Monday, November 5, 2012
Vets and young guns alike shine
By Josh Gross ESPN.com
The weekend was busy with fights, as prospects, veterans and former champions alike took to the cage, mostly in televised action.
We'll get to some of the winners from Bellator and World Series of Fighting shortly, but I want to touch on prospects who didn't get much shine, mainly because I expect they will soon enough and it's never too soon to give a fighter his or her due.
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Friday night in Las Vegas, the Resurrection Fighting Alliance featured several guys who we'll hear more from.
Sergio Pettis (6-0), the 19-year-old bantamweight brother of UFC lightweight Anthony "Showtime" Pettis, put on what I thought was the best fight of the weekend with Jimmy Jones (4-2). Pettis needed a round to decipher the proper distance against Jones, who was noticeably taller and longer, and once he did it was a pleasure to see him operate.
On the same card, 24-year-old wrestler Lance Palmer moved to 5-0 with a split decision over jiu-jitsu threat Fredson Paixao. Palmer, enormous at 145, is built in the mold of Chad Mendes, though a fair bit slower. Palmer's timing on takedowns was good, yet he was cautious to play in Paixao's guard and that meant for slower moments on the floor.
And though I haven't seen it because apparently there's no video, Steve Mocco resoundingly won his heavyweight pro debut against Tyler Perry via second round Kimura. Mocco's a big, mean, decorated wrestler.
Speaking of debuts, World Series of Fighting stepped on to the scene with a hit and miss card. The action was mostly lopsided, but as a first venture enough good happened to remain curious for their next event.
This week's Report Card features a mix of WSOF and Bellator performers, all winners, meaning this is one marked with grades worth slapping on a refrigerator.
Bellator 79/WSOF grades
Remember the name. If not, just go with the Russian's nickname, "Sha," and make sure to watch him in the Bellator 145-pound final against Wagnney Fabiano or Rad Martinez. This is a featherweight with power, movement (including his head) and timing. Shahbulat Shamhalaev (11-1-1) put his game on display with an early opening-round knockout when Mike Richman (13-2) attacked to the body, leaving himself exposed, and was clocked with a right to the face. Shamhalaev's lone loss came in 2009 against unbeaten UFC lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov (18-0).
Douglas Lima (22-5) beat Jacob Ortiz pillar to post on Friday, waiting until the last 10 seconds to put Ortiz down for good. It was a brutal display, a mismatch really, that allowed Lima to showcase all his skill and venom. Ugly fight to watch, though that doesn't mean much. Lima, 24, gets back on the right track following an April loss to Ben Askren in which he was totally shut down. The American Top Team fighter remains a fighter to keep an eye on at 170, which I think has become Bellator's marquee division.
Marlon Moraes was more explosive, dangerous and determined than Miguel Torres, which is why he, not the slowing former No. 1 ranked bantamweight, left the cage a winner with a date against Tyson Nam in 2013. The 24-year-old Brazilian (9-4-1) started strong on the feet and kept his power Muay Thai game rolling most of the fight. Torres (40-6) is not the fighter he once was, so extrapolating much about Moraes' prospects is tricky.
Andrei Arlovski didn't face much of a threat from Devin Cole (20-10-1) and he approached the first World Series of Fighting main event that way. A clubbing overhand right helped push the former UFC heavyweight champion's record to 18-9, and puts him on a nice little streak after losing four straight from 2009-2011. Arlovski, 33, faces a long road to relevance in the heavyweight division, but the man can still put people down.
Anthony Johnson (14-4) walked through D.J. Linderman (14-4), making it three wins in three tries at 205 pounds for the 28-year-old talent. The finish, a highlight-reel, lights-out knockout, had Johnson feeling pretty good about himself, going so far as to joke that Linderman had just been finished by a welterweight. For a guy with a well-deserved reputation for missing weight, that's funny stuff. It's time for Johnson to fight someone good at light heavyweight. Whether or not that's possible outside the Zuffa bubble remains to be seen.
Tyrone Spong dominated his fight, scoring a first-round stoppage the way he wanted: on the feet. So why not an A? Well, Spong, the 27-year-old Dutch kickboxing stud, beat on journeyman/punching bag Travis Bartlett, who hadn't fought MMA since losing in 2010. So like a gymnast carrying an easy routine, the grading scale was devalued. B+ for a beatdown over Bartlett is about as good as Spong could do. For anyone who wants to mess with Spong on the feet, good luck. Eventually, however, Spong will run into a wrestler and then we'll know how he stacks up for the long haul.
Richard Hale deserves credit for holding up against Thiago Santos' early attacks. He was hurt in the first exchange and did well to recover over the next three minutes. As important, if not more so, was referee Dan Miragliotta's decision to separate the fighters when they were working along the fence. Santos seemed busy enough to me, but Miragliotta saw it differently, leading to Hale connecting on a couple rights that brought about the end. The win propels Hale into the Bellator heavyweight final, where he'll meet Alexander Volkov or Vinicius Queiroz.