A rare tentpole event showcasing its homegrown talent, Bellator delivered at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis this November.
Headlined by an all-out war between Patricio “Pitbull” Freire and Daniel Straus, fight fans in Missouri were given quite a fight to remember as they made their trips home Friday night. A good portion of the fights on the main card managed to live up to their hype as well, while some fell short of the mark.
Here’s how we ranked the five winners featured on Bellator 145’s main card:
5. Emmanuel Sanchez
The Roufusport fighter won himself an unorthodox victory on Friday night, securing the game-changing round by being the more active fighter from the bottom. Despite having his back plastered onto the canvas, Sanchez landed enough glancing elbows and attempted enough submissions to show the St. Louis judges he was deserving of the nod.
It wasn’t necessarily a stellar performance from Sanchez, who often found himself at the wrong end of the counterstrike as he marched forward against the more agile fighter in Justin Lawrence. Still, he did enough in his clinch-work against the cage and activity from a vulnerable position to ensure he got the nod, regardless of how many people disagreed in the early aftermath.
4. Will Brooks
It certainly wasn’t exciting, but in hindsight, you have to hand it to Bellator lightweight champion Will Brooks. He survived a frightening first round against Marcin Held, nearly falling victim to the title challenger’s submission game.
The rest of the bout featured a pretty standard gameplan, as Brooks found himself inexplicably taking the submission artist down to the ground. He was never in any real danger of being submitted after the first five minutes, but spectators around the globe were left scratching their head as to why Brooks didn’t keep the fight standing. He later revealed his knee “popped” in the opening minutes of the bout, forcing him to avoid a standup affair for the remaining 20 minutes.
Fans booed, but considering Brooks was able to gut it out on one knee against one of the best grapplers at 155 pounds, this easily goes down as one of Brooks’ best performances as Bellator’s titleholder.
3. Bobby Lashley
There’s not much you can say about a man who finished his fight in under a minute. Lashley opened the bout the exact way we expected him to: attempting to get it to the ground. He shot for a low single-leg takedown from quite a far distance, throwing his shoulder straight into Thompson’s upper shin. The shot seemingly bent Thompson’s knee the wrong way, likely preventing him from standing back up.
Thompson didn’t have much of a chance to get back up, though, considering Lashley kept himself relatively busy with some of the heaviest ground-and-pound we’ve seen from the pro wrestler-turned-MMA fighter. The victory extends Lashley’s win streak to seven, avenging his most recent loss from three years prior. Sitting at 14-2 as a pro since he started his career in 2008, Lashley is arguably the most decorated fighter who’s come from wrestling since Brock Lesnar.
2. Daniel Straus
Straus set his sails for the Bellator featherweight once more, only this time he would not be denied. Now the Bellator 145-pound champion, Straus took it to Pitbull from the opening bell, consistently finding a home for his left hand (which he broke in the first round, he says). Round after round, it was becoming readily apparent that he was every bit as worth of a second title shot against the same champion in the same calendar year, proving he would not fall short of the extended efforts he put forth just 10 months earlier.
Straus dropped his opponent in the second round, changing the dynamic of the rest of the fight. The next two rounds were a bit of a haze for Pitbull, who struggled to regain his footing to create any sort of a a consistent attack before he was peppered with another one of Straus’ effective (but broken) left hands.
The first two bouts went to Freire, while the third went to Straus. Despite two dominant performances (the first of which ended in come-from-behind fashion), we’ll likely be getting another helping of Straus-Freire in 2016.
1. Michael Chandler
This is the Michael Chandler we remember. This is the man who took it to Eddie Alvarez to obtain the Bellator lightweight title, and the very same man who defended said title three times — including a first-round KO of his Bellator 145 foe, David Rickels.
Chandler was once again the faster man. He was also far and away the fight’s better grappler. Combining those two meant terrible, terrible things for Rickels, who couldn’t find much success on the feet or on his back. Just when you thought things might be turning his way, Chandler staggered his opponent with a haymaker of a right hand that forced Rickels to crumble. Bloodied and beaten, it was all over for Rickels after that.
The victory puts Chandler in prime real estate to demand another shot for the lightweight title, regardless of who stands atop the division.