As the third installment of “Fight Master: Bellator MMA” begins, coaches Frank Shamrock, Randy Couture and Joe Warren have each enticed three fighters to join their squads, while Greg Jackson has attracted two fighters. Tonight’s episode will feature the final round of preliminary fights.
Up first are Los Angeles police officer Ismael Gonzalez and Brazilian-born capoeira stylist Marcus Aurelio. Both men come out in the southpaw stance, and Aurelio proves to be the aggressor early, winging a pair of wild roundhouse kicks. Gonzalez returns the favor with some kicks of his own, though the American’s attacks are more conventional. Suddenly, Aurelio is left clutching his right side after a sliding side kick crashes into his ribs. The Canadian goes down in a heap, and Gonzalez pounces with a flurry of ground-and-pound that ends the fight.
Each of the coaches is complimentary of Gonzalez’s performance; Shamrock, Couture and Warren all fight for his vote. In the end, the fighter chooses to try and improve his wrestling with Warren. The former Greco-Roman world champion assures his latest acquisition that together they will “kick some ass.” Warren has now filled all four available slots on his team.
Andy Uhrich and Dom O’Grady next do battle. A former Division I college football hopeful, Uhrich counts himself among the many fighters who say that MMA has saved their lives. In O’Grady, he faces a 21-fight pro and a former King of the Cage welterweight champion.
O’Grady instigates the action, rifling off double and triple jabs followed by right straights and left hooks. After sustaining a cut over his left eye, Uhrich trips his foe to the mat and takes his back as round one expires. The second stanza begins with a flash knockdown for O’Grady, who briefly drops his foe with a counter uppercut and staggers him again with a series of follow-up shots. Uhrich survives, however, and scores another takedown, spending the rest of the round beating on O’Grady from top position.
Although Uhrich is declared the winner by unanimous decision, host Jimmy Smith informs the fighter that the Louisiana Boxing Commission has suspended him because of the cut, rendering him unable to continue in the competition. This development means that one of the remaining available coaches will end the day with three fighters on his team instead of four.
Former gang member and convict Artenas Young battles onetime “fat kid” Bryan Travers, who describes himself as “king of the nerds.” Young takes charge off the bat by hurling combinations at his stockier foe. Travers can do little to stop Young’s offense, but that output slows to a crawl in round two. Travers charges hard and does enough to warrant a sudden victory round, which he also wins over his weary opponent. The Strikeforce Challengers alum selects coach Jackson, who now has just one slot remaining on his roster.
Up next, ex-Legacy Fighting Championship titleholder Mike Bronzoulis locks horns with onetime Strikeforce competitor Gareth Joseph. Bronzoulis attacks early with leg kicks and staves off a takedown before scoring a flash knockdown with a straight right. Joseph recovers, however, and makes the remainder of the round competitive. Bronzoulis hurts his man again with two more dynamite straights in the second, convincing the judges to award him a unanimous decision. Soon after, Couture receives his third fighter commitment when Bronzoulis requests to join “The Natural.”
The final preliminary fight showcases former UFC talent Joe Riggs, who is supposed to square off with Frank Carrillo before a last-minute shoulder injury forces “Frank the Tank” to withdraw from the competition. Instead, Riggs faces Rob Mills, who was eliminated last week by Mike Dubois via first-round guillotine.
Riggs controls the cage with movement and feints before grabbing a clinch and slamming a knee into Mills’ face on the exit. The Brit retreats, and “Diesel” pursues, grabbing a Thai plum against the fence and dropping Mills with another knee to the head. “Robocop” is game, however, weathering Riggs’ ground-and-pound and making a play to regain his base. Riggs stifles the attempt and transitions to side control before taking the Englishman’s back.
After staving off attempts at a rear-naked choke, Mills spins into Riggs’ guard and tries to mount his opponent. However, Riggs counters the advance and locks up a deep heel hook, forcing Mills to tap out with 30 seconds remaining in the round. The veteran says he has always wanted to work with coach Jackson and decides to complete the Jackson’s MMA roster.
Next week, the coaches will begin their fight camps, and the fighter field will continue to narrow.