Submitted by: Eric Marcotte
On Saturday night Bellator MMA made their debut at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut. It had thus far been a quiet summer for Bellator, with this being only their second event since the beginning of July. The card was headlined by a rematch in the heavyweight division between Matt Mitrione and Sergei Kharitonov. In their meeting earlier this year, Mitrione accidentally landed a kick to Kharitonov’s groin just 15 seconds into the fight, resulting in a no contest. In the co-main event, former Bellator heavyweight champion Vitaly Minakov looked to rebound from the first loss of his career, against originally scheduled opponent Javy Ayala. Unfortunately, Ayala was forced to pull out of the fight due to an infection earlier in the day and Tim Johnson moved up from his fight on the preliminary card to face off against the former champion.
The fights were called by Mike Goldberg alongside John McCarthy. The analytical team consisted of Chael Sonnen, James Thompson and Jay Glazer.
*Khonry Gracie def. Oscar Vera by armbar at 2:50 of Round 1
*Aviv Gonzali def. Eduard Muravitsky by heel hook at 0:11 of Round 1
*Sabah Homasi def. Micah Terrill by KO at 0:17 of Round 1
*Austin Vanderford def. Joseph Creer by TKO at 5:00 of Round 2
*Ricky Bandejas def. Ahmet Kayretli by KO at 1:21 of Round 1
*Chris Disonell def. Mike Kimbell by TKO at 4:56 of Round 1
*Jon Manley def. Thiago Rela by rear-naked choke at 4:47 of Round 3
*Connor Nixon def. Kastriot Xhema by armbar at 2:08 of Round 3
*Nick Newell def. Corey Browning by arm triangle at 3:15 of Round 1
*Tyrell Fortune def. Rudy Schaffroth by rear-naked choke at 2:08 of Round 2
*Yaroslav Amosav def. David Rickels by D’Arce choke at 4:05 of Round 2
*Alejandra Lara def. Taylor Turner by TKO at 3:44 of Round 1
*Vitaly Minakov def. Tim Johnson by KO at 1:45 of Round 1
*Sergei Kharitonov def. Matt Mitrione by TKO at 1:24 of Round 2
OSCAR VERA (0-1, 170) VS KHONRY GRACIE (1-1, 171) – WELTERWEIGHT
Khonry is the son of MMA legend Royce Gracie.
Gracie took Vera down in the first round and had Vera seated against the cage. Vera managed to reverse the position and found himself in Gracie’s guard, who quickly put Vera in a beautiful armbar which ended the fight.
WINNER: Khonry Gracie by armbar at 2:50 of Round 1
Gracie did not have much trouble here. Vera has now lost both of his professional fights to members of the Gracie family by first round submission.
AVIV GONZALI (2-0, 165) VS EDUARD MURAVITSKY (9-8, 165) – 165lbs
Gonzali jumped into an Imanari roll, caught Muravitsky in a heel hook and Muravitsky submitted in eleven seconds.
WINNER: Aviv Gonzali by heel hook at 0:11 of Round 1
This was the quickest submission victory in Bellator history. Gonzali is only eighteen years old, and has started his career with three straight victories, including this Bellator record.
SABAH HOMASI (12-8, 171) VS MICAH TERRILL (14-7, 171) – WELTERWEIGHT
Terrill started the fight with a left low kick that Homasi countered with a vicious right hand that knocked Terrill unconscious.
WINNER: Sabah Homasi by KO at 0:17 of Round 1
It is a rarity in which back to back fights occur that last for less then thirty seconds combined. A perfectly timed shot from Homasi, who is now 2-2 in Bellator MMA. Homasi called out Austin Vanderford in his post fight interview.
JOSEPH CREER (6-0-1, 184) VS AUSTIN VANDERFORD (7-0, 184.5) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Paige VanZant (Vanderford’s wife) has been referenced at least twenty times thus far into the broadcast.
