By Troy McGovern
Bellator Championships came to Boston on May 6th for a local show at the Wang Center. This being the first big-time promotion to visit the Boston area, there was certain anticipation in the air due to the dissension in local shows lately. The Wang center provided a great venue, with calibrated seating for all to view, mezzanine seating was exceptional for viewing and the crowd seemed to be able to maneuver pretty much where they wanted, and get as close to the action as possible. Bellator seems to pride themselves on organization and creating a big show atmosphere. The cage was displayed very well with exceptional lighting and focus in center stage, media set up was behind the cage and made accessible to plenty of reporters. The only real complaint at this point was the overcrowding of the Mass Commission all over the place. There was an overstock of commissioners, most just standing around watching the event. Purpose served? Not sure
Let’s get to the heart of the matter here…fights. With a template set of eight fights, four local bouts featuring local talent and four fights set in the Bellator elimination series. This card was headlined with two very noticeable and respected names in Roger Huerta and Eddie Alvarez. Local talent was featured with Justin Torrey and his return to Bellator, as well as Greg Rebello and Josh LaBerge.
Fights seemed very evenly matched, kudos to Jeff Clark, matchmaker for Bellator. He matched local talent very well and all fights were relatively competitive. First fight of the night between Chuck O Neil and Damien Vitale was a great battle, with tons of crowd support for O Neil. The battle went back and forth, lots of ground and pound, submission attempts, and in the end, Chuck landed a vicious knee, followed by hammer fists and elbows. This barrage leads to Vitales eye being lacerated and referee stepped in to stop the fight due to unanswered strikes.
The LaBerge-Bonnell fight was a complete beating from the get go. Bonnell was mismatched physically and as it appeared…mentally. He ate a huge right hand out of the gate, was buckled, and within a few seconds was beaten badly and ref stopped that fight as well. Only quick fight of the night, and LaBerge is on a win streak that appears to be taking him to higher places and bigger stages.
In my opinion, fight of the night was Carey Vanier, and Toby Imada. These guys were the first of the televised events, and basically set a pace and a standard that all other fights would be hard pressed to match. Varnier landed a sick Olympic reverse toss over his head, the crowd completely erupts and after a few exchanges, Imada, lands a massive right hand at the bell. Going forward it seems to be more of the same until an absolute maddening ground game takes place, and after massive swells from the crowd cheering and screaming…Imada is frolicking around Vanier like a man possessed, twisting, turning, and maneuvering eccentrically until he lands a quick, brutal arm bar that has Vanier tap immediately.
The Roger Huerta, Pat Curran fight is a chess match. Back and forth, leg kicks, swinging hands, clinching. Both fighters seem cautious, not really wanting to engage with the other out of respect, and in the end it lends to a subpar performance by both, crowd support for Huerta seems high, but Curran gets a decision that could have gone either way. At this point the crowd is getting pretty vocal, seeking excitement, and yelling referee Dan Mergliottas name out loud out of televised recognition, and it’s keeping a comedic resolution throughout the building.
The Alvarez-Neer fight has a big hype to it, with Alvarez being a recognized champion, and crowd support high for him. Alvarez delivers for the crowd, dominating Neer in the first round, and finally pounding him into the ground. Neer makes a move to get himself into a better position and that is the final move. Alvarez took his back, and choked him out in the second round. The appearance that Neer is attempting to tap lends ones imagination to the wonder…is Neer that heart filled he wouldn’t quit, or did Alvarez just get that choke on so quick and tight, he had no choice. Either way, it’s great to see, and the crowd reacts accordingly, with chants and howls!
There was another fight on the card between Pat Bennett, and Cole Konrad. Now every story has to have an aspect of comedy to it, and this was it. Konrad is a physical mess, and after about two minutes into the first round we see evidently that he is not in good shape as well. This fight turns into a sloppy mess on the ground. Two men rolling around each other, no clear strategy, no path to glory here. The crowd is more entertaining with gross misconduct and vulgar comments to the condition of these two fighters. Everyone around, has obviously had a lot to drink, and its becoming a more vocal, violent friendly crowd at this point. Let’s just say there more to say about the crowd than the fight….so on we go.
Justin Torrey is obviously a crowd favorite and is recognized by hardcore Bellator followers and his need to please the crowd is evident from the walk out. Jumping dancing and making creative, comical faces, he seems confident. The initial onset is controlled by Lance Everson, as he comes out strong with a good ground game, and Torrey has no real answers, just simplified solutions. Second round is a different story though as Torrey gets his bearings, leads into some serious control, and blasts Everson with some body shots that were clearly heard in the third row of the crowd. Blistering shots to Lance’s ribcage results in referee stoppage. Another victory for Torrey results in more comical faces for the camera!
Greg Rebello, who seems to have the majority of crowd support and the biggest fan base in the building, is the final bout of the night. This fight was a basic strategic ground game. Which is unusual for Rebello, who is a prideful striker who dislikes the wrestling aspect and tries to avoid that at all costs. But he seems to adapt, and overcome the obstacle, and holds a controlled seminar on ground game, and wins the unanimous decision.
Overall, Bellator provided a great experience for the fans seeking some much needed MMA relief in the Massachusetts area. Their brand of mixed martial arts is unique, and beneficial to the sport, and is not a cliché of what sometimes can be thrown together for financial purposes. It’s based on competition, crowd interaction, and great fight matchups that fans of the sport seek to see. As Bellator moves on through the country, the elimination series continues towards its finales, and more super bouts. The opportunity to see it live is well advised, as it is appreciated, and encouraged. Look for Bellator to visit an arena near you, and don’t miss out on top notched action if able!