Vegh (kind of) saves day for Bellator
Coming off a night when a new challenger was crowned in the division, one that featured a compelling story and serious competitiveness factor, perhaps people inside the promotion were beyond heartbroken by the result to respond.
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I wonder if this will prompt Bellator executives to adopt a Zuffa mindset, where talent is more restricted in its movement, not less.
The notion that a UFC champion would be allowed to ply his trade anywhere but the Octagon is heresy. Yet despite the precedent laid down by Dana White -- the most successful promoter in MMA history -- here was Dantas, a highly thought-of youngster based on his results in competition, losing less than 2 minutes after the opening bell.
The final card of Bellator's 2012 summer series was weakened by the loss of Pat Curran due to injury. Curran's title defense against Patricio Freire, who on Sunday inexplicably accused Curran and, by extension, Bellator of lying about the American's broken orbital bone, was lost for the time being. But the possibility of watching Dantas versus Marcos Galvao salvaged some of the intrigue in Tunica, Miss.
Then Dantas went out, presumably to remain sharp, and couldn't handle a punch upside his head that, on my ballot at least, dropped him from the top 10 rankings.
Live and learn? We'll see.
As for the rare Zuffa-free weekend, Bellator, Titan Fighting and Shooto Brazil all featured noteworthy performances. Here's how some of the bigger names fared, and what's next for them.
Bellator 73/Weekend grades
Attila VeghIt wasn't the fastest win of his career, yet clocking in at just 25 seconds, Attila Vegh's knockout of Travis Wiuff was the most impressive win of his career thus far. Vegh, 27, is a heavy hitter who later this year should get the kind of fight he seems to enjoy against Bellator light heavyweight champion Christian M'Pumbu. Digging below the surface of Vegh's 28-4-2 record leaves something to be desired, but he's clearly not a fighter to make a mistake against.
Based on his level of opposition on Friday at Titan Fighting Championship 24, Anthony Johnson, 28, doesn't deserve such high marks for a second-round technical knockout. But considering the circumstances that led to his light-heavyweight debut versus Esteves Jones, making weight with ease (he had to cut only two pounds on the day of weigh-in), fighting with agility, energy and explosion, Johnson left me wanting more. I want to see him again at 205, and soon. Fortunately, Johnson (12-4) fights next month against another UFC vet, three-time NCAA champion wrestler Jake Rosholt.
Braulio Estima's transition to MMA from Brazilian jiu-jitsu was as smooth as his move from mount to arm-triangle, which is how the 32-year-old Brazilian capped his cage-fighting debut against Chris Holland. The multiple-time world champion submission artist choked Holland out cold, leaving no doubt that on the floor, with strikes or not, the second-degree black belt is not to be trifled with. As with most mixed martial artists of his skill set, there lingers the unresolved question over what's going to happen when he fights a wrestler who can punch.
Marcos Galvao, 31, appears to have rebounded from the misfortune of questionable decision losses against Joe Warren and Alexis Villa. Three straight wins sets Galvao (13-5-1) up for a title shot in Bellator at 135, but 24 hours after he positioned himself to meet former teammate Eduardo Dantas, the young fighter lost a stunner in Brazil. That removes some of the shine that Bellator could have benefited from.
Though Luis Nogueira (14-3) fell short, there's plenty to appreciate about the 30-year-old Brazilian's game. He'll be heard from again, especially inside Bellator. Just how loud the message will be is unclear. There's room to improve, perhaps even a weight cut to 125 (not that Bellator features the division), in his future.
Travis Wiuff, 34, didn't have the time or opportunity to wrestle Attila Vegh, and he paid a heavy price. The light-heavyweight tournament final loss was the fastest defeat of Wiuff's long career, ending a run of six straight wins. If Wiuff (68-15) had taken this one on Friday, he might have had a decent shot of rekindling some interest in his career. Now, not so much.
This one is floating around YouTube and it's worth seeing, if for no other reason than it serves as a reminder that anything can happen in MMA. The highly regarded 23-year-old bantamweight titleholder, ranked No. 5 by ESPN.com heading into the weekend, went down hard after a snapping right hook from American Tyson Nam caught him behind the ear. Dantas (14-3) was up to his usual tricks, when, pressing forward with strikes, he took one that he could not manage. "Dudu" will need to work his way back into the rankings picture, and his status as a young stud took a pretty serious hit.
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