Good Evening everyone. I am LIVE from the Hard Rock Seminole Hotel and Casino here in Hollywood, Florida. We're about halfway between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and getting ready to give you coverage of the season-ender for Bellator Fighting Championship. I'm here sitting practically cageside inside the Hard Rock Live. It is an intimate venue, with just a few thousand seats. Still a lot of setting up going on here, and people just starting to file in. The big headliner tonight is obviously consensus top-5 lightweight Eddie Alvarez as he battles Toby Imada for the right to be crowned the first ever Bellator Lightweight Champion. Imada is an internet sensation now, as he was the author of the beautiful inverted triangle choke against Jorge Masvidal to advance to the final tonight. The only way Imada doesn't win Submission of the Year is if Ryo Chonan decides to pull out a flying heel hook again, and I don't expect that anytime soon. Also on tap is the Middleweight Championship between Jared Hess and Hector Lombard. Lombard is the favorite, and rightfully so with his experience, but do not count Hess out. To show you what a warrior Hess is, he actually fought in between the first and second rounds of this tournament and was victorious via a 1st round TKO. Should be an oustanding championship bout. 8 fights total on the card here at the Hard Rock. I'll also be attending the post-fight press conference and should have some good updates from there. So stay tuned tonight for all the action. Special thank you to MMAFighting.com and Bellator for allowing me to cover the fights live for all you fans.
7:52 PM: Starting to fill up here but doesn't look like it will be a sellout. Looks like they are getting ready to get things kicked off shortly. Just had the Bellator commentary team of Jon Anik and Jason Chambers taping a segment for the English language broadcast. They'll be sitting right in front of me apparently. Gonna be a good night.
8:10 PM: Just about ready here. The lights have dimmed and the music is bumping. And sure enough, we're getting ready to introduce our first two fighters for the evening.
Fight #1 - Stefanie Guimaraes (144) vs. Yvonne Reis (146.5)
8:14 PM: Out first in the blue corner is Stefanie Guimaraes. Her entrance music is the UFC PPV intro music...interesting choice. Guimaraes is with American Top Team and "JZ" Cavalcante is in her corner tonight. Out next is Yvonne Reis from Tampa, FL. The fight card I have in front of me lists her style as Kung Fu. Don't see that very much anymore.
8:16 PM: Apparently Guimaraes goes by the nickname "Cyborg Jr" even though her style is listed as BJJ. Let us see if she lives up to the nickname.
Round 1: We are off tonight. Nice jumping kick by Guimaraes. Each fighter looking to find the distance. Reis definitely looking to mix it up. VICIOUS KNEE from Guimaraes and it is all over. Brutal first round KO from the ATT product. She caught Reis in the clinch and just planted her knee into her. Reis is alert and looks ok, already on her feet. Stefanie Guimaraes wins via first round KO at 0:49 (Knee)
8:19 PM: Guimaraes celebrates in the cage with the ATT team. Really impressive KO, and maybe she does have a little Cris "Cyborg" Santos in her. Just another Highlight Reel Stoppage at Bellator.
Fight #2 - Luis Palomino (149) vs. Troy Gerhart (151.5)
8:21 PM: Right into the next fight here. Out first is Luis Palomino, 10-5 record, a local boy fighting out of Miami, FL. Coming out to Ludacris' "Move B*tch." His opponent is Troy Gerhart, a 5-0 fighter who is fighting out of Venice, FL. This is a catchweight fight at 150 pounds. Palomino is a Muay Thai fighter while Gerhart is listed as a Freestyle fighter. The label "freestyle fighter" brings back memories of early UFC tournaments for me. Should be interesting to watch this one.
Round 1: Gerhart shoots twice by Palomino is able to sprawl. He gets hit hard by Palomino coming in for another takedown. They are really getting after it. After taking some huge shots, Gerhart gets Palomino down and carries him over to the fence. Luis has him tight with overhooks, not letting Gerhart get off much action. Crowd booing, a little uncalled for. Gerhart actually ends up picking Palomino up and puts him on his feet. Back in the center now. Good leg kick by Gerhart. Each fighter looking for his range right now. The crowd again booing. Tough crowd here at the Hard Rock. 2 minutes left. Gerhart misses with a left. 90 seconds left. Palomino attempts a jumping knee, but ends up getting taken down for his efforts. Gerhart not doing much in top control, but Palomino is not doing much off his back either. Some attempted elbows now. The ref stands them up, saying Gerhart is headbutting Palomino. Gerhart giving a warning, but no deduction. End of the round. Not a whole lot of action here, but based on takedowns, I score the round 10-9 Gerhart.
