All posts by Ben Fowlkes

What did we get for our money at Bellator NYC, and would we spend it all over again?

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Filed under: Bellator, News

A double knockdown. A “legends” fight between two 40-year-olds. A title fight that ended with a floppy foot and a “Three Stooges” gag. A hype train derailed the instant it left the station.

This is just some of what we got for our $50 when Bellator returned to pay-per-view on Saturday night. Whether or not you think it was worth the money, you have to admit it was memorable. Weird might be the better term for it, but weird is a type of entertainment.

Considering what Bellator has to work with, it might be a type that the Viacom-owned promotion has to get used to. Of the six fights featured on the pay-per-view portion of Bellator NYC, two were legitimate title fights, two were nostalgia-based old-timers affairs, one was essentially a local shoutout to the Gracie clan, and one was a coming out party for a blue-chip recruit.

So how did it all work out?

The welterweight title fight between champion Douglas Lima and UFC import Lorenz Larkinwas “underwhelming,” according to the not inaccurate assessment of potential future Bellator welterweight title challenger Rory MacDonald. The lightweight title scrap ended in a controversial upset victory for Brent Primus after a strange injury to Michael Chandler gave way to unintentional slapstick comedy.

The old-timers? Matt Mitrione and Fedor Emelianenko raced each other to the mat before Emelianenko once again lost his tenuous grip on consciousness, and then Chael Sonnen out-wrestled Wanderlei Silva before lapsing back into self-parody just in time for his post-fight interview.

That Gracie Jiu-Jitsu commercial? It went about like you’d expect, even if it was wedged bafflingly into the latter half of the broadcast to stifle momentum before the main event. The coming out party for Aaron Pico got spoiled by Zach Freeman, who reminded us that having experience matters more than having a Wikipedia page.

But when all was said and done, were you not entertained? Didn’t you feel like you came away with plenty to talk (and laugh and shake your head) at?

If the goal was to give us an event that we didn’t feel like we could miss, yet also one that didn’t feel like a weak knockoff of the UFC, it’s hard not to call this a success.

But coming out of Bellator NYC, it does feel like we’ve seen the glimpses of a workable strategy. Bellator has legitimate, relevant talents on its roster, but they don’t draw the masses. It also has fighters who were talented and relevant a decade ago, but who still put butts in seats, and the best of those realize that with less and less steak to sell, they need to focus more on the sizzle these days.

When combined with the inherent tendency toward the bizarre that exists in a sport like MMA, you have yourself a recipe for some memorable nights. You can get people talking, which is the first step to getting them interested. The appeal of a big Bellator event might never come with the exact same sales proposition as a UFC PPV, but that can be a feature instead of a bug.

What remains to be seen is whether or not it’s a viable way to make money over the long term. A few Bellator PPVs a year, when sprinkled with just the right blend of weirdness and seriousness? Sure, the hardcores will watch that. But are there enough hardcores buying enough events? Will we still want to see this plan in action a few years down the road, or does it only work as a bridge to something more traditional?

These are the questions Bellator is going to have to answer eventually. For now, all it has to ask itself is if we had enough fun – of one kind or another – to consider coming back for more.

And I admit it, I did. Even if I’m still not totally sure how or why.

For complete coverage of Bellator NYC and Bellator 180, check out the MMA Events section of the site.

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Filed under: Bellator, News
Source: MMA Junkie

Trading Shots: Did Michael Chiesa get robbed or saved at UFC Fight Night 112?

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Filed under: News, UFC

Did referee Mario Yamasaki make a major blunder with his stoppage in the UFC Fight Night 112 main event, or just a minor one? Retired UFC and WEC fighter Danny Downes joins MMAjunkie columnist Ben Fowlkes to discuss in this week’s Trading Shots.

* * * *

Downes: It was a wild weekend in the MMA world, Ben. We had freak injuries, double knockdowns, fading legends and feces. To cap it all off, we ended it with a controversial stoppage.

Somewhere, Steve Mazzagatti breathed a sigh of relief as Mario Yamasaki intervened prematurely in the Kevin Lee vs. Michael Chiesa bout, making him the Internet’s new most hated referee. Since you love to tell us about your recreational jiu-jitsu experience as much as possible, why don’t you share your expertise on this one with us?

Fowlkes: You know, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear that you weren’t using the word “expertise” with total sincerity there.

