Bellator 109 Review Rattling the Cage Style

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013 by Tony Reid

bellator-109-posterWe hit the old PA turnpike and headed south to Bethlehem, PA for Bellator 109 on Friday night. It had been too long since I last witnessed some high level face punching in person. I was eagerly looking forward to it. It was a special trip, as it was the first time I have covered an event as a member of the media for Fighters Only. It was the second Bellator event I covered as a member of the press, the first, as none of you will remember, was a few years back for The Fight Nerd.

I dropped the lovely lady that was accompanying me off at the door, parked the whip (and by whip I mean an eight year old Volvo) and headed to the ticket window to pick up the press pass. As soon as we entered the venue you could see the party atmosphere in full effect. Hell, I thought we were in a club for a minute. We made our way past the party goers and said our goodbyes as my wife purchased a ticket and therefore, her seat was not nearly as good as mine.

I hit press row, fired up the trusty, dusty laptop (and phone) and prepared for a great night of fights. It just so happened that I was seated right next to a colleague of my good buddy Duane Finley at Bleacher Report. Hunter Homistek would have the bad break of being stuck next to me all night.  We tweeted, Facebooked, Instagrammed it up throughout the event. He is a really good kid with a bright future in the industry.

The prelims where streaming live on SPIKE.com and anyone watching those fights could not have been disappointed. Every single undercard fight ended before the final bell. Not one single fight went to the judges’ scorecards. In the first bout

Lester Caslow def. Jay Haas via submission (guillotine choke) in Round 3 at the 2:44 mark. Haas was a hometown-ish guy with a good bit of crowd support but it wasn’t enough.

Brent Primus put it on. Brett Glass and stopped him via submission (rear-naked choke) in Round 1 at the 3:20 mark. “The Unbreakable” Glass was quickly shattered in this one, as Primus looked like a kid with a really bright future. He also had a very supportive fan who hopped down on press row and cheered him on for most of the fight…right next to me…in my ear…the whole fight.

Next up was highly touted prospect and wrestling machine Bubba Jenkins who defeated his opponent Ian Rammel via TKO (punches) in Round 3 at 2:38. For most of the first two rounds it was Bubba being Bubba. He secured takedowns rather easily but did little to try to advance position or finish the fight. That all changed toward the end of the second round and then into the third. Jenkins started to pour it on from top position and eventually got the stoppage.

The next victor impressed almost as much as anybody on the card that evening as Goiti Yamauchi defeated Saul Almeida via knockout (punches) just over the two minute mark in Round 1. Those two minutes were two of the most exciting minutes of the entire night as these two exchanged in a hail of punches until Almeida dropped. When he got back to his feet he had a cut above his eye that would have made Marvin Eastman wince. Yamauchi moved to 16-1 and looks like a real prospect at this weight and with this organization.

The heavies were up next as undefeated Blagoi Ivanov bested Keith Bell via submission (rear-naked choke) with just over a minute left in Round 1. There were a few heavy exchanges and in one of those exchanges Ivanov was rocked but he fought through to get a stoppage in his own right and keep his record unblemished.

The final prelim of the night pitted fan favorite and local product Mike Bannon against Ahsan Abdullah. Bannon stopped Abdullah via technical submission (arm-triangle choke) in Round 1 at the 1:51 mark. In an interesting side note Abdullah gave the old thumbs up a mere four or five seconds before referee Bill Bookwalter had to pull Bannon off of him as he went to sleep.

It was cruel irony that the first fight televised on SPIKE TV was one of the more lackluster fights of the night, after so many exciting stoppages on the undercard. In this one Terry Etim defeated Patrick Cenoble via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-26). Etim controlled most of the fight but it was control from top position on the ground, in full or half guard with no sign of advancement or attempts to finish the fight outside of a body triangle, taking of the back and rear naked choke attempt in the first round. Etim completely controlled the action but not in an overly exciting fashion. The crowd showed its displeasure through most of the fight with rounds of boos to go along with the rounds of lay and pray.