Round 2: Leg kick by Palomino to start. Missed kick by Gerhart. Not a lot to start off Round 2. Kick by Palomino. Big high kick misses from Palomino. Gerhart shoots and gets a takedown. Let us see if he is more effective this time around. A very quick standup from the referee. The crowd had started booing, and I think the ref may have taken that into consideration. 2:30 to go. A small Gerhart chant starts in the stands. Nice leg kick from Palomino, and a inside leg kick follows nearly tripping Gerhart to the mat. Big head kick partially connects from Palomino. A scramble ensues with Gerhart taking a shot but getting the takedown. We've seen this all fight long, Gerhart on top but not getting off any offense. His corner here in front of me pleading for Gerhart to get off some offense and score points. He is trying to oblige but not connecting enough. Some good lefts at the end of the round here. A close round here, and I've got it Gerhart 10-9 and two rounds to none. I think Palomino needs a stoppage.
Round 3: Almost a minute in and not much offense from either fighter. Palomino taunting Gerhart, begging him to come in. He sprawls a takedown from Gerhart and hits him to force Gerhart to retreat. Another sprawl from Palomino. Gerhart fighting hard for the takedown, but to no avail. Just about three minutes left. What action here as Palomino was upside down on Gerhart's back and Gerhart dropped him into the canvas and came out in side control. Now in North/South, back into side control. Good knee to the body by Gerhart. More knees but they are blocked by Palomino's arm. A quick reversal and Palomino takes control. Might've been a knee with Gerhart on the ground, too quick for me to be sure. He takes control and is controlling Gerhart as Troy seeks another takedown. Good body shots by Palomino. Those will hurt tomorrow. Gerhart finally gets him down, but an armbar attempt! Goes he have it? NO. Gerhart sneaks it out, very close though. Really good action here in the closing round. Gerhart looking to the corner for instructions. Palomino's corner begging for a standup. 10 seconds! Both fighters trying to score last second points. It's Over! I score the round 10-9 Palomino but the fight 29-28 Gerhart. Would not be surprised to see a split decision though.
8:48 PM: And here comes the decision. It is unanimous, 29-28, for Luis Palomino. Gerhart immediately storms out of the cage. Palomino is breakdancing in the ring. Not sure if I agree here, but like I said, that second round could've gone either way. Palomino takes it regardless.
Fight #3 - Rosi Sexton (123.25) vs. Valerie Coolbough (124.25)8:50 PM: Next fight up is Rosi Sexton taking on Valerie Coolbaugh in a 125 pound bout. Sexton is out to the Fugees "Ready or Not." This is old school, brings back good memories. Sexton is fighting out of Manchester, England. Here comes Coolbaugh out to "Beat It" although it isn't Michael Jackson, that much I can tell you. She looks very excited to be here, big smile on her face while getting greased up outside the cage. Coolbaugh is 34 years old and bouncing around the cage like a two year old. She is fighting out of Mt. Olive, Illinois with a 2-1 record.
Round 1: Coolbaugh looking to establish her jab but Sexton clinches up against the fence. Sexton looking for the takedown and gets it with a trip. Sexton is apparently a BJJ fighter, so probably going to be looking for a submission. Sexton smothering Coolbaugh and passes to side control. Coolbaugh pushing her feet off the fence trying to slip out underneath but Sexton is not having it. Sexton passes to mount, this could be trouble. Big elbows from the mount. Now rights and lefts from Sexton. Coolbaugh gives up her back and Sexton locks in the hooks. Looking for the Rear-Naked Choke. Coolbaugh gets back to her back but still in mount. Tremendous sweep by Coolbaugh into guard. A real scramble here with Coolbaugh in North/South for a moment, but Sexton back on top. Coolbaugh holding a leg as Sexton tries to re-establish position. Sexton into side control again, and now back mount. Going for the armbar, this could be it. Yes it is! Sexton gets the W with a nice armbar, and an immediate embrace between the two fighters, pure class. Coolbaugh still has a big grin on her face, which is nice to see. Rosi Sexton wins via submission at 3:20 of round one (Armbar).
