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Bellator 33 review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on December 18, 2010, 7:28 AM

Bellator 33

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

-Alright, so this isnít the start of a series of Bellator reviews or anything. Iím not a big fan of the promotion and they have waaaay too many inconsequential shows for me to keep up with. This one though has two of the guys I think are amongst the top prospects in the world at 170lbs as well as Eddie Alvarez facing former UFC standout Roger Huerta, so whatís not to love?

-Your hosts are Sean Wheelock and Jimmy Smith, the two guys who called Afflictionís second show with Tito Ortiz. They seem to be a decent pairing too Ė far better than Strike Forceís moronic Gus Johnson for instance.

Welterweight Fight: Rick Hawn vs LeVon Maynard

Hawn is one of those prospects I was talking about earlier, a US Olympian in judo, and man is he a well-put together dude for 170lbs. Not as shredded as opponent Maynard, however! Guy is in ridiculous shape. Hawn was 8-0 coming into this, his Bellator debut, and heíd TKOd veteran Shonie Carter in his previous fight. Maynard meanwhile was coming in at 10-6, with a win over TUF veteran Mark Miller on his record.

Before we start itís worth mentioning that the production values for Bellator seem to be pretty solid to me Ė aside from the fact that the building the eventís taking place in seems tiny and not really full. Not sure whether that is the case, though.

Round One begins and Maynard opens by throwing some kicks, landing with a pair of low kicks but missing a high one. Hawn gets into the clinch and looks to trip Maynard down, but Maynard does a good job of muscling him off. Another good low kick from Maynard as Hawn looks to counter with punches. Maynard is doing an excellent job of keeping his distance thus far. Hawn finally catches him with a leg kick of his own and muscles him into the cage, but Maynard does a decent job of avoiding the trip. Couple of short uppercuts land for Hawn and then Maynard fires back with some knees. They break off and Maynard lands a glancing body kick. Excellent leg kick follows. One minute to go. Right hand lands for Hawn coming forward. Body kick from Maynard is caught and Hawn clinches and looks for an outside trip, but Maynard avoids it and backs up. Leg kick into a front kick from Maynard. High kick from Hawn goes awry and causes him to slip, and Maynard looks to pounce....but Hawn counters with a HUGE SHOULDER THROW, just launching Maynard over the top onto the ground! Series of vicious hammer fists follow up out of nowhere and knock Maynard silly. Damn!

Hawn was being firmly outpointed on his feet before the throw but once he tossed Maynard and landed some punches it was all over. Wild finish and the throw was one of the best uses of judo Iíve ever seen in MMA I think, right up there with the best throws that guys like Karo Parisyan have busted out. Guy obviously has incredibly heavy hands too to put Maynard out so easily. Hawn seems to be a solid prospect if he can work on his stand-up and the only mark against him really is that heís already 34 years old.

-The Bellator Featherweight Champion Joe Warren joins us for a bit and he still comes off as an absolute prick to be honest. Heíd be money in the UFC for sure.

Bellator Welterweight Title: Lyman Good vs Ben Askren

Askren Ė replacing Johny Hendricks and Josh Koscheck as the best wrestler in terms of credentials at 170lbs (former Olympian and recognized as arguably one of the best collegiate wrestlers of all time) Ė had earned this title shot by winning Bellatorís 2010 Welterweight tournament, beating Ryan Thomas twice before taking a decision over fellow prospect Dan Hornbuckle. The unbeaten champion Good had been on the shelf since June 2009, but with 10 wins and only a couple of decisions on his record, he was clearly no joke and the biggest threat to Askrenís unbeaten record thus far.

First round begins and Askren circles on the outside and then wastes no time in looking for the takedown. Good tries to block the initial drive, but Ben keeps going and drags him down to the ground. Good gets full guard and they exchange punches from the position before Askren stands over him and then tries to pass the guard in an odd way, burying his head down into Goodís stomach. He manages to get to half-guard for a second before Good escapes back to full guard. Askren tries it again and then stands over the top and almost puts himself in a triangle en route to another guard pass attempt. This is the oddest guard passing style Iíve ever seen. He continues to work and manages to get into half-guard, as the crowd begin to chant for Good. The champion gets back into full guard where Askren chops away at the body. Scramble from Good nearly gets him to his feet, and as Askren looks to keep him down a reversal puts the champion on top. Askren tries an armbar from the bottom though, but Good works his arm free and comes back to his feet to a big pop. Takedown attempt from Askren but Good sprawls, only for Askren to keep pushing and eventually get a headlock takeover. He lands in side mount and then steps into full mount, but Good hip escapes to half-guard. Elbows to the body from Askren and he continues to try to pass, and he works into side mount and then full mount. He looks for an arm triangle variant, but Good manages to roll him and get into top position to end the round. Askrenís round, 10-9.

