MMA: Bellator 63

Amoussou makes most of first main event

March, 31, 2012
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Heading into Bellator’s welterweight quarterfinals on Saturday, Karl Amoussou’s match-up with Chris Lozano looked like the toughest draw of the field. That was one of the reasons it was the main event as the Season 6 tournament got underway.

It also didn’t hurt that Amoussou was telling whoever would listen beforehand that he would knock out Lozano.

Things didn’t work out that way in the end, but the Frenchman Amoussou (14-4-2) still dusted his hands off early with a rear-naked choke of the “Cleveland Assassin.” And ultimately it was a big kick that lowered the boom on Lozano to set up the sequence.

“Of course I’m happy with the submission,” Amoussou told afterward. “The important thing for me first is to win the fight, even if it’s a decision. It’s important to win. Of course, when I finish a fight, it’s better. But I made a big knockdown with my high kick and my submission came very easily after that, so, you know, I’ll take it. And I’m glad of it.”

Amoussou, who up until five months ago was working as an undercover police officer in his native France, was originally slated to face War Machine (formerly Jon Koppenhaver) at Bellator 63. But with Machine having been sentenced to another prison sentence stemming back from an assault charge in 2009, this time in the state of Nevada, Amoussou drew Lozano instead. Lozano has been training at Greg Jackson’s in Albuquerque after having been knocked out by Douglas Lima in October in the Season 5 welterweight semifinals.

Whether it was Lozano or War Machine, the “Psycho” was going to talk. Before he and Lozano squared off, the two exchanged words during a heated staredown.

What were they saying?

“Just ‘hi, how are you,’” laughed Amoussou. “But seriously, I don’t really remember.”

And once the fight got started, it didn’t take long for Amoussou to settle matters. In fact, similarly to when he fought Jesus Martinez in November in a 175-pound catchweight fight, Amoussou walked away in the same mint condition that he arrived.
[+] EnlargeKarl Amoussou
Keith Mills/Sherdog.comKarl Amoussou's high kick spelled the beginning of the end for Chris Lozano.

“I felt great,” he said. “I didn’t get touched even once in this fight. It was the same in my last fight, so two fights without even getting hit with a punch. I’m showing good things now. People should get ready for the next Bellator champion, and it’s going to be me.”

That would be novel -- there’s never been a French MMA champion in Bellator. And if there is a dark horse in the welterweight tournament, it might be Amoussou. He lost a narrow split decision in his Bellator debut in May 2011 against Sam Avery, but at just 26 years old he’s showing a lot of new wrinkles in his game -- especially now that he has switched to fighting full time.

And it’s down to a four-man field, featuring UFC veteran Ben Saunders, Bryan Baker and David Rickels. Asked if he had a preference who would be next, Amoussou admitted he didn’t care. The reason? He’s confident he matches up with anybody they stick in front of him. When Baker strolled by Amoussou in the bowels of the Mohegan Sun sporting a nice suit, a happy Amoussou yelled out to him, “Bryan Baker, you’re so handsome.”

Baker smiled. Who knows? The former middleweight could be standing opposite Baker in the semis. But on Saturday night in Uncasville, after making quick work of Lozano with nary a scratch, the Frenchman traded in the barbs for some pleasantries. It probably won’t last. Whenever his next opponent is announced, Amoussou will be back in the business of forecasting knockouts.

“Tonight I showed my real level and at the same time I can tell you, I didn’t show half of my level,” Amoussou said. “I have so many things that I can bring. Just be ready for more action next time.”

Notes and Nuggets: Bellator 63 edition

March, 29, 2012
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
BjornHenry S. Dziekan III/Getty ImagesWhile Zuffa catches its breath, Bjorn Rebney and the boys at Bellator have picked up the slack.
UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Through the first couple of weeks of Bellator’s quarterfinal brackets we’ve witnessed some peculiar things. There was last week’s rarely seen Von Flue choke, courtesy of lightweight Brent Weedman -- and that came on the same night that Lloyd Woodard emerged from the woodwork to upset Patricky Freire. The week before that, we saw Brian Rogers down Vitor Vianna with a flying knee from Hades. The thing was executed with such diabolical ease that it almost looked unspectacular.

And before that, Pat Curran totally anesthetized Joe Warren to become the promotion’s featherweight champion.

