Bellator 214 – A Main Card Review

Bellator 214 last night had it’s fair share of exciting moments, upsets and action. There were many talking points from last nights main card, shocking victories, finishes, debutants and potentially career ending fights all rolled in to an action packed main card. With four fights out of the five ending in the first round, there was plenty of action to say the least. Bellator 214, held in Inglewood California, was the first Bellator card of the year, and if this was anything to go by we are in for an exciting year. The final of the heavyweight grand prix raised many eyebrows, Aaron Pico, Bellator’s hottest prospect featured, as well as the debut of of Jake Hager, ex pro wrestler, but before that an extremely success Oklahoma native college wrestler. Let’s break down the exciting, yet short lived main card from last night. 

Adel Altamini vs Brandon McMahon 

Last nights main card kicked off with an exciting featherweight clash, Altamini, recently saw his 5 fight win streak snapped by Juan Archuleta, who also featured on last nights main card. Looking to get back to winning way, and impress in his Bellator debut really needed to pick up this win to establish himself as a solid addition to Bellator’s featherweight division. Standing across him from Brandon McMahon, who equally needed a win to turn his career in his favour after a not so impressive start (3-3 record going into this one). McMahon started this fight well, utilising the cage, inflicting some dirty boxing before Altamini managed use his grappling advantage to take the fight where he felt most comfortable. With four of his last five victories coming from submissions, getting into a position to utilise his BJJ was definitely a key to winning this one. Altamini using a nice front headlock, and then transitioning to the arm, managed to get McMahon down, initially looking for a kimura and using that as an opportunity to sweep into a more dominant position, and when the opportunity arose for the armbar, he took it seamlessly, latching onto the arm, and once he had hold managed to turn McMahon into a position of greater leverage, giving McMahon no choice but to tap. An easy nights work for Altamini, he now has four armbars to his name and is establishing himself as someone you do not want to be on the ground with. An impressive debut, Altamini will be very happy of his performance, showing the 145ers that he will be no easy task. 

Juan Archuleta vs Ricky Bandejas 

Ricky Bandejas, coming off a devastating finish victory against James Gallagher, one that has a lot of light shone on it due to the cocky nature of Gallagher leading up to the fight, a win last night would have kept momentum in his corner, however he has no easy task infront of him in Juan Archuleta. Archuleta, fighting out of the same camp as TJ Dillashaw, and moving down down to bantamweight had plenty of momentum on his side too, last losing all the way back in 2015 and riding an impressive 16 fight win streak. The only fight to go the distance of the main card saw Archuleta showcase his wrestling and kept Banderas against cage and momentarily on ground at the start of round one. Once the fight transitioned to the feet, Archuleta continued to lead the way and got the better of the few and far between stand up exchanges. The rest of the fight went the same way, seeing Banderas coming up short on the stand up exchanges, Archuleta pushed the pace, moving forward with quick hands, mixing up well with shots to the body and despite Bandejas cutting off the cage the best he could and stuffing takedown, Archuleta was just always one step ahead. Although there was no danger of a finish throughout, Archuleta cruised his way to a comfortable victory. What’s next for the exciting 31 year old, now riding a 17 fight win streak and kicking the year off with a solid win?

Jake Hager vs J.W Kiser 

The former pro wrestling world heavyweight champion, former all American amateur wrestler had a lot of eyes on him last night. Although Hager came with with a huge reach and size advantage the pressure to perform was massive. At the age of 36 he’s in a race against time to get up with the big boys in the division and establish himself as a contender amongst the heavyweights. J.W Kiser may not have been the toughest opposition for Hager, but never underestimate a man who has nothing to lose, all eyes were on Hager, giving Kiser an opportunity to go out there and shock the world. Off the bat Hager showcased his all American background with a lovely takedown off of double underhooks. A brief exchange on the ground and a failed Americana attempt from half guard, Hager postured up and threw some nice ground and pound before an impressive triangle choke finish in a mere 130 seconds. A finish many expected, especially against the level of opposition he faced, but let’s not take away from how comfortable Hager looked in there. Yes, he’s got plenty of experience of being in the spotlight, and yes, he has a rich background in college wrestling, but take nothing away from him, this was a completely new environment, and one he took to like a duck to water. We look forward to seeing Hager against tougher opposition in future, a bright start to the 36 year olds MMA career, and maybe a career change is due for J.W Kiser. 

