Here are my immediate reactions to the fights that took place at Bellator 86:
–Ben Askren showed the value of having a stifling top position game in MMA. With the way judges score fights, it’s nearly impossible for a fighter to win a round from bottom position. Karl Amoussou did himself no favors by choosing to invest a large portion of his energy in strikes from the bottom. Punches and elbows from there might harass and annoy an opponent, but they’re unlikely to convince a judge to score a round for that fighter, and even less likely to hurt his opponent in any meaningful way. Amoussou would have been better served trying to get back to his feet, although Askren’s smothering top control certainly would have made that difficult. If Amoussou had conserved his energy more, he may have given himself more chances to catch Askren with a strike and win by knockout. It would still have been unlikely, but Amoussou’s strategy was not optimal.
The fight also showed why Askren would probably struggle to win fights at a high level in the UFC. In the first two rounds, when Amoussou was still fresh, Askren needed help to get the fight to the ground. He was able to catch one of Amoussou’s kicks in the first round, and in the second round, it was actually Amoussou who landed in top position, but was reversed after attempting a heel hook. When the fight was standing, Amoussou was crushing Askren. If Askren had to fight wrestlers with good striking, such as Georges St-Pierre, Johny Hendricks, Jake Ellenberger, or Josh Koscheck, he would probably fail to get the fight to the ground, and get knocked out by his opponent.
-There’s not a lot of meaningful information I can take from Muhammed Lawal’s win over Przemyslaw Mysiala, apart from saying that “King Mo” is obviously at a much higher level of fighting. King Mo did show a quick and punishing jab, but to the extent he’s stopped fights with his striking at distance, he’s done so against fighters like Mysiala, Roger Gracie, and Travis Wiuff. It’s possible that King Mo’s striking is steadily improving, but it’s hard to tell unless we see him take on some better strikers.
-Usually, when a fight is won by TKO due to leg kicks, the damage is caused by an accumulation of kicks. Such was not the case with Douglas Lima against Michail Tsarev. Instead, Lima likely broke something in Tsarev’s knee with one powerful kick. Tsarev was allowed to take more punishment than necessary; the fight should have been stopped the moment it was apparent that Tsarev was unable to take a single kick without being knocked down. It’s the same reason fights can be stopped due to technical submission – once a fighter sustains a serious injury, the fight should be stopped for the sake of protecting that fighter from taking unnecessary punishment.
-One thing high-level fighters understand well is that, in a 15 minute fight, it’s important to conserve energy, and use techniques that are energy efficient. When I see a fighter like Koffi Adzitso gas out in the second round, and then attempt something like a suplex later in the fight, that’s a signal to me that the fighter attempts a technique like that because he lacks the skill to perform effective or efficient techniques against his opponent. By fighting hard over the course of three rounds without getting exhausted, Ben Saunders showed that he’s simply a higher-level fighter than Adzitso is.
-I didn’t watch the preliminary fights, but… what the hell was Marius Zaromskis trying to do against Brent Weedman?