While it was difficult to follow due to an odd broadcasting schedule, Bellator MMA put on an entertaining card for their London crowd on Saturday.
A lot was at stake in the Bellator London main event, as Gegard Mousasi put his middleweight title on the line and challenger Rafael Lovato Jr. hoped to stay undefeated. In the end, it was the challenger who prevailed in a back-and-forth affair.
Lovato Jr. (10-0, 6-0 Bellator) wasted no time getting his plan into motion as he took down Mousasi (45-7-2, 3-1 Bellator) early in the first round and managed to stay on top for the rest of it, threatening submission attempts from side control. The American tried to do more of the same in Round 2, but the champion managed to defend several takedowns and land some effective punches on the feet. All of the grappling exchanges seemingly tired out Mousasi and he was easily mounted by the challenger in the third. However, the champion escaped from the dangerous position and then rained down damaging punches to steal the round. The champion looked much fresher in the fourth and dominated the action on the feet and knocked the challenger down several times. Lovato Jr. got his second wind just in time for the fifth and managed to take the back of Mousasi and remain there until the fight ended.
In the end, the judges sided with Lovato Jr. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace earned a majority decision with scores of 47-47, 48-47, 48-47.
The night’s co-main event guaranteed violence as it pitted Melvin Manhoef up against Kent Kauppinen. The duo delivered just that as they both rocked each other in the first round. The second was just as wild, as Manhoef (31-14-1, 2 NC, 3-3, 1 NC Bellator) managed to rock and take down Kauppinen (11-5, 1-2 Bellator) several times. The third round was much slower in pace, as both men struggled to land anything of note. The judges sided with the Netherlands native, as Manhoef picked up scores of 29-28 from all three judges.
Elsewhere, former “Geordie Shore” star Aaron Chalmers looked to rebound from his first mixed martial arts loss against Fred Freeman. The English fighter did just that by constantly taking Freeman (1-2, 0-2 Bellator) down and controlling the fight. Late in the second round, he locked up a triangle choke and got the submission. The win officially came at 4:05 of Round 2.
In a featured welterweight bout, Paul Daley had a triumphant United Kingdom return over Erick Silva. The Brazilian managed to win the first round by taking the British fighter to the ground and eventually getting back control. The second round was all “Semtex” as Daley (41-17-2, 7-4 Bellator) rocked Silva (20-11, 1 NC, 0-2 Bellator) early and kept the pressure on with punches and knees. The final frame mirrored the second and the judges all scored the bout 29-27 in favor of Daley.
Earlier, James Gallagher dropped five pounds to fight at 140 against Jeremiah Labiano. The Irishman outgrappled Labiano (12-7, 3-3 Bellator) in the first round, but the roles were reversed in the second as the American found himself on top. Gallagher (8-2, 6-1 Bellator) dug deep and got mount early in the third, but Labiano managed to reverse his opponent and ended the round in top control. The judges declared Gallagher the winner with three 29-28 cards in his favor.
Fabian Edwards kept his undefeated record intact against middleweight Jonathan Bosuku. Edwards (8-0, 3-0 Bellator) threw everything he had at Bosuku (7-5, 0-1 Bellator), but couldn’t put him down. However, it was enough for “The Assassin” to earn 30-27 scorecards from all three judges.
Bellator Kickboxing champion Denise Kielholtz continued her foray into mixed martial arts as she took on Bryony Tyrell. The kickboxer struggled to stay on her feet early as Tyrell (4-4-1, 0-1 Bellator) constantly took her down and looked for submissions in the first round. The second round was a slightly different story as Kielholtz (3-2, 3-1 Bellator) was able to land some clean shots on the feet but wound up giving her back to Tyrell. The finish came at 2:38 of the third frame as Kielholtz landed a series of unanswered strikes after getting a takedown of her own.
Hyped middleweight prospects Mike Shipman and Costello van Steenis locked horns and only one of them could turn themselves into an immediate contender. Costello van Steenis (12-1, 4-0 Bellator) proved he had the edge in the first round by taking Shipman (13-2, 2-1 Bellator) down and getting mount but couldn't finish before the bell rang. However, he did just that in the second as a series of elbows caused the referee to stop the bout at 1:34.
Kicking off the strangely-formatted main card was a bout between Charlie Ward and Justin Moore. Early on Moore (7-3, 0-1 Bellator) had a clear grappling edge as he was able to get to full mount and gain back control. However, Ward (7-3, 4-0 Bellator) kept battling back to his feet and managed to secure a stoppage after some devastating ground-and-pound at 3:23 of Round 2.
In prelim action, Chris Brungard (14-5, 1-1 Bellator) had nothing for Charlie Leary (16-10-1) and was dominated throughout their lightweight bout. Leary picked up three 30-25 scorecards and improved his Bellator record to 2-1. The wrestling of Kate Jackson (11-3-1, 2-2 Bellator) was simply too much for Lena Ovchynnikova (12-6, 2-3 Bellator) as the fight was stopped after the Ukraine fighter suffered a cut above her eye at 4:20 of Round 1; Terry Brazier (11-2, 1-1 Bellator) easily defeated Alessandro Botti (15-10, 0-1 Bellator) and forced the Italian fighter to tap out with an Americana at 2:17 of Round 3; Luke Ord (7-2, 1-0 Bellator) used his superior grappling game to control Nathan Rose (7-2, 1-1 Bellator) over three rounds and earn a unanimous decision; welterweight Alfie Davis (12-3, 2-0 Bellator) had an impressive showing as he won a unanimous decision over Josema Jose da Paz (8-8, 1 NC, 0-1 Bellator) earning three 29-27 scorecards; Justin Burlinson (5-0, 2-0 Bellator) needed just nine seconds to defeat Wendle Lewis (8-5, 0-1 Bellator), who verbally submitted to punches; Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Galore Bofando (6-3, 1-0 Bellator) was able to make a successful promotional debut as he soundly outstruck Keith McCabe (3-4-1, 0-1 Bellator) to a unanimous decision victory with scores of 29-28, 30-27, 30-27; Kevin Fryer (7-3, 1-1 Bellator) managed to oust John Redmond (7-14, 0-2 Bellator) in a battle of middleweights as he eked out a split decision with scores of 29-28, 28-29, 29-28; bantamweight prospect Frans Mlambo (7-4, 1-0 Bellator) looked great against Nathan Greyson (6-4, 0-2 Bellator) and snatched a brabo choke 4:22 into Round 2.