9:06 PM: They don't joke around here. Getting right into the fourth fight of the night. We've got Josh Martin taking on Sergio Moraes in a Welterweight bout. Martin is listed as a wrestler while Moraes is a BJJ fighter. I just want to say that it really is incredible sitting cageside. I've watched events on TV and live, but never this close, and the action is really something. The sounds are incredible, even when guys don't connect flush, that sound is something you can't get out of your head. It really is a different experience in these seats. And, for the guys out there, there is no shortage of attractive females in the crowd. Not surprising since we're this close to Miami. As for the females reading, if there are any, I'm sure there are plenty of good looking guys here, but I'm clearly not going to notice them, sorry!
Fight #4 - Josh Martin (170.25) vs. Sergio Moraes (168.5)
9:14 PM: Sorry guys, no play by play commentary for that fight. I was speaking with the CEO of Bellator Bjorn Rebney during the bout. I will post what he had to say after this next bout. Either way, Sergio Moraes defeated Josh Martin via triangle choke in the first round.
Fight #6 - Fabio Mello (145.75) vs. Sami Aziz (145.5)
Round 1: They touch gloves and Mello floors Aziz seconds later. He almost catches him with an illegal kick to a downed opponent, but luckily he misses. Mello in Aziz' guard, trying to land some body shots. Mello has him pressed up against the cage, but not a lot of action right now. Still in Aziz' guard. At least this referee is giving him time to work, but a standup might be warranted at this point. Big shots now from Mello, really laying it on. This could be it. Really overwhelming stuff, and Aziz isn't doing much to defend himself. Another huge left, but Aziz has survived, although now in half-mount. Aziz is apparently cut, and is leaking blood pretty good. Mello going for a choke now, but a scramble ensues and Aziz ends up on top. Just about 30 seconds left here. Nice strikes from Aziz, but not nearly enough to take this round. Mello 10-9.
Round 3: Both fighters looking to exchange in this final round. Mello shoots and Aziz attempts to sprawl. Aziz trying to lock in a guillotine but it doesn't appear to be successful. I've got a drunk three rows behind me chanting "GUILLOTINE" which is something I'd like someone to put him in right now. Aziz now in side-control but not landing much in the way of offense. Mello gets him to full guard. Aziz standing up as Mello goes for the armbar. We've got controversey here. Mello seemed to be locking in the armbar, but Aziz was attempting to spin out. Ref came in to stop the fight. Aziz is not protesting though. Here is the replay, and it is still inconclusive. There was no clear tap there, but I have no idea if there was a verbal submission. The announcer says the red corner tapped out, but like I said, we did not see it at cageside or on the big screen. Nonetheless, Fabio Mello wins via submission (armbar) in the third round.
10:26 PM: And now it is time for the first of our two championship fights tonight. Up first is the Middleweight title bout between Jared Hess and Hector Lombard. Lombard is the favorite here, with more than double the fights of Hess and also having fought twice in PRIDE. There, he lost both bouts, the first to Akihiro Gono in the first round of the 2006 WW Grand Prix and the second to Gegard Mousasi. He also has defeated Daiju Takase, best known for submitting UFC Middleweight Kingpin Anderson Silva many years ago. Hess is first out, coming out to a country song I am not familiar with. Already 4-0 this year, he is definitely the underdog, but I believe Hess can win this fight. "Shango" Lombard, an American Top Team product, is a true physical specimen. His corner is right in front of me and he is just jacked. In addition, props to the ring announcer. He transitions back and forth between English and Spanish very easy. The only problem is, he sounds too much like Michael Buffer for my liking...in fact, it is almost eerily similar.
Fight #7 - Jared Hess (184.25) vs. Hector Lombard (184.5)
Round 1: We are underway. Hess strikes first with a kick, but Lombard catches it and promptly puts Hess on his backside. Hess up against the cage in Lombard's corner. Hess works out and makes his way back to the feet. Both fighters weighed in within a half pound of each other, but Lombard is by far the bigger fighter. The drunk guy behind me is yelling again, and I realize he is calling every fighter "Pete." Instead of "Guillotine" he is calling for "Knees." Hess shoots with a poor takedown and Shango sprawls easy. Hess takes a shot as he gets up. Low kick by Hess. Jared has a mouse under his left eye, and takes a big shot but gives one in exchange. Low kick lands just above the belt on Lombard. Hess takes a huge right and nearly goes down, but he recovers nicely. You could see the spit fly out of his mouth, that is how close I am. Hess takes another shot, and he is in trouble. He manages to clinch as we are under thirty seconds. That eye is really swelling up. The round comes to a close and its easily 10-9 Lombard.
