This past Thursday night, I had the pleasure of being invited to Bellator Fighting Championships‘ biggest event yet, Bellator 33: Alvarez vs Huerta.
The pleasure was all ours as we, along with the incredibly vocal Philadelphia crowd witnessed a night of great fights, the development of a future legend, and the possible professional demise of a UFC veteran.
Check out these great photos from Bellator 33, courtesy of Eugene Tsvetkov.
Alvarez dominates Huerta
In what could be considered Eddie Alvarez’s coming out party (this was Bellator’s biggest event to date), the Bellator Lightweight Champion brought it to UFC veteran Roger Huerta, a man who desperately needed a victory since going 1-3 his last four fights.
That didn’t happen as Huerta was ruled unable to continue via doctor’s stoppage (swollen eye) just after the second round. Huerta fought a solid fight and even rocked Alvarez a few times, but non-title or not, no way the champ was going to lose in front of his hometown Philly crowd, who packed the Liacouras Center, despite their beloved Phillies’ season-saving game being played out just miles away.
For Alvarez, the win may come over a Roger Huerta that doesn’t know where his heart is—at least professionally. But make no mistake about it. This superfight drew more eyeballs live and on television to the greatness of Alvarez, who should be in anyone’s top five lightweights list.
In fact, I spoke to UFC Lightweight Champion and the consensus number one lightweight Frankie Edgar, who was in the crowd to support Alvarez, who said “I believe Eddie is top three. Definitely right up there with the best.”
I’m assuming Edgar ranks himself number one. As for number two and three, that remains to be seen via a dream fight between Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez (18-2) and Bellator Champion Alvarez (21-2). While DREAM’s Shinya Aoki made quick work of Alvarez in 2008, Melendez dominated the Japanese star on American soil.
But it is important to note Alvarez is only 26, always improving, and the winner of six straight fights. Oh, he’s also undefeated in the U.S. While others may underrate Alvarez due to his loss to Aoki, it is important to note that many greats have suffered tough losses prior to truly hitting their stride including Anderson Silva (four losses prior to his UFC stint) and even Frankie Edgar (only loss to Gray Maynard).
Luckily for Edgar, he will get the chance to avenge his loss in January. Given Aoki’s reluctance to fight in the States again, Alvarez may not get that opportunity. However, as time goes on, if Alvarez continues to win and dominate, it will be increasingly difficult to argue about his place amongst the best lightweights—and overall, the best fighters in the world.
Askren exposes Good’s (lack of) ground game
Olympic wrestler Ben Askren (7-0) defeated Tiger Schulmann’s Lyman Good (10-1) for the Bellator Welterweight Title by unanimous decision in a highly contested affair, but one that exposed the now-ex-champ’s ground game—or lack thereof.
No disrespect meant to Askren’s suffocating wrestling ability, but the new champion lacked the ground-and-pound to finish Good, despite having control most of the fight. Much like UFC’s Jon Fitch, Askren dragged out a decision, but his lack of urgency to finish Good stuck out like a sore thumb.
Good didn’t help his cause either, clearly out of place on the ground. His submission attempts were weak at best, minus a last minute triangle ala Anderson Silva-Chael Sonnen—one that Askren impressively got out of.
For Good, it’s back to the drawing board to working on his takedown defense and developing a better ground game, especially against wrestlers like Askren.
For Askren, while aggressive enough in his takedowns to not be considered boring and defensive, is one that has shown he can finish opponents in the past and should attempt to do so because you never know in MMA. Askren’s next opponent may be a lot more comfortable on his back.
The best of the rest
Olympian judoka Rick Hawn kept his unbeaten streak alive with an impressive first round TKO victory over LeVon Maynard. Unlike Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 120, Hawn was more than happy—and able to showcase his judo skills, throwing Maynard like a sack of potatoes before getting the referee stoppage via punches. Hawn is now 9-0 and an excellent Bellator prospect.
He also holds a notable win over UFC veteran Shonie Carter.
Bellator’s production values are phenomenal. For a promotion that’s only been in fruition for a couple of years, they sure as hell have their production down on lock. From the lights, cues, and entrances, to the stellar video packages that prelude their fights, Bellator certainly gives fans an MMA experience they won’t find anywhere else.
Strikeforce, I hope you’re taking notes.
Speaking of Strikeforce, if head honcho Scott Coker doesn’t make the Alvarez-Melendez fight, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney should pull a Samuel L. Jackson ala “Pulp Fiction.” That means physically intimidating Coker, utilizing Samuel L. Jackson-style expletives, and screaming “Does Eddie look like a b****?!”
That would probaby get the job done—for Marcellus Wallace anyway.
One more thing. Mucho props to the blood-thirsty fan in the back constantly screaming “Stand ’em up, ref!” Not like this is….you know, mixed martial arts or anything.
Bellator 33 Rapid Recap
Eddie Alvarez def. Roger Huerta via TKO (doctor’s stoppage due to swollen eye) – Round 2, 5:00
Ben Askren def. Lyman Good via unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 50-45)
Rick Hawn def. LeVon Maynard via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 4:53
Wilson Reis def. Deividas Taurosevicius via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Tim Carpenter def. Jamal Patterson via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Kenny Foster def. Lester Caslow via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Luiz Azeredo def. Eduardo Guedes via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Nick Cottone def. Tuan Pham via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Fran Evans def Lewis Cassner via submission (triangle choke) – Round 1, 3:20