In other words, Bellator has a built up a good head of steam while Zuffa catches its breath. Things continue along this weekend on the Mohegan Reservation, a roped off part of the state of Connecticut where MMA is perfectly legal. This time it’s the welterweights, where there’s always intrigue to be found regardless of the promotion.

For starters, everybody with Bellator tournament experience in the eight-man field is coming off a brutal loss. Chris Lozano got KO’d by Douglas Lima. Ditto UFC veteran Ben Saunders. Bryan Baker was TKO’d by Vianna. There’s a lot of gnawing within the guts of the promotion’s best-known guys. Meanwhile, David Rickels (3-0 in Bellator) will use his prelim experience and try his luck in the brackets.

As for everybody else? They are all debuting. And of everyone in the field, perhaps none is more interesting than Baker, who has been training at Greg Jackson’s and is cutting down to 170 pounds for the first time. He will be fighting Carlos Pereira.

“I was a lighter fighter [at 170],” he said at the open workouts. “I used my speed, and I have power, and so I was able to hold myself as a middleweight. I was able to use my speed with my quickness against heavier opponents. But now it’s time for me to be the heavier opponent, to stand in the middle of the cage and not be so worried about trying to move and worry about power. I can really stand the power at welterweight and I can make them fear my length more and just really own the cage.”

Each time Baker fights he defies odds, having already battled through leukemia (which is in remission) and a couple of tournaments as an undersized middleweight. Now he’s wiser, lighter and in tune with the most essential cliché of them all -- that is, he’s taking it one fight at a time.

“I’m not sure who it’s quoted by, but my little brother told me, ‘it takes skill to want to fight, but it takes character to repeat.’ That’s pretty much where I’m at. I’m just going to go and win this fight, and it’s in my character to be a professional to be where I need to be and continue winning.”

Saunders revs up for second run
Ben SaundersDave Mandel/SherdogBen Saunders has put his dangerous Muay Thai game to good use in the Bellator cage.

After losing to insistent wrestlers in Jon Fitch and Dennis Hallman and subsequently getting released by the UFC, Ben Saunders went on a four-fight winning streak. That all ended when Douglas Lima stopped him at Bellator 57 in the welterweight final. Now he’s back to square one as he sets for his fight with Raul Amaya, an undefeated fighter (9-0) who has finished everybody he’s faced.

Saunders, who has one of the most sadistic Thai clinches in the sport -- one in which he uses all eight limbs gratuitously (as evidenced the last time he fought in Connecticut against Matt Lee) -- says that martial arts is a game of perpetual acquisition. So don’t be surprised if he breaks out some wrestling and goes for the takedown against Amaya if it’s there, because, hey, this game forces you to evolve.

“I’m going to be improving everyday,” he says. “I’m never going to be a master of martial arts. I’ll never be a master of my style until I die. There’s always going to be something new that I can learn, so I’ve got to take [my losses] with a grain of salt. You learn more from a loss than you do from a win and it just made me more hungry.”

Prindle/Konrad possible for April 13
Cole KonradSherdog.comAfter a series of twists and turns, Cole Konrad is finally closing in on an opponent.

It seems like heavyweight champion Cole Konrad has been waiting for resolution in the Eric Prindle/Thiago Santos saga forever. Realistically, it’s only been a couple of months, and after many bizarre twists and turns, stubborn weight cuts and flu-like symptoms, it’ll be Prindle who gets the nod to challenge Konrad. When is it going down? According to Bellator officials that fight could take place on the April 13 Bellator 65 card in Atlantic City. That’s the same night that the company’s smallest men -- the bantamweights -- kick off their quarterfinals.

How’s that for size discrepancy on a card? Konrad walks around the size of two Marcos Galvao’s and change.

Amoussou the former undercover cop

Karl Amoussou was an undercover officer not all that long ago, bringing robbers and drug dealers to justice in his native France. Obviously this would have made for an amusing back-story if he’d gotten his original opponent at Bellator 63, the always colorful War Machine, instead of Chris Lozano. As has been much publicized, Machine was re-incarcerated before making his Bellator debut against Amoussou. This whole “cop versus delinquent” thing that never happened wouldn’t have mattered to Amoussou inside the cage, anyway.

“Yeah, I don’t care,” Amoussou said. “I plan to do a normal fight so what he does outside is his problem, I don’t care.”