In the opening minutes, Creer found a home for the left kick to the right side of Vanderford’s body. Vanderford shot a double leg, picked Creer up, and slammed him to the ground, locking up the body of Creer on the ground as he began landing hard ground and pound blows for the rest of the round. Vanderford found himself in the exact same position not twenty seconds into the second round and began working into half guard. Vanderford landed some sharp elbows that opened a large cut near the right eye of Creer. Creer was bleeding so much it was hard to imagine he could see anything. This was a very one-sided round for Vanderford. In-between rounds the doctor determined that the cut on Creer was severe enough to stop the fight.
WINNER: Austin Vanderford by TKO at 5:00 of Round 2
This was a dominant win for Vanderford in his middleweight debut. Vanderford accepted Homasi’s callout from the previous fight, which is a fight that makes sense for both men. He is now 2-0 inside the Bellator cage.
RICKY BANDEJAS (11-3, 136) VS AHMET KAYRETLI (8-3, 136) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Both men started off with a kick heavy offence, with Kayretli landing a pair of clean low kicks early. Kayretli rushed in with his chin down, attempting to land a right hand, but Bandejas responded with a right hand of his own moving backwards, that sent Kayretli right down to the floor. Kayretli was clearly out and Bandejas picked up an early knockout victory
WINNER: Ricky Bandejas by KO at 1:21 of Round 1
A beautiful knockout by Bandejas, who broke his two-fight losing skid since his knockout victory over James Gallagher. The preliminary fights had quite delivered by this point in the card.
MIKE KIMBEL (3-1, 140) VS CHRIS DISONELL (3-3, 140) – 140lbs
Disonell landed a clean combination that allowed him to press Kimbel against the cage. When they disengaged both men started throwing wildly, hurting one another repeatedly until Kimbel took Disonell down, escaped an attempted guillotine attempt and promptly stood up. Upon returning to the feet, they immediately returned to swinging at one another. They continued to connect hard and cleanly, and Disonell took Kimbel down with a body lock that almost seem to fold Kimbel backwards, and landed brutal ground and pound until referee Dan Miragliotta stopped the fight.
WINNER: Chris Disonell by TKO at 4:54 of Round 1
This fight was crazy. Both men were fighting recklessly, looking for an early finish. Kimbel had almost no defence when he was taken down at the end of the first, and must have been exhausted. This was Disonell’s first fight, and by extension, first win inside Bellator.
THIAGO RELA (13-7, 175) VS JON MANLEY (11-6, 175) – 175lbs
Rela pressed Manley against the cage, and looked to use the fence to help him take Manley’s back, Demian Maia style. Rela succeeded in taking Manley’s back on the ground, but Manley grabbed a kimura that forced Rela to give up his position and Manley moved into top control. Manley over committed to the Kimura, allowing Rela to get back up and take Manley’s back once again, before returning to the ground. The round ended in this position.
Manley landed a kick to the groin of Rela early in the second. They briefly traded strikes in the clinch before Rela took Manleys back against the cage again. Mike Goldberg used this moment to disccuss Mike Perry’s broken nose. Just like the first round, Manley used the Kimura to work his way out of the dangerous position and into an advantageous one. Manley ended the round in side control.
Into the third, Manley took Rela down against the cage and started raining down right hands to Rela, who offered little in the way of defence. Referee John English warned Rela that he needed to move or he would stop the fight. He did not. After about three minutes Manley took the back of Rela and locked in the rear-naked choke and picked up the submission victory.
WINNER: Jon Manley by rear-naked choke at 4:47 of Round 3
This was a competitive fight until the third. It seemed as though Rela did not have much left in the gas tank, and Manley capitalized with a dominant round and a submission finish against a jiujitsu black belt.
KASTRIOT XHEMA (3-3, 165) VS CONNOR DIXON (0-0, 165) – 165lbs
Xhema seemed to hurt Dixon a couple of times with looping punches in the first thirty seconds. Dixon used his wrestling ability to take Xhema down twice within the next minute, but was unable to capitalize on either takedown. Dixon looked extremely tired three minutes into the fight. Xhema grounded Dixon with a low kick, then allowed him to return to the feet. Dixon partially succeeded on another single leg attempt, but time expired before he could work his way into a noteworthy position.
