.
Frodo controlled the action standing, with a total strikes advantage of 134-16, took Sandro down easily and even navigated the submission game with grace and skill, surviving an arm triangle and nearly finishing the fight with his own kimura.
What I like about Frodo is the chip he carries on his shoulder. After touching gloves to open the third round, Khasbulaev even snuck in a little hook for good measure. Pay back for a first-round blow to the groin that had him moaning in pain? We can only speculate.
One thing is for sure—Frodo has emerged from this inaugural season on Spike as one of Bellator's most compelling young stars. The featherweight tournament final between Khasbulaev and Mike Richman has just vaulted onto my list of must-see fights.
Frodo, of course, wasn't the night's only winner. Nor was Sandro the only loser. Sometimes in MMA, winning and losing is subjective. You can win a fight on the cards but lose respect with a tepid performance. Likewise, an official loser can score major points with fans if he fights with passion and heart.
So who were the real winners and losers? Read on to find out.