TV Review: Fight Master Bellator MMA Episode 4



Bellator MMA Fight Master


Brent Wilson

The 'fighters select coaches' concept has run its course after three entertaining episodes. Now the cast is moving into the fighter house for some hopefully non-TUF-esque antics.

The luxurious fighter's house appears to be a warehouse of some sort and yes, it's the same building that the fighters fought the preliminary round in. It will also be the location of the subsequent round of fights, so the fighters will have the cage in their periphery at all times.

Andy Uhrich suffered a nasty cut over his left eye in the opening round and was forced to withdraw from the competition. As a result, Team Frank Shamrock only ended up with three fighters. Shamrock was given his choice of any of the losing fighters to round out his team.

With that pick, Shamrock selected Joe Williams, a fine choice. Shamrock specifically mentions Williams' wrestling, a major strength having wrestled at Michigan State and having displayed an excellent chain wrestling game and explosiveness in his fight game. Williams is still very raw on his feet and doesn't have the grappling to capitalize on his wrestling base. He struggled to control the equally explosive Cole Williams in the opening round.

Shamrock takes a unique tact from the other coaches by strongly emphasizing the mental aspect of the game, wanting all of the fighters to focus on visualization and meditation. He gives each of the fighters a journal and asks them to hide it so that it can not become a point of interest or derision from their opponents.

Randy Couture wants the focus of his camp to be training smart, not hard -- an especially important imperative given the number of fights required of the combatants in a limited time frame.

The round of sixteen match-ups will be determined via a seeding system. The four coaches and Bellator head honcho Bjorn Rebney will seed the fighters from one to sixteen. The top ranked fighter will get to choose his match-up. The next highest remaining ranked fighter will choose the following fight and so on until all eight matches have been made. Interesting. They're trying to emphasize the "Bellator way" that the fighter controls their own destiny, not the promotion.

Joe Riggs is given the top seed on the basis of his experience and credentials. The ranked list of sixteen is below.

1. Joe Riggs (Team Greg Jackson)
2. Cristiano Souza (Team Randy Couture) Powerful Brazilian with a BJJ brown belt.
3. Chris Lozano (Team Frank Shamrock) My pick to win the series. Bellator vet.
4. AJ Matthews (Team Couture) Quick and athletic prospect with some buzz.
5. Cole Williams (Team Couture) Well-rounded and athletic with a wrestling base.
6. Tim Welch (Team Jackson) Aggressive with a ton of power, but not much else.
7. Eric Bradley (Team Jackson) Explosive with top notch wrestling, but is totally raw and one dimensional and is coming off of a long hiatus due to a two year incarceration.
8. Jason Norwood (Team Joe Warren) Aggressive, strong one dimensional wrestler.
9. Jason Barnes (Team Shamrock) Untested athletic prospect who has shown some wrestling and grappling ability.
10. Mike Dubois (Team Shamrock) Wild, all-out brawler with limited skills et.
11. Evan Cutts (Team Warren) Tough, excellent grappler but is very hittable.
12. Ismael Gonzalez (Team Warren) Exciting tae kwon do base but not much on the ground.
13. Mike Bronzoulis (Team Couture) Strikeforce vet with heavy kicks, is powerful but slow and involved in many close fights.
14. Bryan Travers (Team Jackson) Previously a hot prospect, maintains an intriguing skill set with hand speed, strong wrestling and improving grappling.
15. Eric Scallan (Team Warren) Well-rounded but has struggled against higher competition.
16. Joe Williams (Team Shamrock) NCAA Wrestling background who needs experience in the other facets of the game.

For the most part, the rankings are spot on. Team Warren doesn't have a fighter in the top seven, while Team Couture has three of the top five. I think that Bronzoulis and Travers are well underrated with Welch and Dubois overrated.

BUT WAIT! Although Joe Riggs gets the first selection, the order of the fights is apparently random. So this week we'll see the fifth ranked Cole Williams make his selection. Williams challenges Mike Dubois which I feel should be a very winnable match-up. I think Williams can out-jab Dubois on the feet and take the fight down if it gets too hairy standing.

Does this mean that the top four fighters have already made their selections, but will be kept secret from the viewer until its time for those match-ups to take place? Or does it mean that Williams picked first but was exempt from picking the top four? Or are they airing the fights out or order? THIS MAKES NO SENSE.

I guess they avoided the ranked, in-order matchmaking method to prevent viewers from tuning out from week to week as "lesser" fighters make their matches.

(5) Cole Williams (Couture) vs. (10) Mike Dubois (Shamrock)

Cole Williams (6-1) is an improving fighter with a wrestling base that he's building off of. Williams is light on his feet, with low hands that he uses to taunt opponents with before firing back counter shots. His stand-up is still basic but effective, built almost entirely around his jab and loading up for straight right hands. Williams' low hands make him a relatively easy target but he's shown the ability to weather punishment. His greatest strengths are his cardio and wrestling, although he still struggles to pass or land tremendous offense from the top.

The hirsute Zombie Mike (3-0) has fought a few times on the Southeastern regional circuit and really did not make much of an impression on me. DuBois fights an exciting, all-out, wild, back and forth style but one that is sloppy and results in him getting slugged far too many times to consistently last against good opposition.

ROUND ONE

Williams lands an overhand right then closes the distance, easily tossing DuBois down. Williams immediately passes to mount, takes the back, flattens Dubois out and after some punches to soften Dubois up locks in the rear naked choke.

Winner: Cole Williams by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 1:08 of round 1

Complete domination by an athletic, well-rounded fighter. Williams treated the tough, brawler like he should, imposing his wrestling and then dominating from the top.

