One and a half tournament finals were set and a title stayed affixed to a dominant champion’s waist in Utah, as the curtain closed on Bellator 114. It was a great night all around, without a weak performance on the card.
Desmond Green: A fighter who’s on the fast track to a championship, Desmond Green took on a tough draw in Will Martinez and made it look easy. Having grown from a fairly one-dimensional wrestler, Green is now demonstrating head movement, impeccable timing in his counter shot and a comfort with switch stance fighting. As this footwork has improved, we’ve also seen his power increase as he’s learned to sit down on his strikes, managing to buckle Martinez repeatedly. With a definitive decision win, he’ll be walking into the tournament final against…
Daniel Weichel vs Matt Bessette: A fight that showcased the best of both men, Weichel used his top-heavy BJJ and smooth boxing game against Bessettes unorthodox yet effective striking patterns. Weichel showed how BJJ from top position is supposed to work in MMA, using hip pressure to free up the arms for offense, while being concious of your opponent’s movement beneath. This technique allowed him to control the entire third round off of one takedown without fear of a stand-up from the ref, as he was able to be active from top, rather than just a blanket.
Weichel had good reason to want Bessette on his back as well, as the Conneticut slugger was finding the mark early and putting on the pressure throughout the bout. I like Bessettes subtle variety in his strikes, preferring to fire looping shots from several angles. His quasi-Brazilian kick was having good returns as well, being a technique he employs well and one we don’t see often in MMA.
With Weichel taking the decision on merit of his top control, we have a Featherweight final set, but one I can’t see Green losing. While Weichel is fairly crisp with his striking, Green has superior speed and is himself coming along to the point there may be no disparity in skill come fight time. By my estimation, Weichel may well be drawing dead come fight time as Green has potential to shut him down entirely.
Alexander Shlemenko vs Brennen Ward: Shlemenko has held the strap for years, and will be holding it just a bit longer after a come-from-behind victory over Ward. Shlemenko is tough as nails with equal parts chin and power, but had his hands full with Ward in the opening round, with Ward having added dimensions to his striking game. Both men were landing hard counters and throwing both power and volume early, with Ward being pure dynamite on the scramble when the two would collide in the clinch. With Ward spending the last minutes of the round on Shlemenko’s back, he looked to be in position to shock the world in the coming rounds.
The altitude and gravity of the situation seemed to get to Ward however, as he slowed down considerably moving into the second round, with Shlemenko getting the better of exchanges and forcing a shot from Ward. With Ward stalling out on Shlemenko’s leg, the Russian locked on a murderous ten finger guillotine that had Ward quick tapping to the brutal manuever; belt secure for the champion once again.
For Shlemenko, it was more of what we’ve come to expect from the man, and while his age and battle damage will catch up to him eventually, he performed well in the bout and seems ready for another go in the near future. For Ward, I feel the fight was too much too soon for the surprise tournament winner, though the exposure and increased level of competition will be just what he needs to improve and come back better than ever.
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