By Rob Francis
Bellator MMA returned to St. Louis on Friday night with Bellator 145 Vengeance. This was an aptly named card, as Bobby Lashley was seeking vengeance against James Thompson for an earlier loss, and Daniel Straus looked to avenge his losses aginst Patricio Pitbull.
4pm Officials arrive at the Scottrade center. Check in with security and get credentials. The state athletic commission hands out bout assignments.
4:45pm Officials meeting with Cory from Bellator. Discuss the judges use of monitors during the fight. I have to say this is a great tool to have. There are multiple times during a fight where a judge might not be able to see the action. The monitor works great if the referee is between a judge and the action, or when the fighters are across the cage and out of sight.
5:35pm The first fighters are staged in the back. The show is going live on the website in ten minutes.
5:45pm The first fight of the night is Adam Cella against Chel Erwin-Davis. Davis pressures Cella against the cage and gets the take down. Cella does a good job getting back to his feet. Davis with some good clinch work. After a couple of scrambles Cella gets a takedown. Ella goes for the mount, then takes Davis’ back. The RNC is defended so Cella tries for an arm bar. Davis escapes as the first round ends. Round one 10-9 Cella. Round two starts as a kickboxing affair. Davis lands a takedown and throws some elbows from half guard. Cella regains his feet and scores a takedown of his own. Davis with a sweep and stays on top to finish the round. Round two 10-9 Davis. The fighters engage to start round three and a fresher looking Davis lands a hard strike that drops Cella. Davis keeps up the attack until referee Mike England stops the fight. Chel Erwin-Davis wins by tko at 35 seconds of round three.
6:03pm Our second prelim fight is headed to the cage. Jeff Crotty is making his professional debut against Garrett Gross. Garrett starts the fight with a kick. Crotty shoots and takes the fight to the ground. Gross gets up, but Crotty pulls him back down. Gross once again gets the fight standing. Crotty gets a guillotine, but can’t keep the hold. When Gross gets free he forces Crotty to the cage and starts scoring with elbows. Gross drops Crotty late in the round, but can’t finish. 10-9 round for Gross. Round two starts with Gross using leg kicks to wear down Crotty. Crotty gets a single leg takedown, and eventually works his way to mount at the midpoint of the round. A lack of action from the top position causes referee Mark Wasem to stand the fight up. Crotty gets another takedown and finishes the round out. Crotty had the takedowns but did nothing with them, 10-9 Gross. Gross comes out fast to start the final round, but eats a couple jabs, and gets taken down again. Crotty moves from side control to north south position, then has a nice transition to mount. Gross gets guard back, then sweeps to end up on top. Crotty uses an inverted triangle to sweep back on top, but can’t keep Gross down. Gross pushes Crotty back with strikes and ends up on top when he stops a takedown attempt. Gross ends the round landing punches from the top. Gross takes the third 10-9. Garrett Gross wins a unanimous decision 30-27 across the board.
6:27pm The third fight of the night has two veterans from the last Bellator fight in St. Louis with Kyle Kurtz facing Steve Mann. Mann comes out aggressive and secures a quick takedown. Mann goes from side control to full mount. Mann only lands a couple of elbows before Kurtz gets free. Mann forces Kurtz down against the cage. Kurtz stays patient, and when Mann leaves an opening he latches on a triangle. Mann is forced to tap at 2:59 of the first round. For the second Bellator card in a row Kyle Kurtz stayed calm when he was put in a bad position, allowing him to utilize his jiu-jitsu to secure the submission.
6:34pm Two of St. Louis top welterweights face off next, with Adam Meredith fighting Jordan Dowdy. Meredith lands a combination. Jordan tries for a takedown, but ends up getting taken down by Meredith. The two fighters scramble and Adam gets Jordan’s back. Meredith secures the rear naked choke, forcing Dowdy to tap at 1:54 of the first round.
6:42pm The heavyweights come out for the fifth fight. Augusto Sakai takes on Alex Huddleston. The first round is a feeling out process. Huddleston is throwing some leg kicks. Sakai is trying to counter. Sakai catches Huddleston with a low blow. When the action starts back up Sakai starts scoring with his kicks. Huddleston pushes sakai toward the cage, but eats a right hook. Huddleston tries a for takedown. Sakai blocks the takedown and scores with some strikes to end the round. Sakai 10-9. Round two starts with Sakai being the aggressor. Sakai is coming forward and landing better shots in this round. Huddleston rushes forward, but gets caught in a standing guillotine. Sakai uses the guillotine to land some knees. Sakai takes round two 10-9. Despite being behind Huddleston starts slow in round three. Sakai is patiently kicking at Huddleston’s legs. Neither fighter is landing significant strikes. With 30 seconds left in the fight Huddleston attempts a takedown. Sakai stops the takedown, but is hit with two rights. Huddleston unloads a couple more rights dropping Sakai as the bell ends the round. Huddleston takes the third round 10-9. Augusto Sakai wins a unanimous decision 29-28.
