The Two Sheds Review: Bellator 96

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It’s debut time here again in The Two Sheds Review as we take a first look at an MMA promotion I’ve heard a great deal about over the past couple of years, Bellator MMA.

Yep, they’ve finally found their way onto British television via the good people at Viva, with the first show of their 2013 summer series, Bellator 96, shown this past Friday night.

The show began with welterweight action as Bas Avena went up against War Machine.

These two began by testing the waters with a couple of kicks before Avena scored with the takedown. Machine then managed to get back to his feet quite quickly, and after some more back and forth action where Machine scored with a takedown of his own he quickly scored with a second takedown.

From there he worked himself into the crucifix position before delivering a barrage of lefts to Avena’s head, and when nothing came back in reply the referee stepped in to give Machine the first round TKO win.

Then it was on to the semi-finals of the heavyweight tournament as Vitaly Minakov faced Ron Sparks.

The blink and you’ll miss it affair of the evening began with a few scrappy-looking exchanges, but when Minakov connected with a big right it was all over. Sparks slumped to the canvas, and after the Russian delivered another couple of blows the referee stepped in to give Minakov the TKO win after just 32 seconds.

Filler material in the form of the second heavyweight semi-final between Ryan Martinez and Richard Hale.

Hale came into this one with a big height and reach advantage, and he tried to use these gifts during the somewhat lengthy feeling out period. This advantage didn’t make much difference when Martinez scored with a takedown after a brief clinch against the cage. A few seconds later he was dropping bombs, a couple of lefts sending Hale into la-la land. The referee soon stopped the fight to give Martinez the knockout win.

The semi-finals of the light heavyweight tournament followed, beginning with Jacob Noe taking on Babalu Sobral.

The only fight of the broadcast to make it out of the first round was one of those intriguing striking battles. Noe, who originally had trouble making weight, looked good early on when he countered Sobral’s kicks with some hard blows, but as the fight went on the Brazilian’s kicks were starting to have their desired effect, judging by the colour of Noe’s thigh. Despite this good work Sobral blotted his copybook a little with a couple of low knees in the clinch.

Sobral looked a little more forceful in the final round as he went looking for the takedown, but Noe managed to defend against these attempts. A few moments later he took control of the fight when his combinations rocked his man. But instead of going in for the kill when Sobral was clearly in trouble Noe backed off. He connected with a few more combinations, and when the rubber-legged Sobral staggered out of a momentary clinch the referee waved the fight off, giving Noe the TKO win and sending Sobral into retirement.

The main event and second semi-final saw Seth Petruzelli taking on King Mo Lawal.

Petruzelli began his night’s work with some combinations, but an accidental clash of heads when he went for a takedown brought a temporary halt to the proceedings. When the action resumed Lawal scored with the takedown. Petruzelli tried to shut his man down at first, but when Lawal connected with a big right that was it. The referee quickly stepped in to give the King the knockout win as Petruzelli joined Sobral in retirement.

The show rounded out with further filler material in the form of the bantamweight encounter between Justin McNally and Steven Artoff.

No striking in this one. McNally took the fight to the ground early on, and although art off did a good job with his rubber guard when he went for a submission it gave McNally the chance to take control.

Seconds later he moved into position so he could apply an inverted triangle and armbar, and when he cranked down on the limb Artoff verbally submitted as McNally took the submission win.

In conclusion – well, my first experience of the Bellator product certainly was a favourable one.

All of the fights proved to be very enjoyable and filled with great striking performances, particularly from King Mo, but despite my enjoyment of these particular encounters my fight of the night no-prize goes to the Justin McNally/Steven Artoff fight for McNally’s great submission work.

So with all of that out of the way the only thing left to do is to give Bellator 96 the thumbs up.

By day I’m an unemployed retail worker, and at weekends I volunteer at a local museum, but by night I’m the author of The Two Sheds Review, Britain’s longest running professional wrestling and mixed martial arts blog. Visit my site at www.twoshedsreview.vze.com. It’s been online in one form or another since June 2000!