2nd round and Askren throws a sloppy right into a takedown attempt. Good sprawls again but Askren keeps hold of him and tries it again. Good sprawls for a second time and lands a good knee to the body and a left hook, but a quick duck into a double leg puts him on his back again. Again Askren stands and looks to pass, getting into side mount, and then he slips into full mount. Very little ground-and-pound from the challenger though, only sitting up to deliver a couple of hammer fists. Askrenís doing hardly any damage but Good just canít get out from underneath the guy at all. Round ends with Askren in the dominant position. 10-9 Askren.

Round Three and Askren quickly catches a kick and gets a takedown with an instant pass to side mount. He works quickly into full mount, but Good shrimps out into guard. Good elbow from Askren. Again Askren puts his head low to pass the guard into side mount, and then he transitions to the full mount. Askren grinds with the elbow and then sits up to land some punches, and it looks like Goodís beginning to wilt under all the pressure. Askrenís top control is really good, it must be said. More elbows from Askren and weíve got less than a minute to go. Crowd are beginning to boo but I doubt Askren cares. Round ends in the mount again. Iíve got this 30-27 for Askren so far, total shutout.

Round Four and Askren pushes forward, but almost eats a combo from Good as his chin is up high. He tries a takedown but Good sprawls nicely this time and avoids, landing an uppercut and a right hand before Askren inevitably manages to get him down. Askrenís takedown is insanely hard to stop. He passes to side mount and then looks to mount again, but Good gets half-guard back. Askren stands over him and again nearly puts himself in a triangle, but he slides through and mounts. Canít see Good getting out of this now. Askren sits up and lands some punches, but referee Kevin Mulhall inexplicably calls a stand-up. From the fucking FULL MOUNT. Retarded. Good avoids a takedown attempt from the restart, and lands with a right to the body, but Askren shoots again. Really odd takedown attempt too as heís lunging for the ankle and just trying to grab anything he can, but this time Good manages to escape. Again Askren shoots, but Good sprawls. He tries to transition to top position, but Askren just grabs the leg and manages to get a single to side mount. Insane wrestling. Full mount follows but Good gets his instep inside Askrenís legs to keep a weak half-guard. Good apparently canít see out of his left eye. Askren works the body as Good tries to fire back from the bottom. Round ends and Good needs a stoppage in the fifth to win.

Final round and Good pushes forward, landing a jab, but he looks too wary of the takedown to truly open up. Good sprawl from the champion to avoid a shot, and he refuses to go on top and calls Askren to his feet. Askren pushes forward and shoots again, and despite a great sprawl from Good he ends up on his back again. Half-guard from the champion but Askren postures up to land shots to the body. Good works back to full guard and then tries to roll out as Askren stands, but the challenger keeps him down with the head on the stomach again. Canít believe Good hasnít gone for the triangle yet. Askren continues to lead with his head into a guard pass, but Good is doing a decent job of avoiding the mount this time. Some hammer fists land for Good from the bottom, but Askren passes into half-guard. Askren stands, but a big upkick lands and looks to have him hurt for a second! He tries to recover, but finally Good SLAPS ON THE TRIANGLE! Crowd are going insane as it looks synched in, but unlike Chael Sonnen Askren does a good job of posting up and flipping over the top to slip out, then gets to full mount. Less than a minute to go and this is going to be Askrenís fight. Round ends with Askren working from the full mount. Has to be 50-45 Askren.

Judges have it 49-46, 48-47, and 50-45 for Ben Askren, the new Bellator Welterweight Champion. How anyone could even give a round to Good I donít know, but whatever. If you read the play-by-play the fight probably sounds dull, but really it wasnít as Askrenís wild style and ridiculous wrestling skills made it a lot of fun to watch, and the fact that he didnít seem capable of finishing meant that Good was always sort-of in the fight, almost making the inexplicable comeback in the fifth. For me Askrenís probably behind Johny Hendricks and Tyron Woodley as the top prospect at 170lbs simply because outside of his wrestling, the rest of his game isnít properly developed yet and I think his headfirst style on top is going to get him into trouble with anyone with a really good attacking guard, but with that ridiculous wrestling base he may well be the top threat to GSP in two or three years.

Lightweight Fight: Eddie Alvarez vs Roger Huerta

Initially Alvarez was supposed to defend his title here against the 2010 Lightweight tournament winner Pat Curran, but when Curran pulled out with an injured shoulder he was replaced by former UFC star Huerta in what made for a far more intriguing bout. Sure, Curran had beaten Huerta in a close decision, but Huerta had faced the likes of Kenny Florian, Gray Maynard and Clay Guida in his UFC tenure and any sort of opportunity for a guy like Alvarez Ė highly ranked but outside the UFC Ė to fight someone who had recently been in the UFC is only a good thing. My pick here? Huerta as Iíve always been a fan and find Alvarez slightly overrated.

