Fight Facts: Bellator 2018, a Year in Review

By: Jay Pettry
Dec 25, 2018
Bellator MMA had a busy year in 2018, as it visited five countries and nine different states with 22 events all around the world. In this Fight Facts review, we chronicle the story of Bellator’s latest campaign, which included spectacular performances, sure things, massive upsets and even a couple of tournaments.

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Year of the Dog

SIGN OF THE TIMES: Bellator signed a deal with streaming service DAZN, pronounced “Da Zone” or “Danger Zone” depending on your preference, in which it would air seven exclusive events per year. Bellator 206 became the first event to air only on DAZN, headlined by a champion-versus-champion superfight between middleweight kingpin Gegard Mousasi and welterweight boss Rory MacDonald.

CLIMBING THE PARAMOUNTAIN: Spike TV rebranded itself to the Paramount Network at the beginning of year, with Bellator 192 the first event to take place on the newly minted network.

MY TRUSTY 22: With 22 events this year, Bellator equaled the number of shows it staged in 2014, 2016 and 2017.

FIRST!: Since forming in 2009, Bellator had never hosted an event in the state of Hawaii. That changed with Bellator 212 and Bellator 213 in Honolulu in December. No other major organization had ever planted its flag in Hawaii. That includes every Zuffa organization, which combine for 646 fight cards spanning 25 years.

EVERYBODY LOVES TOURNAMENTS: Two tournaments began in 2018, the first at heavyweight and the second at welterweight. These were the first tournaments held by Bellator since Liam McGeary won its light heavyweight tournament in 2014. Additionally, since the welterweight champion is a participant in the welterweight grand prix, every tournament bout in that grand prix will last five rounds. When the champion is involved, the title will be up for grabs, as well.

THREE’S COMPANY: Ten different fighters competed three times in 2018, the most inside the promotion. Of those 10 fighters, five went undefeated: A.J. McKee, Aaron Pico, Juan Archuleta, Michael Chandler and Tywan Claxton.

DOUBLE DOSE OF DISAPPOINTMENT: No fighter lost three times in 2018, but 19 lost twice. Of those 19, the only fighter to compete a third time despite suffering two defeats was Gerald Harris, who dropped two and then fought to a draw against Hracho Darpinyan at Bellator 210.

DRUG FREE, THE WAY TO BE: No fights have been ruled or overturned to no-contests, making this the first year that has happened since 2012.

KEEPING IT CLEAN: No bouts ended in disqualification. The last fight to result in a DQ was at Bellator 75 in 2012, when Eric Prindle struck Thiago Santos with a devastating axe kick to the groin.

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Knock Down, Drag Out

ABSOLUTELY SMASHING: A total of 105 fights ended with knockouts in 22 different ways, making 2018 the most prodigious year for KOs in company history. Of note, 2013 displayed one fewer knockout.

SET IT AND FORGET IT: Thirteen fighters landed one-punch knockouts, the most of any kind of KO.

THE NEWEST BREED: Three of the seven fastest knockouts in Bellator history took place in 2018, with two tying the record for the fastest knockout. Michele Martignoni and Mike Kimbel scored six-second knockouts of Simone D’Anna and Alex Potts at Bellator 203 and Bellator 207, respectively. Also, Mike Shipman punched out Carl Noon in 10 seconds at Bellator 200.

LIKE A RECORD, BABY: Two fighters landed spinning back kicks to cleanly knock out their opponents and both were welterweights: Joey Davis and Andrey Koreshkov, both in the first round. These were the first two clean spinning back kick knockouts in Bellator history.

SLAMMATOR: Until 2018, no fighter had ever scored a slam knockout in the Bellator cage. This year, it happened twice. Kimbel knocked out Geoffrey Then at Bellator 194, and Arlene Blencowe finished Amber Leibrock with a slam of her own at Bellator 206.

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The ‘Art’ in Mixed Martial Arts

PAR FOR THE COURSE: The three most common submissions performed in 2018 were the rear-naked choke (28, 41.8 percent), the guillotine choke (10, 14.9 percent) and the armbar (nine, 13.4 percent).

ONE AND DONE: Three submissions were performed exactly one time inside the Bellator cage in 2018. Joshua Jones took care of DeMarcus Brown with a neck crank at Bellator 193, Dillon Danis tapped Kyle Walker with a toe hold at Bellator 198 and Nation Gibrick heel hooked Luis Erives at Bellator 202. All three of those submissions occurred in the first round.