7:05pm Middleweights Kain Royer and Clay Mitchell face each other in bout number six. Kain goes for a single, but Mitchell sprawls. Royer has Mitchell against the fence. Royer ends up on bottom after a takedown attempt. Mitchell is in mount and takes Royer’s back. Mitchell is looking for a choke. Royer with a sweep, but ends up in a triangle. Kain escapes the triangle and is in Mitchell’s guard. Mitchell tries another triangle, but Royer catches his leg. Royer tries a toehold, then switches to a knee bar to pick up the submission victory 3:41 in the first.
7:14pm Fazlo Mulabitinovic stepped up on two days notice when Scott Ettling’s opponent dropped out. Ettling gets an early takedown, but Fazlo is controlling the action from the bottom. Fazlo stays patient, and as soon as Ettling makes a mistake the fight is over. Mulabitinovic secures the armbar submission 1:52 of the first.
7:22pm The nights final preliminary fight has the explosive Rashard Lovelace against Brandon Lowe. Lovelace knocks Lowe down with a leg kick. Lowe is to his feet, and shoots in on Rashard. Lovelace sprawls and lands some hard body shots. Lowe is on the canvas and Lovelace lands enough strikes to make the referee call the fight. Rashard Lovelace wins by tko 2:07 of the first.
7:25pm We are taking a half hour break before we come back for television.
7:55pm Rampage Jackson, Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, Tito Ortiz, and Kimbo Slice are making their way out cageside.
8:02pm Justin Lawrence and Emmanuel Sanchez are kicking off the television broadcast. Sanchez is coming forward while Lawrence circles the outside. Lawrence is throwing a variety of kicks that Sanchez is blocking. Lawrence lands a right hook. Lawrence is scoring as Sanchez comes forward. Lawrence is doing a good job making Sanchez miss. Sanchez gets a clinch, but can’t do anything. Lawrence is free just before the round ends. Lawrence wins round one 10-9. Lawrence continues to circle for the start of round two. Sanchez gets in close a minute and a half in. The fighters are in the clinch against the cage. Sanchez is trying for the takedown, but Lawrence is defending. Three minutes in and they are still in the clinch, with Sanchez scoring with knees. The fighters break with a minute left. Sanchez stuns Lawrence with a head kick but can’t finish him before the round ends. Sanchez takes round two 10-9. The fight is even going into the third. Sanchez seems more confident, tries for a takedown. Lawrence stuffs the takedown, and the fighters are clinched against the cage again. Sanchez is mixing knees with some footstomps. Sanchez gets the takedown a minute thirty in. Sanchez has the back, But Lawrence reverses into Sanchez’s guard. They are trading strikes on the ground. Sanchez is looking for an arm. Lawrence passes to side control, but Sanchez gets back to his feet. Thirty seconds to go and Sanchez lands some good knees. Sanchez tries for a takedown, but is blocked as the round ends. Sanchez 10-9. Emmanuel Sanchez wins a split decision 29-28, 28-29, 29-28.
8:38pm The heavyweight rematch between Bobby Lashley and James Thompson is next. Lashley with a right hand to start. Lashley with a single leg. Thompson tries to sprawl, but you can see him in obvious pain. Lashley is on top. Lashley takes the back and starts punching. Lashley can sense the finish and ups his barrage. Referee Mike England stops the fight 54 seconds into round one. Thompson is down through most of the commercial break. The initial report is a torn hamstring for Thompson.
9:05pm Michael Chandler and Dave Rickels are next. Everyone is waiting to see the Caveman’s entrance. Rickels comes out wearing a sabretooth tiger pelt and carrying a club. Rickels is accompanied by Fighting for Autism ambassador JP Gillespie. The crowd explodes for hometown fighter Michael Chandler. Tyron Woodley is out with his former Mizzou wrestling teammate. Rickels is looking to keep Chandler outside with kicks. Chandler lands some hard rights. The fight goes to the ground with Chandler on top. Rickels doing a good job defending. Chandler scores with some solid strikes. Rickels wants a triangle. Chandler escapes, but allows Rickels back to his feet. Rickels comes forward, but Chandler takes him down and lands some elbows to end the first. Chandler with a solid 10-9 first round. The crowd is loud for Chandler as they start the second. Chandler is fired up, throwing punches and kicks. Chandler with a takedown. Rickels gets up quick. Rickels with some punches to Chandler. Chandler with a hard right stuns Rickels. Chandler is on top and Rickels is busted open. Half way through and Chandler is pouring on the punishment as the crowd roars. Mike England has finally seen enough and halts the fight at 3:05 of the second round. Chandler makes the case to Scott Coker to keep coming back to St. Louis then makes his case for a title fight. “I deserve that belt. I want the winner.”