With a degree of renewed energy, Dixon pressured Xhema against the cage, taking him down and eventually transitioned to his back. Dixon moved into full mount and began to work at a triangle choke. Dixon transitioned to an armbar attempt, which backfired and allowed Xhema to escape the dangerous position. At the end of the round Xhema told coach Ray Longo that he broke his thumb.
Dixon easily took Xhema down and found himself in mount yet again. Dixon opened up a cut around Xhema’s left eye with a series of hard ground and pound strikes. As Xhema attempted to move out of the positon, Dixon grabbed his arm and rolled into an armbar attempt, which he locked in successfully and tapped out Xhema.
WINNER: Connor Dixon by armbar at 2:08 of Round 3
I was very impressed with Dixon, who looked like he was exhausted just minutes into the fight. He showcased impressive grappling ability here in his professional debut.
NICK NEWELL (15-2, 156) VS COREY BROWNING (5-2, 156) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Newell threw some quick jabs and kicks to the body early that seemed to make Browning uncomfortable. Browning shot for a takedown and failed, but managed to put Newell against the fence. Newell brought Browning to the ground with a unique leg trip and worked his way into side mount, where he landed a couple of elbows before transitioning to an arm triangle, and Browning submitted soon after.
WINNER: Nick Newell by arm triangle at 3:15 of Round 1
This was a quick and dominant win for Newell, who picked up a win here in his Bellator debut. Newell will continue to have a lot of attention on him, fighting with congenital amputation on his left arm. This was a fantastic preliminary card, filled entirely with finishes and exciting fights.
TYRELL FORTUNE (6-0, 247) VS RUDY SCHAFFROTH (6-0, 243) – HEAVYWEIGHT
This fight opened up the main card.
Schaffroth opened up the contest with a low kick and was the fighter moving forward early. Fortune landed a clean ducking right hand, that Schaffroth amazingly did not react to at all. Fortune started working the low kicks, that paid off quickly, knocking Schaffroth down repeatedly. The inside leg kick of Fortune began to control the fight, shutting down Schaffroth offence. Fortune landed another clean right hand in the second, put Schaffroth down with another low kick, and as Schaffroth returned to his feet, Fortune landed a flurry of quick and vicious strikes that knocked Schaffroth to the ground, where he almost finished the fight with ground and pound before Fortune took Schaffroth’s back and sank in the rear-naked choke.
WINNER: Tyrell Fortune by rear-naked choke at 2:08 of Round 2
Fortune was clearly the better fighter here, and completely outclassed Schaffroth on the feet before finishing the fight on the ground. Its tough to gauge potential at heavyweight, but Fortune fought patiently, efficiently and showed killer instinct when the moment presented itself. Fortune is now 7-0 in his career, all of those fights taking place in Bellator.
DAVID RICKELS (21-5, 2 NC, 175) VS YAROSLAV AMOSOV (21-0, 175) – 175lbs
This was Rickels 23rd fight in Bellator, expanding on his promotional record. I cannot accurately what Rickels was wearing during his walkout, but I must note he brought out Genki Sudo’s famous “we are all one” flag.
Amosav landed a number of left hands early, before moving in to wrestle Rickels to the ground. Amosav controlled the fight from Rickels guard, and landed a series of heavy elbows to the seated Rickels against the cage. Rickels worked his way up by the end of the round, but this was an easy 10-9 for Amosav.
Rickels started the second round aggressively, but Amosav capitalized on this by bringing Rickels back to the ground with a single leg. Again, the majority of this round was spent with Amosav on top in Rickels guard. They exchanged elbows. Amosav transitioned to a darce choke and Rickels tapped out, as Amosav extended his undefeated record.
WINNER: Yaroslav Amosav by D’Arce choke at 4:05 of Round 2
This was a dominant performance by Amosav. He moves to 3-0 inside of Bellator.