LET THEM SLEEP: Five fighters were put to sleep by technical submissions: one with an arm-triangle choke, two with guillotine chokes and two with rear-naked chokes.

SHH, HE’S FINALLY ASLEEP: When Douglas Lima put Koreshkov to sleep with a rear-naked choke at Bellator 206, he scored the latest stoppage of the year and the third-latest finish of in company history at 3:04 of the fifth round.

TOE TAPPING: No unique submission was performed inside the Bellator cage in 2018, but Danis’ toe hold was the rarest submission that was performed. Only four other toe holds in the promotion had ever been pulled off previously, with the last one taking place at Bellator 136 in 2015. Of those five, Marcin Held owns two Bellator victories by toe hold.

SAY IT!: Two fighters tapped to strikes this year -- Joe Warren and Frank Mir -- the most since 2014. Warren, a bantamweight, became the lightest Bellator fighter to submit to strikes, with no other fighter below 149.4 pounds (Javone Duhon) having submitted to strikes. At heavyweight, Mir became the fourth man in that division to tap to strikes, the most of any weight class.

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10 Pounds of Gold

DEFEND OR VACATE: Ten title fights took place in 2018 throughout seven divisions. No belts were on the line this year in the light heavyweight or heavyweight divisions.

FOUND YOU: Bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell moved up to featherweight and will compete at Rizin Fighting Federation 14 on New Year’s Eve. Current light heavyweight king Ryan Bader moved up to win twice in the heavyweight grand prix, advancing to the final against Fedor Emelianenko. The Bader-Emelianenko winner will claim the vacant heavyweight championship on Jan. 26.

HAPPY UP HERE: Three fighters prevailed in two title fights in 2018 -- Mousasi, Patricio Freire and Ilima-Lei Macfarlane -- but only Freire defended his belt twice. The other two both won their belts in 2018 and defended it once this year.

TRIPLE CROWN: After defeating Brent Primus at Bellator 212 to recapture his lightweight belt, Chandler became the first fighter in Bellator history to become a three-time champion in his weight class.

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Place Your Bets

WANNA BET?: Over the course of the year, 117 bouts were given betting odds from betting service 5dimes. Of those bouts, 83 favorites emerged victorious, while 31 underdogs scored upsets and three bouts closed with even odds.

NO REASON TO BE UPSET: Scoring the biggest Bellator betting upset of the year, Corey Browning (+650) knocked out Kevin Ferguson Jr. (-1000) in the second round at Bellator 207. The next largest betting upset came when Keith Phathaem (+400) topped Micah Peatrowsky (-600) on the scorecards as part of the Bellator 204 prelims. Most recently, Neiman Gracie (+345) submitted Ed Ruth (-430) in the fourth round of their welterweight grand prix bout at Bellator 213.

LOCK IT DOWN: Claxton came in as a monumental -1750 favorite against Jose Antonio Perez (+1000), the highest betting favorite of the year in Bellator; he knocked out Perez at Bellator 194. McKee left no doubt as a -1500 favorite when he tapped Daniel Crawford (+1000) in the first round with an anaconda choke at Bellator 212. Over in the women’s divisions, the third-widest betting lock of the year in the promotion and the largest among female fighters came when Keri Melendez (-1300) edged Dakota Zimmerman (+850) by split decision at Bellator 206.

VIRTUAL CERTAINTY: Twelve fighters closed at -1000 odds or above, and of those 12, only Ferguson lost. Ten of the remaining huge favorites finished their opponents within two rounds, with only Melendez reaching the judges.

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The Scale is Undefeated

CATCHING WEIGHT: Forty Bellator bouts in 2018 took place outside standard weight classes, with 25 of those taking place at previously scheduled catchweights.

HONOR THY CONTRACT: Nineteen of the 22 events this year staged bouts outside of normal weight classes, and half of those 22 featured at least one fighter who missed weight. Only Bellator 202, Bellator 208 and Bellator 211 held no catchweight bouts of any kind.

PUT DOWN THE FORK! FACE!: Fifteen fighters missed weight for their Bellator bouts. Fighters who came in heavy went 5-10 in those contests, with seven stoppage losses.

WHY, WILLIE, WHY?: No fighter missed weight multiple times in 2018, but Willie Whitehead did miss weight by 14.2 pounds at Bellator 204, hitting the scales at 200.2 pounds for a 185-pound bout. He subsequently lost to Romero Cotton by first-round knockout.

NOT EASY BEING A BIRD: Five fighters missed the featherweight limit this year -- the most in any weight class -- ranging from 0.6 pounds heavy to five pounds over.

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