Bellator 38 Recap: The Big Boys Get In The Ring

Bellator finally went through puberty. After three weeks of little guys scrapping like kickboxing house cats, Bellator 38 introduced the MTV2 audience to cage fighters over six feet tall. Harrah’s Tunica Hotel in Mississippi saw the beginning of the first ever Light-Heavyweight Tournament in the company’s history. Also, the event included the submission of the night (if not year). The big boys of the 205 pound division came to play, with three amazing finishes and one incredible upset split decision. Let’s get a recap of these titanic tussles:

Chris Davis vs. Christian M’Pumbu

It was no surprise that a former U.S. Marine, Chris Davis, was the fan favorite in the opening tournament bout. Regardless, it was the French Congolese striker who stole victory from the hands of Davis in a hotly contested split-decision.

Davis started the back and forth ground war with a heavy insistence on takedown attempts. On the feet, M’Pumbu seemed to have the upper hand. On the mat, it was a wild tossing and turning battle. Davis got a full mount, then M’Pumbu got on Davis’ back, then Davis on M’Pumbu’s back, then someone in a triangle and so on. It was never-ending chain wrestling with Davis probably having the edge on the scorecards. By the start of the third, Davis was clearly gassed and M’Pumbu went in for the kill with solid strikes standing and on the ground. The finish came via ground ‘n’ pound, with M’Pumbu landing a shot to Davis’ temple and TKOing the military vet.

Christian M’Pumbu wins by TKO (strikes) at 3:34 in round 3.

Richard Hale vs. Nik Fekete

Richard Hale led us all to believe he was going to try to knock out Fekete because in the pre-fight hype Hale kept saying he was going to try to knock out Fekete. To put it simply, that did not happen at all. Hale barely attempted any strikes in the less than 120 seconds he was in the cage. But what Hale did do to “The Machete” was simply INCREDIBLE!

The fight started and the Michigan State wrestler, Fekete, slamed the long and lean Hale to the mat. Fekete took side control rather easily. Hale appeared to be barely defending anything on the ground and then it happened! Hale’s legs sprung up from behind Fekete like octopus tentacles and wrapped around Fekete’s neck in an inverted triangle choke. Two years earlier, fellow Bellator fighter Toby Imada shocked the world, and opponent Jorge Masvidal, by pulling off this same ridiculous submission, which won his fight as well as the World MMA Awards’ “Submission of the Year.” The submission was surprising enough, but in post-fight interviews Hale has revealed that he had never trained that submission and had only seen it for the first time the night before in watching Imada’s fight from 2009.

Richard Hale wins by submission (inverted triangle choke) at 1:55 in round 2.

D.J. Linderman vs. Raphael Davis

According to the critics, this fight was supposed to be a fairly lopsided victory for Raphael Davis. It proved to be a slugfest for the ages as Davis’ knees matched Linderman’s hands for much of the fight until a fairly brutal TKO ending. If there was a “Fight of the Night” bonus, Linderman and Davis would win it hands down.

The favorite, Davis, took control early, landing more fists to the face. Linderman’s head must be made of stone because Davis landed a succession of knees to his noggin that somehow didn’t finish the fight. The second round saw the tide turn for Linderman, with Davis starting to fade in speed and Linderman’s attacks finding their mark. If the second round was just 2 seconds longer, Linderman would have pulled the upset with the deep kimura attempt that was halted by the end of the round. The final minutes of the fight were pretty much the ending of any “Rocky” movie, with flush punch after flush punch and the ref not stopping it. Finally, the ref called it after Linderman dropped Davis and landed numerous shots on the ground.

D.J. Linderman wins by TKO (strikes) at 2:44 round 3.

Tim Carpenter vs. Daniel Gracie

The main event of the evening was a shocking upset as Tim Carpenter played spoiler to Daniel Gracie’s highly anticipated debut in the Bellator cage. A member of the legendary Gracie clan, Daniel Gracie walked away from MMA in 2006 to focus on injuries and a life of teaching Brazilian jiujitsu. In late 2010, Gracie made his return with a quick first round submission. But Carpenter didn’t fly to Mississippi to lose just because critics thought he would.

Philadelphia’s own Carpenter nearly knocked out Gracie in the fight’s opening exchange. From there Carpenter did the unexpected and tested Gracie’s black belt by throwing several armbar attempts at the grappling ace. The first round was easily Carpenter’s with Gracie spending the entirety on defense. Gracie showed a bit more life in the second round after a vicious Portuguese tongue-lashing in between rounds from his relative and corner man, the great Renzo Gracie. The round could have gone either way as Carpenter landed some solid up-kicks, but Gracie was on top most of the round. The final round was pretty much a stalemate as neither fighter attempted too much, but was capped off with Carpenter landing the better in the stand-up.

The judges scored this 29-28, 28-29, 29-28 in favor of Tim Carpenter by split-decision.

Next Saturday, Bellator 39 marks the return of Bellator Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez defending his belt against Pat Curran. It will also feature the semifinal fights of the Welterweight tourney: Good/Hawn and Hieron/Weedman. Lastly, former UFC fighter Ben Saunders will make his Bellator debut against Matt Lee.