Bellator 208 was a modest card by Bellator standards, but it had a marquee matchup in Fedor Emelianenko and Chael Sonnen.
In Sonnen’s pre-fight promo, Chael was dressed like Apolllo Creed in Rocky IV cracking political jokes. For the first time, Sonnen’s schtick kind of worked for me. Thankfully, the silliness translated to the action in the cage.
Because both men are consummate professionals, I assumed they both trained for the fight, but the early action looked liked an overly edited Jason Bourne fight scene. The first minute was like a super cut of each man’s greatest hits, minus any semblance of real strategy.
Fedor’s athleticism (more than technical acumen) was the real difference. He limp legged through most of Chael’s takedowns, and at one point rolled Sonnen head-over-heels with a toss to counter the double leg. It didn’t look good for Fedor once Chael scored his first takedown. Sonnen immediately started working Fedor’s guard, and momentarily scored mount. Fedor exploded out for a sweep, rained down some hammerfists, and Dan Mirgliotta stepped in to stop the fight at 4:46 of the first.
- Fedor will fight Ryan Bader next, which has ‘slaughter’ written all over it. Like I said in the toe to toe preview, Fedor still has his speed, but he’s regressed so bad tactically, it’s like some weird reverse Roy Jones Jr. effect. Fedor was never the smartest fighter, but he knew what he could get away with and what he couldn’t. This is the third fight in a row where he just goes into the match like he’s playing Double Dragon or something, and tries to windmill slam a victory. I mean, it’s a great win all things considered, but it doesn’t bode well against someone like Bader (granted, Bader lost to well past-his-prime Tito Ortiz, but still).
- Sonnen’s decision making continues to be…odd. Early on he had Fedor’s back. With Fedor turtling, Sonnen popped up in the air to use his momentum to flip Fedor into rear mount position. Technically, it’s a workable, efficient move. Here’s Leo Viera doing it to great success. But it requires a might tighter control of the opponent’s body that Sonnen didn’t have. It was a nice attempt on Chael’s part, but ultimately fruitless.
- The co-main was a mechanical fight between two MMA mechanics. Saad Awad got started early with a lot of leg kicks against Benson Henderson. Then Benson scored on his takedowns and that was basically the difference despite Swaad doing a pretty good job of pivoting out of back control, and defending well enough. It seemed like both fighters were fighting with their weaknesses on display rather than their strengths. It was an okay fight, but I didn’t feel like I was watching the cream of the lightweight crop.
- Cheick Kongo — one of the better Bellator heavyweights who wasn’t good enough to be a heavyweight tournament filled with middleweights — finished Tim Johnson with ridiculous quickness. Johnson attempted a takedown, Kongo got him in an awkward position, and the fight was over just as the hammerfists started. As someone who believes in referees and corners doing a better job of protecting fighters, I wasn’t a fan of the stoppage. Yea the first two punches landed, but Kongo wasn’t throwing at full tilt: it just looked worse than it was given how prone Johnson was. Better safe than sorry.
- Alexander Schlemenko vs. Anatoly Tokov was a complete slog. Both guys were active, but there was zero rhythm to the bout. Schlemenko tried some of his trademark spinning s—t, but typically either a) missed or b) got countered.
- I feel like Frank Mir has a lot to offer in the commentary booth, but it never quite gels. It was fun hearing him talk himself up “Fedor’s chin could be an issue; I knocked him down with my softest punch,” he said in so many words. To be fair, being forced to watch yourself getting knocked out would probably make you salty too.