Round 2: Shango comes out swinging and nearly connects. Hess with another shot that has no chance of being finished. Both fighters back on their feet now. Looks like Hess took a poke to the eye and the ref stops the fight. Here comes the Doctor. Hess is ok apparently and we are back fighting. Lombard sprawls another shot from Hess and is controlling him. Both guys now back on their feet. From here, that eye looks like it is nearly swollen shut. Hess slips and Lombard goes down with him into guard. 2:30 left here in round two. Not a lot of action right now, Hess is not working for any submissions and sure enough, the ref brings the fight up. Hess goes for a body kick that partially gets through. Lombard is not showing much offense this round, and as I say that, he starts moving forward and throwing more. Hess misses with another takedown and Lombard controls again. 10-9 Lombard.
Round 3: Hess with a weak shot again. He is just shooting in and trying to get Lombard down, but not setting it up with any striking. Lombard pushes Hess against the fence and puts Hess on the deck. Lombard should be working the swollen eye of Hess but he is content to throw a few body shots. Hess swings for an armbar but it is no good. Lombard has Hess tacked up and is bleeding excessively. I think the eye busted. No way Hess can get an armbar here. The ref stops the action to check the cut. It looks bad. Doctor is in, and Hess seems like he is saying he is ok. And we will continue here. Hess going for a takedown, but fails. The ref calls the doc in yet again. This is a nasty cut. It is over the right eye area. And the fight continues again. Crowd loves it. They clinch with over/unders. Lombard gets Hess to the mat. Lombard really working Hess, but Hess will not quit. Lombard in for the attack again. Side-control for Shango. Lombard working a neck-crank, but I don't think it has much of a chance. Under a minute. Lombard just not doing much here. I don't know why he isn't trying to work the cut. Hess back to the feet but down again. There is blood all over both of these guys. The round ends. 10-9 Lombard. All I can say is that Jared Hess has a ton of heart.
Round 4: No stoppage yet due to the cut. That left eye is really bad. Looking at Hess, he may be better suited for 170. Hess attempts his 800th lazy shot of the night, only for Lombard to sprawl. It almost reminds me of Tito Ortiz trying to get Chuck Liddell down. Lombard now in Hess' guard as a big "Hector" chant makes the rounds here at the Hard Rock. Lombard should be raining down elbows on that cut, and one seems to land. The referee stops the fight again to have the cut looked at. It is over! This one has been stopped due to the cut. Hector Lombard is your new Bellator Middleweight Champion via TKO stoppage (cuts) at 1:40 of the fourth round. Bjorn is in the ring with the belt and presents it to Lombard.
11:00 PM: Like I said, Hess has a ton of heart. He really hung in there though he could barely see and had a huge cut flowing. I also think 170 might be a better class for him. Lombard was too big, too strong. Now I will channel my best GSP and say I was not impressed with Hector's performance. I feel like he could've stopped him earlier if he tried harder. He could've worked that eye and cut much earlier. Regardless, he earns the TKO stoppage to lay claim to the title belt. Lombard is being interviewed saying he didn't want to "risk anything" because of how talented Hess is. Not sure if that means you can't take chances during fight. Bjorn says Lombard was dominating and is one of the best 185 pound fighters in the world. I think Lombard still has a way to go in my opinion. Hopefully Bellator can bring in a legitimate challenge for him. They show Eddie Alvarez on the screen, and I've just realized I have his whole family sitting in front of me. Not sure if you've ever seen his wife, but she is truly beautiful. All the kids are here tonight in support of Eddie.
11:15 PM: They play some clips of both fighters talking about the bout. Both are very respectful. Imada enters the ring first to Rage Against the Machine. Eddie Alvarez out now and his family is on their feet right in front of me. They might be more nervous than he is. Alvarez is hyped up, pacing back and forth. Jason Herzog has the duties for the main event of the evening.Fight #8 - Toby Imada (154.25) vs. Eddie Alvarez (155)
Round 1: Not often you can watch a top 5 fighter this close. A true privlege. Imada sends in a knee and Alvarez answers. Eddie sends off a combo and hits Imada nicely. He presses Toby up against the fence. Someone in Eddie's party yells out "Murder Time Ed." Imada trips Alvarez to the mat but Eddie is back up. Imada with the thai clinch but Eddie powers out. Three minutes left here. Imada with a nice slam from the clinch. Eddie quickly back up. Clinched up against the cage again and now they take the center of the cage. Nice right by Imada. Fighters clinched up against the fence in front of me now. Alvarez tries to get off some shots but Imada works to control him. Close round so far. Eddie wading in, trying to connect with a big shot. Imada returns fire. Eddie's wife on the edge of her seat. Alvarez may have a mouse under his left eye. Imada is bleeding around the right eye. Alvarez clinches up against the cage. Tough, tough round to score here at cageside. Too much action for 10-10, so I'm going to go with Imada 10-9. Could've easily gone the other way though.
