Bellator 180 Shocks a Loud Madison Square Garden

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On a night with wild finishes aplenty, it was the fight that barely got started that provided the wildest.

Fedor Emelianenko, widely regarded as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, was knocked out just one minute and fourteen seconds into his Bellator debut against fellow heavyweight Matt Mitrione in front of a raucous crowd at Madison Square Garden.

Preceding the ground and pound knockout was a near double knockout as both Mitrione and Emelianenko connected on shots that sent both to the mat. Mitrione was able to recover first and quickly pounded away on his downed opponent. The crowd roared with approval as Mitrione had his hand raised in victory.

The main event saw a grudge match years in the making finally take place as “ The American Gangster” Chael Sonnen and “The Axe Murderer” Wanderlei Silva squared off. There was a lot of bad blood between Sonnen and Silva, stemming from an altercation in Brazil several years ago and the interviews leading up to the fight proved that it had not subsided. “USA” chants bellowed from the crowd as they willed on Sonnen to finish the Brazilian. Sonnen controlled the ground early, forcing Silva along the cage. Wanderlei hit a knee towards the end of the first round that put Sonnen on the ground and he went for a guillotine choke on a Sonnen takedown attempt.

The second round opened with a flying knee by Sonnen and a flurry of shots by both fighters. Silva appeared to be winded early in the round, breathing heavily as he tried to maintain control of Sonnen’s head. Silva had no answer for the takedown attempts being forced on him by an angry Chael. Sonnen opened the final round with yet another undefended takedown as most of the fight took place on the ground. Silva defended shots well, but Sonnen had a mounting lead on shots landed. The crowd seemed largely disinterested in the main event, as they were more keen on insulting MMA veteran Tito Ortiz, who egged them on, rising out of his seat. Sonnen would go on to win via unanimous decision.

“All I can say is G-d damn, I hate New York.” Chael Sonnen had to say after the victory, which did not sit well with the Garden faithful. He also took aim at Tito Ortiz, saying “you do not piss off a gangster.”

Earlier bouts on a star studded fight card provided equally crowd pleasing results, including a vicious knockout victory by Bronx native Bradley Desir over Nate Grebb and local product Heather Hardy, in her MMA debut, scoring a TKO victory over Alice Yauger with 20 seconds remaining in the third and final round.

“A lot of people thought I couldn’t do it, and I did.” Hardy told reporters after her win. Hardy had secured the TKO after the referee stepped in to stop Hardy from landing undefended punches on the cage.

Three titles were on the line tonight at MSG and two changed hands, one in very anti climactic fashion. Michael Chandler, marking the one year anniversary of regaining the belt, lost via doctor stoppage in the very first round after his ankle gave out on him evading a kick from challenger Brent Primus and he was unable to put weight on it. Adding insult to injury was his crew pulling the stool out as he was about to sit down and the image of Chandler crashing to the mat will be the one fans will not forget. Primus did say after the decision was read, he wanted to face Chandler again. Primus is on an eight fight winning streak that dates back to September 2010.

Ryan Bader, making his Bellator debut, won a split decision victory over Phil Davis to claim the light heavyweight title. A veteran of the UFC, Bader signed with Bellator earlier this year and was linked to a fight with Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, but Lawal pulled out and the fight with Davis was arranged. On two judges’ scorecards, Bader took four of five rounds, besting Davis in takedown defense and ground control. It is Bader’s first title reign in any promotion.

The third title belt that was on the line opened up the pay per view portion of the event as Douglas Lima successfully defended his belt against newcomer Lorenz Larkin. Lima dropped Larkin midway through the second round and controlled the fight from there on out. Lima would go on to win via unanimous decision.

Bellator 180 was the promotion’s first event at Madison Square Garden.