Bellator MMA returns to pay-per-view for the first time in over three years with a big show from Madison Square Garden in New York City tonight.
Headlining the show is a grudge match between Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva that was originally scheduled for 2014, first for UFC 173 and then UFC 175.
Drug test issues on the part of both men made it seem like this fight might never happen, but barring any last minute complications they will finally step into an MMA cage tonight.
Another former Pride legend -- Fedor Emelianenko -- will also make his Bellator debut as he faces heavyweight Matt Mitrione in the co-main event. These two were originally supposed to fight in February before a last minute medical issue on the part of Mitrione forced a postponement.
Rounding out the big matchups are three title fights. Light heavyweight champion Phil Davis goes up against Ryan Bader in Bader's Bellator debut. Lorenz Larkin also gets a title shot in his first fight for the promotion as he takes on welterweight king Douglas Lima. 155 lb champion Michael Chandler will defend his belt against the unbeaten Brent Primus.
Spike.com will have five prelim fights beginning at 6 p.m. eastern. The prelims move over to Spike TV starting at 8 p.m., and that portion of the show will be called Bellator 180. The PPV main card begins at 10 p.m. Join us for live coverage starting with the Spike TV fights.
Bellator 180 / Spike TV by Josh Nason
The production definitely has a more professional feel with Mike Goldberg and Jimmy Smith doing the intro plus Mauro Ranallo, Brendan Schaub, and Josh Thomson on the in-arena desk. This is the promotion's big night and they are going all out.
We did get one report of the upper part of the arena being tarped off and fans being moved down to the lower level.
> Heather Hardy (1-0) def. Alice Yauger (4-6) by third round TKO (4:47)
This is Hardy's pro debut after a quality career as a boxer. She's also a Brooklyn, NY, native.
R1: Hardy bloodied up Yauger above her eyebrow, but took some shots that had her blinking. Yauger has a little size on Hardy and doesn't seem intimidated in the least, catching her in the clinch and delivering knees when she can. Thus far, not a great showcase for Hardy. Yauger 10-9
R2: Hardy looks a little more confident, but you have to keep in mind this is her MMA debut so the expectations should be kept in check. Yauger is slowing down and Hardy is making her pay with punches. Her hands are down though and if Yauger had any real power, she'd be in a lot more trouble. Better round for Hardy, but she's getting by on guile and an edge on skill at this point. Hardy 10-9
R3: Yauger went down with a stiff shot at the beginning of the round. Seeing lots of reports of 'Hardy' chants in the arena and you can kinda hear them sitting at home. Hardy is using Yauger as a punching bag, landing hooks and trying to land with the occassional wild Liddell punch. Yauger did land a nice head kick and Hardy took it like a champ. Hardy got a decent cut over her left eye after a headbutt with a minute to go that caused ref John McCarthy to have the doctor check it out, but the fight went on. The last 40 seconds, Hardy turned it on, hurting Yauger badly with a right hand that put her on her butt. She got up and Hardy swarmed with lefts and rights, eventually causing McCarthy to stop the fight.
This was something you'd see in your local MMA promotion on a Friday or Saturday night. Again, this wasn't the showcase I was expecting, but it's hard to expect a lot from someone making their pro debut.
> James Gallagher (7-0) def. Chinzo Machida (5-3) by 1st round submission (2:22)
Pre-fight, Gallagher walked all the way over to the opposite end of the cage and got in Machida's face during the announcements. He's from Conor McGregor's camp and Bellator is fully behind him as their Irish star...unless they sign Joe Duffy, that is. Machida is Lyoto's brother and isn't exactly a spring chicken.
R1: This was all Gallagher. He used his strikes and got it to the ground early and locked in the body lock, working for the RNC. About halfway through the round, it was a quick tap for Machida. This wasn't even competitive.
Two fights in, this hasn't been the best show, but there's time.
