The Good, Bad and Strange from Bellator 100
Mark a milestone in the books as Bellator Fighting Championship logged its 100th event on Friday night in Phoenix, Ariz.
In just five years, the company CEO Bjorn Rebney founded in 2008 has battled its way to become the second-largest promotion in mixed arts. There have been some hiccups and growing pains along the way, but there have been plenty of great fights, brutal knockouts and highlight-reel material made in the process.
Champions have been crowned. Underdogs have risen. Well-known veterans have been retired competing inside the Bellator cage.
On Friday night, at the Grand Canyon University Arena, Bellator officially crossed the century mark, and what better way to do it than with kicking off its season nine welterweight tournament.
Since the promotion's inception, the 170-pound collective has been the strongest weight class. Ruled by former NCAA Division I champion Ben Askren, Bellator's welterweight division has been home to some of the most notable names under the organization's banner.
The main event at Bellator 100 featured a rematch between two of the promotion's top welterweights in Douglas Lima and Ben Saunders. In their first go around at Bellator 57 back in 2011, the ATT teammates locked up in a memorable affair until Lima starched Saunders with a devastating right hand to end the tilt via knockout in the second round.
It was more of the same in the rematch as the 25-year-old Lima once again drubbed the UFC veteran in a more devastating fashion than the first fight. Lima blistered Saunders with a beautiful body punch/head kick combination to end the fight and earn another shot at the welterweight title.
Outside of the fight at the top of the billing, there was plenty of leather and bad intentions flying around the Grand Canyon University Arena on Friday night in Phoenix.
Let's take a look at the good, bad and strange from Bellator 100.
Lima is once again gunning for the welterweight title, and he made a big statement on Friday night. "The Phenom" squared off in a rematch against friend and training partner Ben Saunders, and much like their first fight, it was Lima who emerged victorious.
His win over Saunders at Bellator 100 makes Lima successful in 13 of his past 14 outings. His only loss in the past four years came against champion Ben Askren, and by defeating "Killa B," he earned another shot at the 170-pound title.
While there is no telling when his title shot will materialize, his left to the body, right high kick knockout over Saunders was a thing of beauty, and the highlight will certainly make its rounds.
Love him or hate him, War Machine continues to win under the Bellator banner. The hard-scrabble veteran picked up his second victory fighting for the promotion when he choked Vaughn Anderson unconscious in the second round of their bout at Bellator 100.
The San Diego-based fighter is a lightning rod of controversy outside of the cage—but inside, he's enjoying a career resurgence. Back-to-back victories over opponents nowhere near the Top 20 isn't something to throw a party about, but War Machine is making quick work out of lesser opponents, and that's precisely what he needs to do in the tournament format.
After testing the waters in the lightweight division, Brent Weedman returned to the 170-pound fold at Bellator 100. The Kentucky native made short work out of Justin Baesman as he earned a first-round submission victory to kick off the televised portion of the program.
Where Weedman's aggression has hurt him in the past, it paid huge dividends against Baesman. The 28-year-old walked down his opponent and put his back to the cage, where he scored a trip takedown to put Baseman on the canvas. Once the action was on the mat, it was just a matter of time before Weedman ended the fight.
Rick Hawn also returned to the welterweight division for season nine. The former lightweight title challenger got the job done on Friday night as "Genghis" defeated yolked-up slugger Herman Terrado. It wasn't a pretty fight, but the former Olympic judoka scored the cleaner shots to win the unanimous decision. He will face Weedman in the semifinals of the tournament.
Liam McGeary used his 6'6" frame to hand down a knockout to Beau Tribolet. The undefeated light heavyweight could be a solid addition to Bellator's 205-pound division, but he'll need to defeat tougher competition to prove that true. Nevertheless, a 27-second knockout in his promotional debut is certainly impressive.
On Friday night, Saunders suffered an unfortunate setback. "Killa B" has fought 11 times since being released from the UFC back in 2010, and while the American Top Team product has been successful in the large majority of those contests, the three losses he's suffered on this stretch have been crucial, two of which have come at the hands of Lima.
There is no doubting the 30-year-old is tough as nails and a solid fighter, but getting knocked out once again by Lima and failing to earn another title shot will push Saunders further away from elite status. It's an unfortunate turn for the gritty veteran and one that will be difficult to bounce back from.
When a fighter comes into a tournament as a highly touted prospect, there is going to be some expectation. Unfortunately for Brandon Bender, he wasn't able to fulfill said expectation and lost a fight he was completely in control of on Friday night.
The 26-year-old was on the verge of backing up the hype and was close to earning a spot in "the good" category as he dominated and battered Travis Marx in the opening frame of their bout. But the second round was as a different story as Bender fell apart under the pressure of a Marx swarm and came out on the receiving end of a TKO courtesy of a flurry in the second.
Bender looked good in the opening stages of the fight, but MMA is a crazy game, and a fighter has to be able to close out a wounded opponent to be successful.
Flash knockouts are a strange phenomenon in mixed martial arts, and Sergio Junior provided the latest example in his bout against Ron Keslar. In the second round of their tilt, Keslar juiced the veteran with a brutal right hand that not only dropped Junior like a sack of bricks, but made his body bounce off the mat with the force of the impact.
Junior managed to recover and finish out the fight, but he came out on the losing end of a split decision on the judges' cards. The fact he survived Keslar's bomb was strangely impressive, but how one judge scored the fight in Junior's favor was simply awful. It is possible the judge who gave Junior the nod was captivated by his pink shorts and sombrero combination for the walk-out.
Eight. That is the number of combined tournaments Weedman and Hawn have been involved in under the Bellator banner. There is no doubt BFC likes its talent to be home grown, but recycling the same fighters in different weigh classes is a curious move.
Highly touted prospect Bubba Jenkins saw his momentum derailed for the time being at Bellator 100 as he suffered a TKO defeat against Larue Burley. The former All-American wrestler from Arizona State University was undefeated coming into the bout, but Burley's striking proved too much. With Jenkins' natural ability, he should be able to rebound strong, but a setback this early in his MMA career will require some moxie.
Christy Mack, War Machine's girlfriend and porn star, got some camera time on the broadcast. That's always a good thing.
Finally, did I mention Lima's combination knockout on Saunders was beautiful?
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report.
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