Bellator MMA had it’s first overseas show Saturday from Torino Italy. The show took place at 3 pm eastern and aired on tape delay on SpikeTV with a late 10 pm start time. In terms of star power, it was one of the weaker shows that Bellator has put on since the MTV 2 days but in many ways, the promotion looked more “big league” than ever before.
The show took place in front of a hot crowd in a bigger building than they usually run. The fighters that they were hoping to showcase did what they were supposed to, particularly Alessio Sakara scoring an impressive TKO win in front of his home country. All of the walkouts aired in their entirety, which was a nice change from UFC.
Perhaps the best thing on the show was the opening video montage that was more of a promo for Spike Sports than Bellator MMA specifically but featured mainly Bellator fighters. The tag line of Fighters First was all over the video. Particularly memorable was a Josh Koscheck quote “I can say what I want and I can wear what I want”. This video is worth going out of your way to see although I’m sure it will air before all MMA, Kickboxing and Boxing events on Spike for the next while.
It wasn’t all good news. In the first three fights, the losers looked they belonged nowhere near a professional MMA cage, let alone on national TV. And the main event was a terrible fight with referee John McCarthy even stopping the fight midway through the second while both fighters were standing, warning them that they had to fight. Not sure what he would’ve done if they hadn’t picked it up a bit but they did….only slightly.
The show kicked off with two local fighters making their Bellator debuts. Daniele Scatizzi scored a first round TKO win over Daniele Miceli in a welterweight fight. Scatizzi looked okay but we’ll probably never see either of these guys in a Bellator cage again unless they come back to Italy.
In the second fight, Anastasia Yankova, who they’ve been promoting pretty heavily and could be the face of the new female flyweight division in Bellator dominated Anjela Pink, who was making her pro debut. It was her third submission win in her three fight career.
AJ McKee had a very impressive performance in dominating Italian fighter Danilo Belluardo on his way to a first round TKO win. It was his fourth straight first round finish with all four of his career fights going a combined 10 minutes. He had a great promo after the fight, basically putting the entire division on notice and saying he’s coming for the belt. McKee is the son of MMA vet Antonio McKee and Bellator has high hopes for his future and he did not disappoint on this night.
In what really should’ve been the main event of the show, especially with the benefit of hindsight, Alessio Sakara came out to the biggest pop of the night by far. He was fighting in his home country for the first time in over a decade and did not disappoint. After a first round which he may have lost, he came out strong in the second and stopped Bellator vet Brian Rogers with punches to score a TKO win. The win probably ensures him a few more Bellator fights and the promotion should really have him headline the next show if they ever return to Italy.
The main event was a terrible fight which Bellator mainstay Patricky “Pitbull” Freire won by unanimous decision over the debuting Kevin Souza, who was recently cut from UFC despite a 3-1 record there. Several times referee John McCarthy warned the fighters to pick up the action while on their feet and midway through the second round, he stopped the fight and warned the fighters they had to keep fighting. The fight was very close, despite Freire scoring 30-27 on all 3 judges scorecards, but neither guy impressed at all. Souza took the fight on short notice and Freire is a lifer in Bellator so they’ll probably both be back but after a long day of MMA after the UFC on FOX show, that was a hard fight to sit through.
Overall, I’d say the show was a minor success and something that Bellator should definitely do again. It came across much differently than the normal Friday night shows they run in casinos and more shows like this would make the promotion seem like a viable alternative to UFC in the world of MMA.
Bellator returns to Spike TV on Friday night with Bellator 153. Benson Henderson makes his promotional debut and challenges Andrey Koreshkov in the show’s main event.
For a play by play report of tonight’s show, check out my coverage from earlier tonight.