>Ryan Bader (24-5) def. Phil Davis (17-5) by split decision (49-46, 49-46, 47-48) to win the Bellator light heavyweight title
R1: Davis looks a lot bigger than Bader. Bader stuffed Davis' first takedown attempt. The two fighters circled each other with Bader pushing the action. Bader stuffed another takedown attempt by Davis. The crowd booed at the lack of action. Not much action in the first round. Pretty much even, with neither guy doing much to win the round. Bader10-9. Barely.
R2: Davis is a bit busier in this round, but he isn't landing much. The Madison Square Garden boobirds are out. Bader seems content with a stand-up fight. Bader stuffed another takedown attempt. Round 2 was a lot like the first. Bader landed a big right hand toward the end of the round. Bader 10-9.
R3: Davis landed a big righ-left combo that rattled Bader for a second. Bader seemed to recover quickly. Davis started to land leg kicks. Davis is showing more of a sense of urgency in this round, loosening up with his punches. Davis kept Bader on the defense for much of the round. Bader scored a quick takedown and almost put him in a guillotine, but Davis rolled out.. Close round. Davis 10-9
R4:The referee a minute into the round pulled both fighters together and told them to "fight." Bader landed a right hand, but couldn't follow it up. Davis was moving a lot, but wasn't doing any damage. Both fighters started throwing more kicks in the round. Davis kept trying to throw an overhand counter-right after Bader threw a jab or a kick. Davis landed a few good knees to the mid-section. Another close round. Davis has yet to land a takedown. Davis 10-9.
R5: Bader is fighting like he's ahead in the fight, content with an unaggressive stand-up attack. Davis land a long right hand, followed up by a left. Davis threw a roundhouse kick that missed. Bader scored another takedown, but Davis popped up quickly. Bader landed another right hand. Davis' left eye is swollen. This was a boring fight and not the best lead-in to the PPV. Bader 10-9.
Official decision: Winner Bader, via split decision, 49-46 Bader, 49-46 Bader, 48-47 Davis
PPV (10 p.m. ET) --
> Bellator Welterweight Champion Douglas Lima (29-6) def. Lorenz Larkin (18-6) by unanimous decision (50-45, 48-47, 48-47) to retain the Welterweight Championship
R1: Both fighters traded a few leg kicks, but not a lot of action. Both fighters showing a lot of respect for each other. Lima is busier, throwing more strikes. He landed a couple of kicks to Larkin's front leg. Larkin threw a fast combination, but missed. Lima landed a left jab and pushed Larkin up against the cage to end the round. Close round. Lima 10-9
R2: Larkin was more aggressive to start the round, but Lima did a good job of dodging punches. Larkin connected with a big right hand that bloodied the nose of Lima. That woke up Lima who landed a wicked left hand that dropped Larkin. Lima pounded him with elbows and fists, but Larkin defended and eventually scrambled to his feet. Lima continued to land with combinations, but appeared to punch himself out a bit. Larkin connected with some punches to end the round. Lima 10-9
R3: The two fighters seem very aware of each other's power to start the round. Lots of circling of each other, but not a lot of punches landing. Larkin landed a left body kick Lima countered with his own. They both seemed to take the round off, but Lima is more aggressive. Lima 10-9
R4: Larkin landed a left leg kick to Lima's shoulder. Lima landed a clean bodypunch. Larkin landed a leg kick again. Lima seemed a bit flustered by Larkin's movement, even though Larkin didn't land much. Larkin landed a double jab, but Lima pushed him down and jumped on top of him. Larkin stood up to end the round. Another close round. Larkin 10-9
R5: Although Larkin is busier, he seems relunctant to close the distance after tasting Lima's power in the second round. Larkin gave Lima lots of different looks, but Lima stayed conservative and stuck to his game plan of throwing leg kicks to Larkin's front leg. Everytime they get close, Lima pushes him off. Lima seemed a lot stronger than Larkin throughout the fight. Lima 10-9
Official decision: Lima retained the title via unanimous decision, 50-45, 48-47 (2x)
> Zach Freeman (9-2) def. Aaron Pico (0-1) by d'arce choke in 24 seconds
Freeman landed a right uppercut to the face of Pico and dropped the former amateur wrestling champion to the mat. He jumped on Pico and finished him with a d'arce choke. Pico tapped in 24 seconds, the fourth fastest finish in Bellator history. Not the outcome Bellator expected.