Round 2: Alvarez sends Imada down almost immediately. I almost missed it. Now on top, but Imada working. Alvarez has back-mount, going for a choke. This could be it. It is over! Eddie Alvarez scores a quick second round submission. Alvarez chokes out Imada. And in typical Eddie fashion, he gives us the backflip off the cage. The Alvarez clan is going wild here at ringside. Eddie Alvarez comes out to hug his wife. Bjorn in the ring with the belt. Big right put Imada down, and it was an overwhelming Alvarez from there. Eddie Alvarez is your winner via submission (rear-naked choke) at 0:38 of the second round.
11:27 PM: We have a Marcus Aurellio sighting in the crowd, surrounded by some nice eye-candy. Crowd emptying out quickly here. It was at least Ã‚Â¾ full here tonight, pretty good showing from the Florida fans. Eddie in the ring getting the belt. Alvarez did what a top 5 lightweight does, and that is win impressively. All three of Alvarez' wins came by submission in this tournament, pretty impressive for a guy generally known for his standup. Alvarez pleads for a break from fighting to spend time with his family during the post-fight interview. Stay tuned for news from the post-fight press conference.
11:48 PM: I'm up here in the VIP room of the arena waiting for the fighters and Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney to address the media. It looks like we'll be hearing from both competitiors in the championship fights tonight. Stay tuned to MMAFighting.com for all the fallout from the final event of the first season of Bellator.
Presser: Bjorn Rebney starts off about how he wanted to bring in both "name" guys and younger talent to create a nice mix of overall talent. Bjorn expresses how happy he is with Eddie and Hector's victories tonight. Bjorn says his first call was to American Top Team to recruit Jorge Masvidal, and before hearing about who was fighting at 155 and said he'd fight "King Kong" for that kind of money. Bjorn says Jorge will likely be entering the next tournament in the Fall. Bjorn talks about Jared Hess and how proud he is of him and how he also likely will be fighting in the fall in the185 tournament. Bjorn says a female tournament is possible within the next two seasons.
Eddie Alvarez now on the mic. Eddie says he has been training for over a year straight due to his training for the DREAM tournament. Eddie just says he is happy to be here in the States and it was an incredible journey. Hector Lombard says now people know what he is all about. He thanks all his fans. Jared Hess talks about how much respect he has for Lombard and how surprised he was at his takedown defense. Hess says he will be back in the next tournament. Jorge Masvidal says he will also be back in the Fall and wants a piece of Eddie Alvarez. Bjorn thanks the Seminole tribe for having them again, and how great events were here. According to Bjorn, not a bad seat in the house. He also thanks Ford and ESPN.
Someone asks Hector how he likes fighting here in Miami and he says it is like fighting at home. It feels good because the crowd is usually against him. The motivation gave him extra strength.
Another reporter asks Eddie about the tournament format and how rigorous it is and where it fits in MMA. Eddie says it is not for everyone and you really have to love it because of the sacrifices you have to make.
Bjorn is asked at what weight class a potential women's weight class would be. Bjorn says it is not easy because he needs to find 7 other world class fighters to fill out the bracket. But he certainly would like to. Bjorn also reiterates what he said to me earlier about the next season reaching a much larger audience. Bjorn says that the tournaments next season could be in the same weight classes or possibly other weight classes, depending on who signs with Bellator.
Hector is asked about him carrying an Australian flag to the ring and whether he should or would carry a Cuban flag to the ring. Lombard is pretty offended apparently by this question, and says Australia gave him a chance to fight and he loves that country. He then glares at the questioner. Not sure what the backstory is here, but Hector was not pleased.
This ends the press conference. Overall a tremendous night, a really solid show. I hope you enjoyed the pbp and enjoy the rest of your evening.