But hey, since you asked, can I go ahead and be the guy who admits he doesn’t get the controversy on this one? Chiesa was stuck in a rear-naked choke. He wasn’t working an escape. He had 30 seconds left in the round. He stopped defending with his hands and let them float there in front of him, very much like the posture of a man who has lost consciousness.

How surprised can he really be that Mario Yamasaki took this as a sign that he should stop the fight?

Was it slightly premature? Yes, but only slightly. There’s not a ton of risk in letting Chiesa stay in that kind of choke for an extra couple of seconds, so sure, Yamasaki could have done more to verify that he was all the way out before intervening, but it’s disingenuous to act like he ruined the fight just because he denied Chiesa the chance to fall completely asleep.

What am I missing here, Danny? Is there where you tell me about the honor of going out on your shield? Or maybe you think Yamasaki ruined Chiesa’s shot at an MMA version of the rope-a-dope, where you lie so quiet and still inside a choke that you convince the other guy to let go and celebrate, at which point you pounce. Tell me, on the spectrum of referee screw-ups, was this one really that bad?

Downes: As far as referee screw-ups are concerned, this one is definitely minor, mostly because the stakes were so low. While I wold never want to denigrate the honor of being the main event of a UFC Fight Night in Oklahoma City, it wasn’t a title shot. It wasn’t even a rivalry fans really cared about.

As an aside, let me predict that we’re going to see a lot more press conference scuffles revolving around something even dumber than Chiesa’s mom having tickets. How do you tell fighters not to take a swing at each other when, 1) It gets them attention, and 2) 90 percent of the hype package for the fight revolved around that incident?

I’ll admit that I was a little surprised at how upset some fans were at the stoppage, but there a couple of things at work here. First of all, it’s Yamasaki. The MMA universe loves to attack referees, and Yamasaki seems to be the new fall guy. And once you get that reputation (rightly or wrongly), everything you do gets amplified.

Secondly, Chiesa passed your “WTF Test.” He looked dead to rights, but as soon as Yamasaki called it off, he was incensed. That doesn’t mean that we would have gotten out of the choke, but it does produce some doubt.

Third and finally, it’s a choke. It’s uncomfortable and dangerous to watch fighters take unnecessary punches. We all cringe a little when a fighter is knocked out and takes a couple extra hits before the TKO (well, unless that fighter is Michael Bisping).

A rear-naked choke doesn’t produce that same visceral reaction. You’ve touched on this when discussing Ronda Rousey. Some of her mainstream success can be attributed to the fact that she armbarred opponents instead of leaving them a bloody mess. It’s a more palatable type of violence.

Was Chiesa robbed? No, but I do think that Yamasaki did rob him of an opportunity. Even if there were only a five percent chance of escaping, why not give him the benefit of the doubt? What real harm could come from it? Do you think there’s anything to learn from this fight, or did you react like the rest of MMA fans when Chiesa pushed for a rematch? Meh.

Fowlkes: I think the question of a rematch is where we’re all forced to be honest about what we’re really doing here. Because if you truly think that Chiesa was unfairly and prematurely stopped in a fight that he still had every opportunity to win, then you have to support an immediate rematch. How can you not?

But if, when faced when that proposition, you admit that you don’t feel like you need to see that again, I suspect it’s because you think you know who won that fight. (Either that, or you can stand six more weeks of mom jokes.)

I don’t blame Chiesa for being upset. He’s going to fan the fires of victory until every last ember is cold and black. I also don’t blame Lee for wanting to pocket his win and move on. I can only kind of blame Yamasaki, who came to a reasonable, if somewhat hasty conclusion, given the visual evidence.

But let’s be honest and admit that we’ve criticized refs for being too slow to intervene just like we’re criticizing Yamasaki for being a little quick. We ask for perfection from these people and when they deliver their reward is not getting yelled at on social media. This one might have been imperfect, but I have a hard time believing it altered the outcome. If that’s not the point, I don’t know what is.

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 112, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Danny Downes, a retired UFC and WEC fighter, is an MMAjunkie contributor who has also written for UFC.com and UFC 360. Follow them on twitter at @benfowlkesMMA and @dannyboydownes.

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Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Glory days are over for B.J. Penn and Fedor Emelianenko, so why won't anyone tell them?