TAYLOR TURNER (4-5, 136) VS ALEJANDRA LARA (7-3, 134) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Lara threw a right hand that she used to move into the clinch, and quickly took Turner to the ground. By the half way point of the round, this fight was all Lara’s, who easily controlled Turner on the ground and threw powerful strikes down upon Turner. Lara took Turners back and continued raining down left hands on Turner, who was offering no defence. Referee John English stopped the fight after it appeared that Turner was unable to escape this position and was taking a great deal of unanswered strikes.
WINNER: Alejandra Lara by TKO at 3:44 of Round 1
This was a mismatch. Just two fights ago Lara was fighting for the flyweight championship, and now she was matched against Turner who had lost five of her eight MMA fights. Perhaps it just speaks to matchmaking for a women’s 135lbs division that does not really exist in Bellator at the moment. This fight was non-competitive, and Lara rebounds with a dominant win to end her 2-fight losing skid. Lara is now 2-2 inside Bellator.
The finalists of the Bellator welterweight tournament, Douglas Lima, and welterweight champion Rory Macdonald were interviewed inside the cage and were faced off. Neither man is a trash talker, but this is sure to be an anticipated fight after their extremely competitive title fight last year.
VITALY MINAKOV (21-1, 262) VS TIM JOHNSON (12-5, 265) – HEAVYWEIGHT
Minakov is coming off the first loss of his professional career, facing Tim Johnson, who took this fight on half a day’s notice after Minakov’s originally scheduled opponent Javy Ayala was forced to withdraw from the fight due to an infection.
Minakov landed a right hand early, and then just started throwing Johnson around, including a suplex that was extremely impressive considering Johnson weighed in at the heavyweight limit. Minakov threw a right kick to the body and followed it up with a straight right hand that hurt Johnson badly. As Johnson retreated to the cage, Minakov landed another right hand as Johnson ducked down, and Johnson was out. Minakov landed a pair of unnecessary punches to Johnson before referee Keith Peterson stepped in and stopped the fight.
WINNER: Vitaly Minakov by KO at 1:45 of Round 1
The majority of fighters likely would not have accepted a new opponent on hours notice, especially following their first loss, but Minakov gambled and it paid off big time. He absolutely destroyed Johnson here, and reminded everybody why he was looked at as one of the best fighters in the world outside of the UFC. Minakov is now 6-1 inside of Bellator MMA, and I would not be surprised at all if the winner of Kongo/Bader finds themselves across the cage from Minakov soon.
MATT MITRIONE (13-6, 258) VS SERGEI KHARITONOV (29-7, 264) – HEAVYWEIGHT
This was the main event of the evening. Mitrione and Kharitonov fought earlier this year at Bellator 215, a contest that ended in a no contest following an unintentional kick to the groin from Mitrione just 15 seconds into the fight.
Mitrione threw a lot of strikes in the first minute, putting the pressure on Kharitonov early. Mitrione appeared significantly quicker. Kharitonov landed a jab that snapped Mitrione’s head back. Kharitonov landed a right jab to the body. Mitrione continued to have the higher output of strikes. Kharitonov landed a right hand that knocked Mitrione’s mouthpiece out. Mitrione lost his mouth piece for the third time in the round and referee Dan Miragliotta let Mitrione know if it happened again, he would take a point. Kharitonov ended the round with the more significant strikes and I thought he stole the first round late.
Both men landed hard shots in the first minute of the second round. Kharitonov hit Mitrione with a left hand and Mitrione lost the mouthpiece yet again. As Miragliotta went to pick up the mouthpiece, the heavyweights continued to fight and Kharitonov landed a clean uppercut and a left knee as Mitrione went down, which ended the fight by knockout.
WINNER: Sergei Kharitonov by TKO at 1:24 of Round 2
This was a strange fight. Mitrione was clearly having problems with his mouthpiece and seemed very distracted by the issue towards the end of the first round. To Kharitonov’s credit, he did not let any of this distract him, made Mitrione fight at his pace, and picked up a stoppage victory that may put him into title contention. Kharitonov is now 3-1-1 in Bellator.
Every fight on this card ended with a stoppage, and this was certainly an entertaining card from Bellator MMA.