Chris Lozano challenges Bryan Travers, claiming that he wants a quality fighter, and doesn't want to walk over a chump. Travers claims to like the matchup, citing his excellent cardio that he doesn't think the heavily muscled Lozano will be able to match.

#2 (3) Chris Lozano (Shamrock) vs. (14) Bryan Travers (Jackson)

The powerful Ohioan Lozano (10-3) has competed in two previous Bellator welterweight tournaments and would not look out of place getting another shot in one. Lozano is a big welterweight who fights mean with serious power in everything he throws, punches, knees, leg kicks, spinning elbows. Lozano is relatively well rounded with improving defensive wrestling and grappling. In his losses he's eaten big shots from opponents who took advantage of his headhunting ways, and his grappling is still exploitable, particularly his penchant for giving up his back or position to try and get back up.

The former NCAA Division I National qualifier out of Cal State Bakersfield, Travers (14-3) was previously a hot prospect at Lightweight before going 0-2 in Strikeforce, losing a fairly close, back and forth decision to Pat Healy, and getting immediately tripped into an anaconda choke against Carlo Prater. Travers maintains an intriguing skill set with hand speed, strong wrestling and a grappling game that continued to improve. Travers doesn't have a superstar future, but he does have an intriguing skillset with some potential remaining, much more than can be said of most of the competition here.

I think this is Lozano's fight, he's much bigger and stronger and should be able to use that to impose his will on Travers. If Travers can keep at distance and use his hand speed to outland Lozano he has a chance though.

ROUND ONE

Very tentative start with Travers staying out of range for Lozano's heavy hands and headkick attempt. When Travers does close the distance he's able to secure double underhooks right away and trips down Lozano. Lozano gives his back and springs back to his feet immediately and is able to free himself from the clinch as well. Heavy jab from Lozano, a Travers takedown attempt is easily stuffed and he eats a right hand on the exit.

Another jab and two GIGANTIC leg kicks from Lozano force Travers to press forward for the takedown. Lozano sprawls and tries to hit a switch while peppering the side of Travers head with shots. Travers is able to finish the takedown, but as soon as Lozano's back hits the ground he is again able to shoot back up.

Two more jabs from Lozano. FLYING KNEE! HUGE FOLLOW-UP RIGHT HAND! Travers head goes flying backwards. Lozano's looking for the kill and firing wild hooks. Travers is able to recover and Lozano looks to be tiring, but Lozano still punctuates the round with more jabs.

That was Lozano's round 10-9 as he landed the majority of the significant strikes and completely nullified Travers' takedowns with his ability to get up.

One thing that should be noted is Greg Jacksons' blatant cheerleading. I'm fine with corners encouraging their fighters, but often it seems like Jackson is directing his comments to the judges, trying to sway their opinions that his fighter is winning. "Yeah Bryan, great takedown! That scored points!" "Oh, this is definitely your round Bryan, yeah!" Jackson does this a lot, especially in quieter venues where his voice can carry and it makes me uneasy.

ROUND TWO

Superman punch glances home from Lozano. The two start trading in the pocket and it's Lozano landing the heavier hooks forcing Travers to again clinch up and look for the takedown. Lozano is fatiguing and at distance has a leg kick caught as Travers dumps him down. Lozano rolls for a deep half guard and tries to sweep but it opens him up to eating peppering blows.

Lozano gives up his underhook on Travers legs and just rolls to his knees. Travers tries to take the back but Lozano rolls into a kneebar attempt. Travers triangles his legs to defend, but Lozano is able to get to his knees and back up. Travers is still right on him and is able to get in deep on Lozano's legs and slam him back down.
Lozano again fights to his knees and gets back up as the round ends.

Travers' round 10-9 as his top control and shots from the top easily outweighted the couple blows that Lozano landed on the feet. The judges agree that the score is 19-19 and we're going to a third round.

ROUND THREE

Lozano's volume has slowed way down and Travers is capitalizing, exploding in and landing combinations. Lozano lands two more giant leg kicks but Travers is able to evade all his punches. Travers again drives Lozano to the fence although he eats a big knee to the body on the way in.

Back at distance more nice work from Travers as he's able to land the same left-right combination every time he steps in, punctuating this one with a body kick. Big leg kick from Lozano, and another.

A minute left and Lozano needs to land something huge to steal the fight. A bomb of an overhand right glances home. Lozano's throwing everything he has but he is so tired. With thirty seconds left Lozano stuffs a Travers shot and pounds away at his body as he's sprawled out over him. I don't think that's enough though and I'm giving Travers the fight 29-28.

The judges have it as a split decision and give the fight to Chris Lozano.

Winner: Chris Lozano by Split Decision

I think this was a poor decision, but not egregiously so. In the third round Travers' outlanded Lozano with several clean combinations. That would be balanced against Lozano's leg kicks, which were monstrous but few, and the flurry from the top at the end which I thought was largely ineffectual, but probably was the difference maker.

I think Lozano still has the potential to win the show although this fight highlighted his weaknesses in cardio and how he can struggle if his opponents can survive his huge initial onslaught and pick him apart from the outside.

For his part I think Travers is a solid, Bellator level fighter, he's well-rounded and has an intriguing skillset, especially at his more natural lightweight. The fact that he stood toe to toe with Lozano and arguably won says a lot about him.

I thought this show was a sizable step down from the first three weeks. It had decent fighters in two decent fights but aside from that there was really nothing else on offer.

The first three episodes did not feel like TUF at all, driven by the coaches personalities and the gimmick of the fighters picking which team to join. This weeks' fights felt exactly like I was watching the Ultimate Fighter. It was two two round fights in an empty gym with no commentators and shouting coaches....it wasn't bad, but it was something I've seen a million times before.

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