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Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News, UFC

The circumstances alone tell you how far B.J. Penn has fallen. Sunday night, a relatively lackluster UFC Fight Night event on cable TV, and he’s there opening the main-card portion of the show against a journeyman fighter coming off a two-year layoff.

Even worse, he loses.

This is the reality now for Penn. The UFC keeps giving him more chances to turn things around, lowering the bar each time he fails to clear it, and Penn keeps finding new ways to trip over it. This one – a majority decision loss to Dennis Siver at UFC Fight Night 112 in Oklahoma City< Okla. – wasn’t even as bad as some of the others.

He didn’t get knocked out. He didn’t get embarrassed. In fact, he came closer to winning than he has in at least six years. A solid right hand put Siver (23-11 MMA, 12-8 UFC) down in the second round, and a few followup strikes from Penn (16-12-2 MMA, 12-11-2 UFC) threatened to finish him off.

But when Siver didn’t roll over and quit, Penn faced a real problem. Whatever he had, he’d just spent. Siver came out for the third round looking to do some work whereas Penn looked like he’d rather go home. Surviving seemed like enough for him then, and he barely accomplished that.

Put that in perspective, would you? The great B.J. Penn, a former two-division champ, one of the best lightweights in UFC history, and now he’s lucky to survive three rounds with an aging and rusty Dennis Siver. If he can’t do any better than that, why do it at all?

It’s a question you could just as easily put to Fedor Emelianenko, another ghost from MMA’s past who added to his list of losses this past weekend. Emelianenko (36-5 MMA, 0-1 BMMA)  got put to sleep by Matt Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) at Bellator NYC on Saturday night, which was his reward for being the slower party in the immediate aftermath of a rare double knockdown.

While Penn’s latest loss added to the worst losing streak of his career, Emelianenko’s snapped an actual winning streak. You know, sort of. Fighting in a string of smaller promotions in recent years has given Emelianenko the advantage of the friendliest possible matchmaking, along with some friendly judging to serve as an extra safety net.

It wasn’t until he signed with Bellator that he was forced to fight a real heavyweight for the first time in several years, and it ended with him laid out on the mat a little over a minute into the fight. Like Penn, he now finds himself a long way from the glory days of 2009.

And those days, they aren’t coming back. Not for Emelianenko and not for Penn. They must know that on some level, but they keep at it because they can. They can still pocket a paycheck for it. There are enough people for whom their names still mean something.

They have not yet been forcibly ejected from the sport, which means that as long they’re willing to take the beatings, they still have a home here. The pain and the public embarrassment is the rent they pay. As long as they regard it as a fair exchange, and as long as no one close to them can convince them to stop making it, here we are.

This is nothing new in combat sports, but that doesn’t make it fun to sit through. The current climate rewards name brands and nostalgia over actual skill and talent, meaning it’s never been a better time to be a past-his-prime fighter willing to trade what’s left of his reputation and brain cells for a few more nights in the cage.

Of course, another way of looking at it is that it’s never been a worse time to be one of those fighters, since those late career letdowns don’t come for free. There’s a price to be paid, and it’s not just in cable bills and pay-per-view dollars.

Penn and Emelianenko both seem eager to keep paying it, even if they might not know for years what the final bill comes to. The rest of us, we seem strangely addicted to this specific brand of sadness. We want to see fighters we know, even when it’s painfully apparent that the name is all that’s left of the man. We get that jolt of recognition, followed by the depressing reminder of their ongoing and inevitable deterioration.

Eventually, maybe we’ll decide it’s not such a good trade. Then again, we keep waiting for guys like Penn and Emelianenko to decide the same thing. So far neither one of us is truly ready to quit.

For complete coverage of Bellator NYC and UFC Fight Night 112, check out the MMA Events section of the site.

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Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

UFC Fight Night 112 results: Head kick jump-starts Tim Boetsch's TKO of Johny Hendricks

In a fight between former wrestlers Tim Boetsch and Johny Hendricks, it was a head kick that made all the difference.

Unfortunately for Hendricks (18-7 MMA, 13-7 UFC), he was on the business end of that kick, as Boetsch (21-11 MMA, 12-10 UFC) rocked Hendricks with the kick early in the second and put him away with follow-up punches to get the TKO win 46 seconds into Round 2.

The catchweight bout (Hendricks missed the middleweight limit) was the co-main event of today’s UFC Fight Night 112 event at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla. It aired on FS1 following prelims on FS2 and UFC Fight Pass.