9:50pm The first of two world title fights is up next as Marcin Held challenges Will Brooks. Held with a clinch. Held can’t get the single leg so he trips Brooks. Held is on top, but Brooks is calm one minute in. Held keeps Brooks down for two minutes. Brooks finally gets the fight standing. Brooks with a takedown. Held immediately starts working the legs. Held with a kneebar, but Brooks escapes. Brooks back on top as the round ends. Held 10-9. Brooks with an early takedown in round two. Held looking for an armbar. Brooks is landing punches. Held going for a leg, but the champion gets the mount. Good work from Brooks trying for submissions and landing strikes to finish the round in control. Brooks takes the second 10-9. Held pulls guard to start round three. Brooks scoring from the guard. Held keeps looking for a leg, but just takes punches and elbows from Brooks. Methodical round from Brooks 10-9. A loud chant for Michael Chandler. Held wastes no time going for the legs in round four. Leglock attempt followed by heel hook. Brooks gets free and into guard. Brooks landing elbows. With a minute left Held gets his best shot at a submission since the first round. Brooks survives and scores to finish the fourth. Brooks 10-9. Brooks comes forward with a right, then a takedown from the clinch. Held ties Brooks up enough to get a stand up from the referee. Brooks is in control for the final two minutes. Brooks takes the fifth 10-9. Will brooks win a unanimous decision 50-45, 49-46, 49-46.
10:33pm Scott Coker makes the announcement that mma legends Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie will be facing each other on February 19th in Houston Texas.
10:43pm It’s time for the main event. Daniel Straus is looking for vengeance and the championship against Patricio Pitbull. Straus scores first with a left. Patricio comes back with a right. Straus ties up the champ. Straus with the takedown attempt. A sprawl from Pitbull. Pitbull with a knee to the challenger. Straus gets Pitbull down, but it only lasts a few seconds. Knee from the champion.Some clinch work from both fighters. Close round 10-9 Pitbull. Straus is using leg kicks in round two. Straus with an uppercut, but the champion follows it with a knee to the head. Straus with a hard right drops Patricio. The challenger pounces, but Pitbull ties up his arms, trying to buy time to recover. Straus looks for a guillotine. Straus with a very good round 10-9. Straus has the crowd behind him as round three starts. Straus is picking up the pace and starting to land with more frequency. An accidental eye poke from the challenger stops the action briefly. The champion has recovered from the knockdown in the second, but is noticeably slower. Another good round from Straus 10-9. Straus with a kick to start the fourth. The challenger tries for a takedown, but Pitbull blocks. Straus with an uppercut, then a combo. An accidental head but pauses the action. Pitbull with some punches following the restart. But the challenger comes right back. Straus is landing the harder shots and with more volume. You can’t count out the champion as he rallies for the last thirty seconds. Straus 10-9. The challenger is in charge as they start the final round. Straus with multiple lefts to open the action. Pitbull with a right, then a knee. Pitbull with a takedown. The champion gets Straus to give his back with half the round left. Pitbull striking from the back. Straus gets back to his feet. Pitbull with a spinning elbow. The champion with a flurry. The two fighters are standing and trading shots. Pitbull with a pair of knees to the challenger. The final ten seconds and both fighters are standing face to face swinging. Nice round for the champion. Pitbull 10-9. Daniel Straus takes a unanimous decision 49-46, 48-47, 48-47. This fight was supposed to finish the rivalry, but after that I think we will eventually see Straus/Pitbull 4.
The final attendance figures have not been released, but from all appearances St. Louis is in line for a return stop in 2016. The nights biggest winners were Daniel Straus getting the championship, Michael Chandler putting himself back in the title picture, Emmanuel Sanchez boosting his standing in Bellator, and on the local level Kyle Kurtz continues to impress on the big stage while Adam Meredith steps to the top of the welterweight ranks.
All fight photographs are courtesy of Jimmy Range photography.
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