It was the conclusion to yet another successful and entertaining season for Bellator Fighting Championships, last night docking in Caesars Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey for the bantamweight and heavyweight tournament finals and the return of UFC veteran and hometown fighter “Batman” Kurt Pellegrino (16-7) against heavy-handed Brazilian “Pitbull” Patricky Freire (4-1). ”The American Soldier” Eric Prindle (6-1) faced “Big Monster” Thiago Santos (6-1) for the Season 5 Heavyweight Tournament title and a shot against champion “The Polar Bear” Cole Konrad (8-0). Bantamweights “The Executioner” Alexis Vila (10-1) and Eduardo Dantas (9-2) faced off in the youth versus experience, speed versus power match-up. A late addition to the main card in TUF Season 8 runner-up “The Filipino Assassin” Phillipe Nover (5-4) and Polish prospect Marcin Held (12-2) started off the night with a three-round battle between the young fighters looking to steal the spotlight of the organization’s 155lbs. division. Controversial decisions and stoppages aside, the evening closed out Bellator’s fifth season with the bang that is sure to leave fans clamoring for the start of Season 6.
Phillipe Nover vs. Marcin Held: Nineteen-year-old Polish fighter Marcin Held used an aggressive pace, a relentless submission game, and according to some, the help of the judges to walk away with a Split Decision over TUF Season 8 runner-up Phillipe Nover. The fight started with a touch of gloves and a counter right hook from Nover that floored Held early on. Held went to his ground game and chained submission attempts throughout the first round while Nover defended well against Held’s attempts and returned the favor with his upper level striking. Nover used the momentum of the first round to set the pace of the second as he dominated from the feet and in top position on the mat. Held, on the other hand, attacked only with submissions that Nover bucked away with ease. Nover found his pace with his striking but Held finally got a dominant position with a takedown and worked briefly until Nover replied with a takedown of his own and worked his ground-and-pound. By the end of the fight it was all Nover by virtue of performance but the cageside judges disagreed and gave the fight to Marcin Held, a decision that clearly did not sit too well with those in attendance as well as fans nationwide. Held via Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28), Round 3, 5:00
Alexis Vila vs. Eduardo Dantas: It was a showing of overall talent and skill from 22-year-old Eduardo Dantas that earned him the judges’ nod as well as the 135lbs. title shot against “Fun Size” Zach Makovsky (14-2). Dantas out-struck and out-grappled the 40-year-old unbeaten 1996 Olympic wrestler Alexis Vila. For the first round it was Vila that set the pace. He took down Dantas and pinned him against the cage for the first five minutes. However once the second round started it was all Dantas until the end of the fight. From counter punches and peppering leg kicks to flying knees, Dantas used a wide array of strikes to dominate the round. The third round was the same controlling and dominant pace but this time it came from the ground game. Dantas worked hard to take Vila’s back and locked on a body triangle to keep Vila from escaping; from there he worked for the Rear Naked Choke for the duration of the frame. Although the submission never locked around the neck of Vila, the round ended leaving no doubt that Dantas was the crystal clear winner of the fight and the Bellator Season 5 Bantamweight Tournament. Dantas via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28), Round 3, 5:00
Kurt Pellegrino vs. Patricky Freire: Pellegrino set his pace from the outside to use angles and range to combat the power of Freire. After some adjustment Freire fired off a left hook, straight right hand combo that dropped Pellegrino. Pellegrino grabbed a leg in an effort to survive and bring Freire to the ground but “Pitbull” continued to fire out relentless punches on the grounded Pellegrino. “Batman”, still awake, attempted to roll out of the position, but it was too late. The referee intervened and stopped Freire from continuing his assault on Pellegrino and the elder “Pitbull” brother was awarded a TKO victory just 50 seconds into the opening frame over the UFC veteran. Pellegrino, clearly upset by the outcome, turned to his fans for support and retired from MMA again. This time it may be permenant. Freire via TKO (Strikes), Round 1, 0:50
Eric Prindle vs. Thiago Santos: When the big men stepped into the cage it was Prindle who threw down the gauntlet early with a big left hook. Santos responded by shooting and took the former US Army Boxing Champion down with ease. Santos began to go to work from half guard with some small punches, but Prindle exploded up and got to his feet. “The Big Monster” read him well and took the fight right back down to the ground. After some light ground-and-pound, Santos stood up and fired a kick to the groin of Prindle, who was on his back. Prindle writhed in pain on the mat and the referee stopped the action for Prindle to recover. “The American Solider” slowly got back to his feet, but the pain is the elephant in the room. He stayed true to his heart and said he could continue but after five minutes of recovery Prindle told the cageside doctor that he felt he was going to vomit. After further consultation the bout was stopped, and Prindle exited the cage. Santos’ kick, which came at the 1:24 mark, was ultimately ruled an accidental blow and the bout, declared a No Contest, sets up a rematch between the two men that should take place early in the upcoming season in 2012. No Contest (Inadvertent Groin Strike)
Click here for a complete list of Bellator 59 and Season 5 Heavyweight and Bantamweight Tournament Finals results.