Boetsch was the busier fighter early on, peppering Hendricks with short punches and kicks to the legs and body in the opening round, while Hendricks followed him around looking to land his signature left hand.

Early in the second, that’s when Boetsch caught Hendricks by surprise with a right leg head kick. The blow sent Hendricks reeling toward the fence, and a looping Boetsch right hand seemed to graze his skull just enough to put Hendricks down on one knee.

Hendricks would get up just as Boetsch came in for the finish, but he couldn’t do much more than cover up as Boetsch hammered him with heavy uppercuts until Hendricks collapsed. At that point, referee Kevin MacDonald had no choice but the step in and wave it off, giving Boetsch the TKO win less than a minute into the second frame.

The win is Boetsch’s first since his submission loss to Renato Souza earlier this year. Hendricks has now lost four of his last five, missing weight for three of his last four.

Up-to-the-minute UFC Fight Night 112 results include:

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 112, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

(MMAjunkie’s John Morgan contributed to this report on site in Oklahoma City.)

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

UFC-OKC results: Dominick Reyes follows up 'KO of Year' candidate with big finish in UFC debut

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

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The straight left hand of Dominick Reyes was the only weapon he needed against Joachim Christensen, even if he had to deploy it a couple times.

Just seconds into the opening round, Reyes (7-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) uncorked that left and sent Christensen (14-6 MMA, 1-3 UFC) reeling, which in turn put Reyes on the path to a quick TKO victory just 29 seconds into Round 1.

The light heavyweight bout was part of the main card of today’s UFC Fight Night 112 event at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla. It aired on FS1 following prelims on FS2 and UFC Fight Pass.

The fight had barely begun when Reyes squared up with Christensen and fired off his straight left. The punch caught Christensen cleanly and sent him staggering back toward the fence, with Reyes following closely.

After peppering Christensen with more blows and fending off a desperation takedown attempt, Reyes backed off just enough to let Christensen get to his feet with his back against the fence.

Then the left hand of Reyes went back to work with one solid shot straight down the middle, knocking Christensen off his feet and signaling the end of a fight that was as quick as it was brutal.

With the win in his UFC debut, Reyes remains perfect as a professional. Christensen has now lost two straight, and three of his last four.

Up-to-the-minute UFC Fight Night 112 results include:

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 112, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

(MMAjunkie’s John Morgan contributed to this report on site in Oklahoma City.)

Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

UFC Fight Night 112 results: Dennis Siver wins decision over B.J. Penn despite getting dropped

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Former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion B.J. Penn had just enough pop left in him to put Dennis Siver down exactly once. But when Siver got up and kept fighting, Penn didn’t have an answer.

The result was a weak finish from Penn (16-12-2 MMA, 12-11-2 UFC) and a strong one from Siver (23-11 MMA, 12-8 UFC), who took the fight via majority decision with scores of 28-28, 29-28, 29-27.

The featherweight bout opened up the main card of today’s UFC Fight Night 112 event at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla. It aired on FS1 following prelims on FS2 and UFC Fight Pass.

Flashes of the old Penn showed up in this fight, albeit sparingly. In the first round he struggled to get his jab going, leaving him to contend with the high striking output of Siver, but in the second frame Penn seemed to settle into his striking game.

Late in the round a counter right hand from Penn caught Siver flush and sent him stumbling to the canvas, with Penn in close pursuit. But rather than pouring on the punishment from the top or looking for a submission to finish the fight, Penn was content to ride out the round.

That would prove to be a mistake, as Siver came out for the third round fully recovered and ready to push the pace, while Penn seemed to have little left in the tank to answer him.

Siver spent that final round backing Penn into the fence, battering him with increasingly accurate combination punching and head kicks, while also attacking Penn’s lead leg with kicks and further limiting his already limited mobility. By the end, Penn seemed glad just to survive to the final horn.

There was little agreement among the judges after those three rounds, with one scoring it a draw and the other two giving the fight to Siver by slightly different scores.

The majority decision win is Siver’s first victory since 2014, marking the end of a two-year layoff. Penn has now lost five straight fights in the UFC, and has not won since his 2010 knockout of Matt Hughes.

Up-to-the-minute UFC Fight Night 112 results include:

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 112, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

(MMAjunkie’s John Morgan contributed to this report on site in Oklahoma City.)

Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

UFC Fight Night 112 results: Marvin Vettori bloodies Vitor Miranda, wins unanimous decision

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Marvin Vettori bloodied Vitor Miranda early and stymied him with takedowns when it mattered most.

For his efforts, Vettori (12-3 MMA, 2-1 UFC) was rewarded by the judges, who gave him the unanimous decision victory over Miranda (12-6 MMA, 3-3 UFC) despite a slowdown in the final frame.

The middleweight bout was part of the preliminary card of today’s UFC Fight Night 112 event at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla. It aired on FS2 following additional prelims on UFC Fight Pass and ahead of the main card on FS1.

Vettori got busy early on in this fight, using his straight left to damage Miranda in some of the fight’s first exchanges, and putting Miranda on the defensive early.

That early lead was aided by some deft takedown work in the second, as Vettori dominated Miranda on the mat for a significant portion of the round, battering him in close with short strikes from the top.

Perhaps sensing the deficit on the scorecards, Miranda attempted to turn up the pressure in final round, just as Vettori seemed to be losing steam. But in the waning minutes of the fight, a key takedown from the clinch for Vettori halted that momentum, essentially sealing the win.

When the judges turned in their scorecards, all three saw it for Vettori, giving him the win with scores of 29-28, 30-27, and 30-27.

The victory bounces Vettori back into the win column for the first time since a decision loss to Antonio Carlos Junior in December. Miranda has lost two straight.

Up-to-the-minute UFC Fight Night 112 results include:

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 112, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

(MMAjunkie’s John Morgan contributed to this report on site in Oklahoma City.)

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

UFC Fight Night 112 results: Darrell Horcher earns first UFC win with decision vs. Devin Powell

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With a desperate choke attempt on Darrell Horcher in the waning minutes, Devin Powell nearly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

But the moment Horcher popped his head out of Powell’s grasp to complete a final takedown, the matter was effectively settled. Horcher would last until the final horn, and his reward was a split-decision victory that wasn’t as close as it looked on the scorecards.

The lightweight bout was part of the preliminary card of today’s UFC Fight Night 112 event at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla. It aired on FS2 following additional prelims on UFC Fight Pass and ahead of the main card on FS1.

Horcher (13-2 MMA, 1-1 UFC) took control of this fight early, thanks to the combination of his left hand when the fight stayed standing and his top control when it hit the mat. Despite giving up some range to the taller Powell (8-3 MMA, 0-2 UFC), he managed to mitigate the size difference by countering Powell’s lanky kicks with hard left hands, then smothering him from the top when the fight became more of a grappling match.

That was good enough to keep Horcher in control for much of the first two rounds, but Powell managed to make it close down the stretch. A Horcher takedown attempt in the third left his neck exposed just long enough for Powell to snatch a guillotine choke that he used to transition into an anaconda, forcing Horcher to roll to his back to defend.

With one last opportunity as the men scrambled to their feet, Powell put everything he had into one final standing guillotine choke as the clock wound down. But Horcher stayed calm and defended well, finishing a takedown and pulling his head free in the final minute.

That allowed Horcher to ride out the finish and put his faith in the judges, two of whom gave him the fight with scores of 29-28, resulting in the split-decision victory, despite one dissenting opinion that had it 29-28 for Powell.

The win is Horcher’s first in the UFC, giving him his first victory since a TKO loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov last April. Powell has now lost his only two fights in the UFC.

Up-to-the-minute UFC Fight Night 112 results include:

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 112, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

(MMAjunkie’s John Morgan contributed to this report on site in Oklahoma City.)

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

UFC Fight Night 112 results: Tony Martin wins hotly contested affair over rival Johnny Case

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If you didn’t know it was something of a grudge match before, all you had to do was listen to Tony Martin in the second round, informing Johnny Case that he wasn’t going anywhere in between counter right hands to the face.

The result was a unanimous decision win for Martin (12-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC), who outstruck a game Case (22-6 MMA, 4-2 UFC) and seized control of the fight down the stretch before claiming the win with scores of 29-28 across the board.

The lightweight bout was part of the preliminary card of today’s UFC Fight Night 112 event at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla. It streamed on UFC Fight Pass ahead of additional prelims on FS2 and a main card on FS1.