Fight begins and the crowd immediately begin to chant for Eddie, the hometown fighter. Both men look tentative early before Alvarez lands a hard leg kick. Combo follows but Huerta backs up out of the way. Another leg kick has Huerta looking hurt and he limps backwards, before Alvarez follows in with a combo. Huerta is in trouble here. Alvarez pushes forward and they trade punches with both men landing en route to the clinch. They break and Huerta comes wading forward with a right hand. Both men are swinging here. They trade some punches before Alvarez backs up and then looks for a single leg, getting Roger on the mat for a second before he explodes to his feet. Leg kick from Alvarez. Alvarez wades in with some more punches but his penchant for brawling is looking dangerous here as Huerta fires right back. Big right hand from Eddie and he looks for the takedown, getting Huerta into a seated position against the fence. Huerta works back to his feet but eats a knee on the way out. Straight right lands for Eddie and he begins to take over with combos as Huerta fires back and then ducks for a takedown. Alvarez blocks it and gets on top, then looks to take the back. Huerta avoids and looks for a single before they break off. Left uppercut from Alvarez and a knee has Huerta hurt, but as Eddie looks to follow he gets dropped by a big right hand! Alvarez is forced to backpedal as Huerta looks to follow up, but he manages to weather the storm and comes back with a combo. Huerta swings back and thatís the round. Great round.

Round Two and Alvarez opens with a pair of sharp leg kicks. Brief clinch is quickly broken and Alvarez lands with another low kick. Left hand from Alvarez and he looks for the takedown, dragging Roger down by the fence. Huerta pops back up, but takes another leg kick and a big right uppercut that snaps his head back. Alvarez is just outboxing Huerta now. Another leg kick buckles him, but he pops back up and Alvarez doesnít pounce. Beautiful right hand tags Huerta flush but he takes it like a man. Huerta just canít seem to land his punches unless Alvarez wildly trades. Beautiful leg kick from Eddie. Another combination lands for Alvarez. One minute to go and Huerta manages to catch a kick and gets the takedown to guard. Couple of punches from Huerta but Alvarez works to his feet, only for Huerta to deliver a nice suplex back down. Alvarez again explodes to his feet though and breaks free, putting Huerta on his back foot to end the round. Alvarezís round but this is a good fight so far.

Round Three....but it doesnít begin as Huertaís corner have thrown in the towel due to a leg injury suffered by their fighter, Iím guessing due to those brutal leg kicks. Only the second time Huertaís been stopped and like the previous one (a broken jaw) itís via injury. Such a pity as although Alvarez was winning the fight it was a lot of fun and Huerta wasnít out of it at all.

Post-fight the announcers claim Alvarez is the #1 Lightweight in the world, but Iím not buying it. Is he a great fighter? Sure, and he passed this test with flying colours despite showing his biggest weakness (a penchant for being drawn into brawls) again. But to be the best in the world you have to fight the best in the world, and Huerta and Josh Neer as Alvarezís toughest opponents in the last two years donít really do it for me, especially when the UFC guys are fighting top calibre fighters consistently. As for Huerta, I hope heís regretting his downright bizarre decision to leave the UFC at this point.

-Alright, rant time. These fights were all pretty good in their own way and I enjoyed this show. Despite that though one of my big wishes for 2011 is Bellator to go under and finish as a promotion. Why? In essence, theyíre everything thatís wrong with todayís MMA world. Take Ben Askren for instance. Sure, right now he isnít experienced enough to compete with the top Welterweights in the UFC, and so itís fine for him to beat fringe contenders and fellow prospects in Bellator. But in a year or two, when he most likely is ready to fight the top fighters in the world, he wonít be able to do it because heíll be locked into Bellator with their constrictive champions clause. Eddie Alvarez is in the same boat but further along the road. He needs to be fighting the worldís best right now, and while he could do that in the UFC and even in Strike Force to a certain extent, in Bellator heís stuck fighting the likes of Huerta and Neer, who essentially washed out of the UFC with losses.

Iím not saying I want the UFC as the only MMA promotion in the world Ė of course thereís room for a myriad of smaller promotions, but these promotions, to quote a famous pro-wrestler, need to know their role. Mark Pavelich, for all his faults as a person and a promoter, has the right idea. Antonio McKee is the reigning MFC Lightweight Champion and yet Pavelich made no attempt to block his signing with the UFC because thatís whatís best for McKee, and hey, if he does well there, Pavelich can say his companyís champion (or ex-champion) was one of the best in the world. And this was the same story with the old pre-Zuffa WEC, who were perfectly happy to let Vera, Leben, Riggs, Smith, Franca, et al move to the UFC when their careers needed it. Why do Bellator have to be different?

-Announcers recap the card and plug the upcoming Bellator 34, and we end the show there.

Final Thoughts....

Disregarding the issues I mentioned above, for a three-fight show this was fun. Maynard-Hawn wasnít great until the finish but good lord was it a good finish. Askren-Good couldíve been dull given the style of fight, but Askrenís odd style and amazing wrestling made it very watchable, and Alvarez-Huerta was a lot of fun while it lasted. So itís an easy recommendation for Bellator 33 for all MMA fans unless you really, really hate wrestlers.

Best Fight: Alvarez-Huerta
Worst Fight: Maynard-Hawn

Overall Rating: ****

Coming Soon....

UFC: 118-124, Fight Night 22
WEC: 53
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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