Next up was Will Brooks vs. Alexander Sarnavskiy in the Season 9 lightweight tourney final.
Brooks def. Alexander Sarnavskiy via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27). Going into the fight these two fighters had a combined record of 37-2. The underdog Brooks used his wrestling to completely control and dominate a seemingly increasingly overwhelmed Sarnavskiy. The first round showed a bit of a standup exchange but Brooks took the fight to the floor and slowly wore out Tiger. Brooks pushed the pace in the second and third rounds and a visibly fading and bloodied Sarnavskiy barely made it to the final bell.

The co main event of the evening pitted Rick Hawn against Ron Keslar for the Season 9 welterweight tournament championship.  Hawn defeated Keslar via knockout (punches) just under a minute into the third round. The opening of round one had Keslar looking like an animal as he hit Hwan with a solid knee, followed him to the ground and opened up on him with a barrage of punches. After surviving the first round Hawn pushed the pace in the second as a visibly slower Keslar ate punches and more punches when Hawn’s right hand found a home. By the third round Hawn was in complete control, continuing to find  a home for the jab and overhand right, eventually rocking Keslar, Hawn unleashed numerous uppercuts from hell and finished Keslar with an overhand right that partially starched Keslar as he fell to the ground as Dan Miragliotta mercifully stopped the action. Now a tourney champ at 170 pounds, Hawn will face Douglas Lima in what is sure to be a barnburner.

In the main event Alexander Shlemenko faced Doug Marshall for the Bellator middleweight title. Shlemenko defeated Marshall via TKO (punches) in Round 1 at the 4:28 mark. The Storm Shlemenko used improved wrestling skills to land two big takedowns early in the first. Marshall go back to his feet but ultimately took a number of vicious body shots that visibly hurt him, no matter how hard he was trying to play it off. The final one, a left hook to the body put Marshall away. As Shlemenko did a little dance and retained his Middleweight title.

As the camera panned to Shlemenko’s wife and baby daughter (right in front of me on press row) I made sure to give her my face that makes all babies smile (it has a 100% success rate). It worked and I’m sure I looked like a complete goof. Hopefully that moment didn’t make national television.

The bright lights were on at the post fight press conference. Before it got stared I had a great moment with Rick Hawn. I made sure to bring a copy of the issue of Fighters Only Magazine that had our recent interview in it to give to him. He thought that it was cool, thanked me and handed it to his fiancé, who read through it as well. Bjorn Rebney had an opening thought for each fighter and each fight and then each fighter commented on their particular fight. The highlight (or lowlight depending on your perspective) as you can imagine was Doug Marshall and his not so flattering comments toward Shlemenko, the man who just stopped him. Every third word was fuck or fucking but in between Marshall spoke about how much harder he hits than Shlemenko, how he will fight his way back through the tournament and take the belt next time. Shortly thereafter another equally meat headed moment happened when Brennan Ward, Shlemenko’s next opponent, came in to interrupt the press conference, decked out in his wife beater and pants hanging off his ass, and asked if the champ was shining the belt for him and that he was going to bring it back to the States, bro, and other equally awesome statements. The crowd erupted in applause when Shlemenko turned to his translator, seemingly to ask him a how to say something and then he turned back to Ward and simply said “Anytime.” As the conference wound to a close most people were hanging around and slowly leaving the room. I made a point to say hello to Terry Etim, who my editor in chief at Fighters Only, Nick Peet know well. I introduced myself to Terry and told him Nick said hello and that put a huge smile on his face. He seemed a little down and dejected at the press conference based on his performance (a win nonetheless) but he was in great spirits when I spoke to him.

After the post-fight press conference I met Thiago Alves. After all my time in the game there are still a handful of fighters that I want to meet or interview that  I haven’t met for one reason or another and he was one of them. I introduced myself and we spoke for a few minutes and agreed to catch up next week to do an interview.

Shortly after that Michelle and I headed back to the car, hit the road for some Burger King and a 5 Hour Energy to keep me awake as I was ready to complete my 24 hour work day and head home to get an hour or two of sleep before this very morning got started.