Much of Martin’s success in this hotly contested fight was predicated on having the speed and the precision to stand in the center of the cage and counter as Case darted in and out. That allowed Case to get an early advantage in sheer volume, but as the fight wore on it was clear that Martin was the one doing the damage.

The action heated up in the second, with Martin landing a series of hard right hands while demonstrating a willingness to eat some shots from Case for the privilege. Soon Case was bleeding from his eye and nose, while Martin only gained in confidence and aggression.

In the third, Martin really took over the fight, walking Case down and battering him with crisp punches. In the final minute he even added a takedown and a last-second kimura attempt, which succeeded in driving home the point to the judges.

With the victory, Martin has now won three in a row in the UFC. Case has lost his last two.

Up-to-the-minute UFC Fight Night 112 results include:

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 112, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

(MMAjunkie’s John Morgan contributed to this report on site in Oklahoma City.)

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

For Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva, a clash of rivals is also one of peers – like it or not

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Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News

At least Wanderlei Silva understood. Standing there with Chael Sonnen at Thursday’s Bellator NYC press conference, he knew we needed something. He sensed it, maybe. Or he only knows one way to be, and he just couldn’t help himself.

So with Bellator President Scott Coker standing in between them, Silva (35-12-1 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) reached over with one hand to give Sonnen (28-15-1 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) a little shove. Nothing much. A subtle attention-getter, really. A little poke to the Dip Your Car logo to remind us what the sales pitch is here.

Oh yeah, these two don’t like each other. And now they’re going to fight. Finally.

So what if it’s about three years past the first proposed meeting? And so what if it’s been four years since Silva has had a fight and nearly as long since Sonnen has won one? Grudge matches have a way of extending their expiration dates, as long as the grudge itself is strong enough, and thank goodness for that, since where would Bellator be without it?

This is a pay-per-view headlined by two fighters with 80 years of life and nearly 100 professional MMA fights between them. It’s not a fight that’s for anything in the traditional combat sports sense, but you almost get the sense they’d both hate to lose it even more than they’d like to win it.

For Sonnen, this fight fits easily into the persona he’s built for himself in the latter half of his career. His one-man war against the nation of Brazil started with Anderson Silva and spread to the Nogueira brothers before eventually clashing with Silva. You might say Sonnen has a sense of humor that Brazilian fighters just don’t get – or don’t appreciate, since so often they’re his favorite punchline.

Silva is a perfect counterpart for that routine, if only because of his tendency to treat every interaction as an intense battle for respect.

He’s not the same ferocious buzzsaw of a man that he was in his PRIDE heyday. He shows up now with a face that looks like it’s out on loan and sits there at press events breathing like a very old bulldog. But he bears just enough resemblance to the old “Axe Murderer” that he can almost convince you, especially when he’s shoving people around for the cameras, playing the role of the man so overflowing with violence that he can’t even wait another couple days for the proper time to unleash it.

And when that appointed hour comes, will we have learned anything? There’s bragging rights on the line, sure. Maybe there’s also the question of redemption – for both men.

Sonnen left the UFC in disgrace after the drug test failures piled up too high for him to talk his way around them, then he resurfaced in Bellator with a quick loss to Tito Ortiz. Silva’s last fight was a win over current UFC commentator and former UFC fighter Brian Stann, a man who’s been retired so long he’s built an entirely new career for himself in the time that Silva had to wait just to return to his old one.

For a while it seemed like Silva’s legacy might be the drug test he ran from in Las Vegas, and the lifetime ban the commission there unfairly heaved at him. He fought back against the punishment and won, in a way, but it didn’t exactly leave his reputation in the best of shape.

That’s one thing these two have in common. Another is that they share the fate of all fighters smart enough to develop a persona and a following, yet too stubborn to walk away while it’s still working the way it should.

What happens eventually, if you’re not careful, is that you drift into the realm of self-parody. You become the aging rock band, touring the county fairs and playing your greatest hits. It’s not the worst thing that can happen – there’s still a paycheck in it at the end of the day – but there’s also something sad about it.

To look across the cage and see that same sadness hovering over the man who is both your rival and your peer, that must be a strange feeling. But then that’s where the fighting comes in. Because if you can beat that other guy, at least it means you’re not him.

Not yet, anyway.

For more on Bellator NYC and Bellator 180, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News
Source: MMA Junkie