While most of the MMA world’s attention this past weekend was directed at UFC 135 and the dominant skills displayed by UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, there was a glut of fights spread amongst multiple organizations. Strikeforce, Bellator, DREAM, and Titan Fighting Championships all hosted cards this past weekend.
MMAFrenzy is here to honor the best (and worst) of a packed MMA weekend outside of the UFC.
Fight of the Weekend
Tatsuya Kawajiri defeats Joachim Hansen – DREAM 17
Tatsuya “Crusher” Kawajiri made his featherweight debut this weekend against elite grappler Joachim Hansen. Kawajiri and Hansen went to war this weekend in a physical battle that lived up to its billing as the two put on an impressive display of grappling. Each of the first two rounds ended with a fighter in trouble with Hansen taking back mount at the end of the first, while Kawajiri tried to pound out Hansen at the end of the second. In the third, both fighters went toe-to-toe again before Kawajiri scored a takedown and sunk in a deep arm triangle that Hansen valiantly attempted to fight off before eventually tapping.
While Bellator had some spectacular battles as well, the impressive display of grappling skills, in my opinion, made the Kawajiri-Hansen the best fight of the weekend.
Honorable mentions: Ed West defeats Luis Nogueira – Bellator 51, Marcos Galvao defeats Chase Beebe – Bellator 51, Ryan Couture edges Maka Watson – Strikeforce Challengers 19
Knockout of the Weekend
Alexis Vila crushes Joe Warren – Bellator 51
Bellator featherweight champion Joe Warren had been billed as “going for history” by attempting to win a title at bantamweight in addition to his current belt. His first round tournament opponent, Alexis Vila (pictured courtesy of Bellator.com), had other plans. Vila, the more decorated wrestler by far, was sick of Warren’s brash talk and annoyed by the many naming Warren the favorite to win the tournament. Warren had a habit of living on the edge in fights but had always managed to find a way to pull out a victory. That run ended in brutal fashion Saturday, when Vila landed a left that separated the featherweight champion from consciousness.
At 40, Vila is unlikely to make a long run with any promotion but the elite wrestler is extremely talented and sure to ruffle any organization he fights with. With that said, a “knock out of the year” candidate always helps a fighter’s cause.
Honorable mentions: “Lion” Takeshi Inoue blasts Caol Uno – DREAM 17, Andrew Whitney’s flying knee on Laramie Shaffer – TFC 20, James Terry destroys Magno Almeida – Strikeforce Challengers 19
Edit: bsbiz: “I would like to add Dan Spohn’s KO of Dane Bonnigson at Bellator 51 to this list. It was on the untelevised undercard, but it needs to be mentioned.”
Submission of the Weekend
Bibiano Fernandes chokes out Takafumi Otsuka – DREAM 17
This one was pretty much between the DREAM fighters with Fernandes edging out Kawajiri and the two grappling sociopaths in Masakazu Imanari and Shinya Aoki. While DREAM having spectacular submissions would likely surprise no one, with this lineup it was hard to pick just one. Fernandes took the fight in my opinion based solely on how he went about. Fernandes speed and quickness were frightening as it took him merely 41 seconds to put Takafumi Otsuka to sleep with a technical submission. The only thing Fernandes forgot to do in that fight was give his opponent a pillow. It was just another dominant win for the talented Brazilian bantamweight.
Honorable Mentions: Shinya Aoki adjusts Rob McCullough’s spine via neck crank – DREAM 17, Masakazu Imanari armbars Abel Cullum – DREAM 17, Kawajiri arm triangle on Hansen – Dream 17
Most Impressive Prospect
Jason High crushes Todd Moore – Strikeforce Challengers 19
Jason High handled Todd Moore in impressive fashion this past Friday. High displayed a well-rounded assault that had Moore in trouble from start to finish. While Moore displayed heart in the fight, High’s grappling and striking nearly finished Moore multiple times. While it could be argued High is no longer a prospect after losses with DREAM, the UFC, and Affliction, it is important to remember that fighters all develop at different speeds and the “Kansas City Bandit” has evolved a lot with each fight.
Honorable Mentions: Eduardo Dantas – Bellator 51, Alexis Vila – Bellator 51, Dakota Cochrane – TFC 20
Worst of the Worst
While there were a lot of highlights outside the UFC this weekend there were several poor performances as well.
- For all the talk about Joe Warren, I found it odd no one seemed to acknowledge how reckless he had been in his fights or the fact that Vila was actually the better wrestler. Warren, like his teammate Chael Sonnen, was the perfect example of a fighter who marketed himself beyond his previous performances. While Sonnen improved in some aspects, Warren’s recklessness finally caught up to him when he ran into a true monster in Vila.
- There was a time when I got excited to see Kazushi Sakuraba on a card but now all I feel is dread. Saku is arguably one of the best Japanese fighters of all-time but after his devastating and horrific loss to Ricardo Arona in ’05 he never was the same fighter. The Saku that fights now is but a shell of the once great fighter and watching him now is sad. As someone with a medical background, it is hard to imagine that he would be allowed to fight in the US due to accumulation of damage (he already shows signs of Dementia pugilistica). So for DREAM to keep giving him fights is irresponsible. It is time for him to retire, before he likely becomes a very high profile in-fight casualty. Same could be said for Caol Uno.
- I cannot remember any fighter having such an accelerated rise and precipitous fall as Brett Rogers. Rogers looked terrible against Eddie Sanchez this past weekend and it is likely the only time someone has been able to say “my only losses are to Josh Barnett, Fedor Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem, and Eddie Sanchez. If that does not make you think of a Sesame Street song, I do not know what will. Maybe the “Fedor curse” is not just a fluke…
- Jamie Varner, I really do not know what to say about the former WEC champion. Maybe injuries have caught up to him or maybe the drama outside the cage has distracted him, but losing (and losing badly) to late-replacement Dakota Cochrane was shocking to say the least. I am not sure where Varner will go after a one-sided loss at TFC 20, and it is likely he does not know either.
- Bellator 51 was supposed to mark the debut of talented Russian fighter Rasul Mirzaev. Mirzaev is currently being held until his next court appearance (due in October). Mirzaev was arrested in the death of a Russian student after an altercation at a nightclub outside Moscow. Political and religious factors tied to Mirzaev’s ethnicity and training have caused the case to take on a life of its own in Russia.