Aaron Pico vs Henry Corrales 

Aaron Pico is a name that all MMA fans will have heard of by now, a young freestyle wrestler who’s impressed on not only the wrestling scene, but also show some amazing hands in his MMA career to date. At only 22, the future looks bright for California native. However standing in his way last night was his toughest test to date in Henry Corrales, a man that has spoke this week about not becoming a stepping stone for the hot prospect Pico. And boy did he make sure he did not become that, the fight started off with Pico scoring a knockdown with a beautiful uppercut, however that was the start, and the end of Pico’s success last night. We’ve seen this before with young guys lacking experience, one name that comes to mind is Cody Garbrandt, a man who seemed destined for greatness after his impressive destruction of a bantamweight great Dominick Cruz showcased the same issues Pico faced last night when he went toe to toe with TJ Dillashaw twice last year, both fights saw Garbrandt knock down TJ and then make the mistake of headhunting the more experienced fighter in TJ, allowing TJ to pick his shots and take advantage of the lack of defence when Garbrandt allowed himself to get too excited. Pico, like Garbrandt got carried away with the early knockdown, and headhunted Corrales in there. Then they got into the clinch Pico, in trying to hone in with his trademark body shots left himself wide open for a dynamite right hand over the top which shut the lights of Aaron Pico a little over a minute into round one. Pico needs to go back and look at what went wrong, not that its difficult to see. His defence needs to be sharpened up, he needs to be more patient and remember the game plan in future otherwise this won’t be the last time Pico ends up fast on his back in a fight he was in control of. At 22 he has time to fight lesser competition, build himself back up and be ready when he is handed a big opponent again. From his post fight interviews he seems to have already identified his holes and we’re sure he will back with a bang, he has all the tools to make it big in this game, but lime he found out last night, this game is unforgiving, and there’s levels to this game. One minor mistake makes all the difference, and Aaron, unfortunately for him, made that one minor mistake last night. For Henry Corrales, last night shot his stock up in the Bellator featherweight division, a huge knockout of the arguably one of the hottest prospects in MMA right now puts him in line for a big things this year, a 5 fight win streak and another impressive finish will get the attention to Scott Coker, and a title shot could be due this year if he continues in this fashion.

Fedor Emelianenko vs Ryan Bader

What a heartbreaking night for us at The Combat Hub. As massive Fedor fans, this one was hard to take. As many Fedor fans could probably agree with, his bone chilling entrance was the one positive to take from his appearance last night. In true Emelianenko fashion, it was humble and focused. There’s been a lot of questions raised about Bader, whether he’s underrated or under appreciated in the wider MMA landscape, and he definitely put his case forward with a dominant victory. We’re not saying this shocked the world, he was the younger man, the fitter man, and he seemed poised for victory. Fedor’s age looked telling during the stand off. He looked old, he looked unfit and he never got a chance to build up steam and let his hands fly. Not taking anything away from Bader, he become a double weight world champion, although becoming more common in MMA it is still vastly impressive, especially in the heavier divisions where any decisive strike has the potential to put you down, as it did last night. There’s isn’t much to say about the fight at hand, both fighters got to the centre of the cage, felt each other out, and Bader his an amazing lead hook that immediately dropped Fedor, lacerating him and leading to a quick, clean ground and pound victory. The question on everyone’s mind now is, what’s next for both men? Will Fedor ride off into the sunset on one of the greatest careers of all time? What will Bader do now he’s cleaned house in two Bellator divisions? Is he a pound for pound top ten participant? These are some of the questions MMA fans will be discussing non stop for the foreseeable future. We were incredibly impressed by Bader’s tenacity, and we can only hope Moussasi moves up to LHW in a super fight I’m comfortable in saying every MMA fan would love to see. We just want a moment also to say that we’ve absolutely loved this Grand Prix, it was something that was always so magical and different about Pride and it’s refreshing to see the same style tournament being utilised successfully in a high profile, western environment.

Overall, Bellator kick things off this year with promising fashion. It had it all, drama, upsets, high level competition and plenty of first round finishes. 2019 could be a big year for the promotion in their quest to become a genuine competitor for the UFC, and if they keep attracting the talent that they have and putting on exciting cards like this, it could be a viable alternative for not only fighters, but fans who are looking for a different product at a similar standard. If you made it this far, thank you for reading, and we hope you’ve enjoyed the article. 

Jan 26, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Fedor Emelianenko (red gloves) gets up after losing to Ryan Bader (blue gloves) during Bellator 214 at The Forum. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports

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