Karim Zidan delves into the real winners and losers from Friday’s Bellator 138 event and Saturday’s UFC Fight Night Berlin show on Fight Pass.
This past weekend featured an intriguing blend of rising talent on a European-based UFC card, as well as an entertaining tent pole Bellator fight card that culminated with a spectacle that surprisingly captured the attention of casual fans and media alike. While there should be little to compare between both events, as they served different purposes entirely, it is safe to say that the entire weekend was a worthy showing for all sorts of MMA fans.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk is officially one of the most terrifying fighters in MMA. Following her upset of Carla Esparza several months ago to usurp the strawweight title, Joanna returned to the Octagon for her first title defense against Jessica Penne, which turned into a brutal, one-sided beatdown over the course of three rounds. Once Joanna zapped Penne’s confidence after stuffing numerous takedowns, she unloaded an onslaught of vicious strikes from her arsenal to turn Penne’s face into a pulp. For three rounds, Jedrzejczyk dominated her opponent and displayed her awe-inspiring Muay Thai arsenal, which included far more kicks than her previous Octagon outings. Overall, it was a fight that proved that the Polish champion is indeed one to be marveled as a future star in the promotion. Her talent, dominance and charisma will see her continue to gain fans and rack up wins along the way.
Bellator produced an entertaining night of fights that certainly brought with it more headlines and media attention than its main competitor, the UFC. On this particular occasion, Bellator stacked the show with an entertaining line-up that included a phenomenal featherweight title fight and even managed to make an irrelevant fight between two fighters well past their prime seem like must-watch television. Given that Scott Coker holds a limited deck of cards, it is impressive that he has been able to tap into a casual market with the hand he has been dealt. Hardcore fans may not appreciate the spectacle, but make no mistake about it, this certainly gets attention from the casual audience.
Kimbo Slice has, by some miracle, found a way to become a somewhat relevant topic of conversation in MMA circles in 2015. Consider that for a moment – instead of the weekend’s focus being on a UFC broadcast packed with prospects and exciting fights, it was on Kimbo Slice’s victorious return to MMA. Not only did he defeat Ken Shamrock, whom he has a storied history with dating back to 2008, he did so after rallying back from the brink of defeat. Now, Slice holds a highlight reel win against an MMA legend, even if that legend is 51 years old. He will likely find his way into another freak show spectacle in the near future, a win-win for Slice and SPIKE alike.
Patricio Freire and Daniel Weichel stunned the crowd on Friday evening’s Bellator 138 show. While the opening few minutes didn’t offer much action, Weichel caught the champ late in the opening round and was close to securing the finish. In fact, he legitimately believed he won the fight when John McCarthy intervened to bring the round to an end. Yet when he picked up where he left off in the second round, it was Pitbull who delivered the knockout blow to put an end to the fight just 30 seconds into the second round. It is difficult to place Weichel in the losers column, as he proved to be a worthy challenger who felt the unforgiving nature of 4oz gloves in a cage. Freire, however, now adds another highlight reel win to his resume.
Makwan Amirkhani once again finished his fight in the opening minutes of the first round to move to 2-0 in the UFC. He oozes star quality and has a remarkable amount of charisma that makes him one of the more attractive fighters for media and fans alike to build a connection with. Once he locked in his rear-naked choke to secure the win, he immediately displayed those qualities on the microphone with Dan Hardy before dedicating the win to his mother in a heartfelt moment. While his win came against a fighter who competed on TUF: Latin America, which does not say much at all, the Finnish fighter has the potential to become a legitimate star in the division if he keeps this up.
Mairbek Taisumov produced his best showing in the Octagon to date on Saturday afternoon in Berlin when he defeated Alan Patrick via second round TKO following a head kick. It was a win that proved that Russian/Caucasus fighters do not need to rely on their wrestling, Judo or Sambo to win fights and that they could become some of the more dangerous strikers in the promotion. With fighters like Taisumov at lightweight and Albert Tumenov at welterweight, Russian MMA will continue to produce highlight reel finishes in the UFC.
Marc Goddard did exactly what he needed to do, which was stop the fight, even though Penne was completely conscious and (technically) capable of continuing. After nearly three rounds of bloody, albeit regulated, brutality, he finally decided that Penne, although tough and still shrewd enough to hunt for a submission, was taking unnecessary damage. This should set a new standard in MMA refereeing, as it is the responsibility of the official to ensure the safety of the fighters. This does not mean waiting until it is nearly too late, or until they are limp on the ground.
Ken Shamrock desperately attempted to convince MMA fans that he was in better shape ahead of the Slice fight than he was for the past decade or so, yet no amount of bronzer would cover up how much Shamrock looked like a 51-year-old has-been. His inability to finish Slice with the rear-naked choke was the final sign that Shamrock was no longer even a shadow of his former self and should never be seen inside the cage for a professional fight again.
Bellator entrance videos were abysmal. Apart from serving little to no purpose at all, they were cheesy, underwhelming, and made it seem as though the promotion was trying to grasp at straws. Emulating pro-wrestling is one thing, doing a terrible job at it is an entirely different thing altogether.
Alan Omer was faced with the task of tailoring his pre-fight strategy to a late change in opponent and it did not work out in his favour in the end. Omer was actually up 20-18 in the fight before he got caught in a late submission and set himself down a two-fight losing skid. Given that Omer was a heavy favourite to defeat an opponent coming in on short notice with a late weight cut, the end result was not what many predicted.
Jessica Penne may have lost a lopsided fight against a dominant champion, but she did so showing heart and an unrelenting determination to secure a takedown. In some ways, she showed too much heart for her own good, as the unnecessary damage she sustained could easily take years off her career. However, given that her first UFC showing against Randa Markos was lackluster at best, she proved that she still has some fight in her and remains a legitimate threat in the strawweight division.