> Brent Primus (8-0) def. Michael Chandler (16-4) to win the Bellator lightweight championship via doctor stoppage at 2:22 seconds of Round 1.
R1:Chandler slipped early inexplicably and seemed to have rolled his ankle or twisted his knee. Chandler is favoring his left leg heavily. Chandler landed a right hand that dropped Primus, but Chandler could not stand up. The referee interrupted the fight to check on Chandler's leg and the doctor called the fight off. The replay showed that Chandler's ankle gave out underneath him as he was backing up. A freak injury cost him the title. The Madison Square Garden crowd booed heavily.
Chandler in his post-fight interview said "cut it off" referring to his ankle, and challenged Primus to a rematch.
> Matt Mitrione (12-5) def. Fedor Emelianenko (36-5) by knockout at 1:14 of Round 1
R1: Fedor stalked Mitrione for the first few seconds. Emelianenko landed a left jab. The two connected simultaneous right hands and both went down, but Mitrione got up quicker and pounced on Emelianenko for the ground-and-pound finish. Mitrione landed several punches and Emelianenko was out cold.
> Neiman Gracie (6-0) def. Dave Marfone (5-3) by rear naked choke at 2:27 seconds of Round 2
R1: Gracie took him down quickly and tried to take his back, but Marfone pushed him off. Marfone landed a big right hand, but didn't follow it up. Gracie took Marfone down, but he scrambled up. Gracie landed a few punches in the standup. Gracie went for a takedown, but Marfone caught him in a guillotine choke with less than 10 seconds to go in the round. Gracie held on. Gracie 10-9
R2: Gracie took his back and tried to get a takedown. Marfone tried to flip him forward, but Gracie held on and slapped on a body triangle. A few seconds later, he tapped Marfone out with a rear naked choke.
> Chael Sonnen (29-15-1) def. Wanderlei Silva (35-13-1) by unanimous decision, 30-26, 30-27, 30-27.
Prefight: Both fighters got their national anthems played. Guitar legend Dave Navarro played the U.S. national anthem live.
R1: Sonnen took Silva down in the opening seconds and started with the ground and pound. Sonnen showed an aggression at the level of the first Anderson Silva fight. Sonnen tried to apply a can opener, but Silva defended. It's all Sonnen right now. Silva scrambled to his feet and pulled away. Silva landed a big right hand and dropped Sonnen. Sonnen scrambled up and took Silva down again. Silva went for a guillotine choke, but Sonnen slipped out. Sonnen finished the round on top. Sonnen 10-9
R2: Sonnen came out hot and landed a flying knee. He went for a takedown and Silva put on a guillotine choke. He kept the choke on forever, forcing the referee to stand them up because Silva wasn't doing anythin to finish the hold. Sonnen immediately took Silva down again. Sonnen stayed on top and pounded Silva with right hands and elbows. The round ended with Sonnen on top of Silva. Sonnen 10-9
R3: Sonnen took Silva down again to start the round. Sonnen is showing shades of his dominant performance against Anderson Silva, just staying relentless on top of Silva. Sonnen tried for a wristlock submission attempt that Silva defended. Silva doesn't have much on the ground in this position. Sonnen wrapped him up with a leg lock, but Silva tied him up from the top. Sonnen just wouldn't let him up and Silva had no way to get off of his back. Sonnen 10-9
Official Decision: Winner Sonnen, 30-26, 30-27 (2x)