Bellator 198 is in the books. By all accounts, the event was a smashing success. Say what you will about the Viacom-owned promotion, but it hit a home run on Saturday night in Rosemont, Ill., and in the process racked up the second highest gate in company history.
Anytime Fedor Emelianenko steps inside cage, it translates to must-watch TV. “The Last Emperor” was at it again when he met former UFC champion Frank Mir in the first round of the headlining fight, which also served as a quarterfinal match in Bellator’s Heavyweight Grand Prix. Emelianenko once again proved why he is widely considered the greatest heavyweight MMA fighter to have ever competed.
The Russian scored the only knockout on the main card. The other four fights all ended in submissions. Dillon Danis, Rafael Lovato Jr. and Emmanuel Sanchez all landed first-round finishes, while Neiman Gracie picked his sub up in round two. All these men were impressive in their performances, but one in particular stands out: Emmanuel “El Matador” Sanchez.
Bellator head Scott Coker should give this man a title shot. In all fairness, it does sound as if Sanchez’s next fight will be for the belt, as Coker said something to that effect during the post-fight scrum.
Sanchez now boasts a 17-3 record. He has won seven of his last eight fights in the Bellator cage. On Saturday night, he notched perhaps the most unusual win of his career.
Just about half way through the first round of his scrap with UFC veteran Sam Sicilia, Sanchez attempted a standing arm-triangle on his opponent. At first, it appeared Sicilia would outlast the squeeze of Sanchez. However, “El Matador” executed a nice little olé that allowed him to finish the fight on the ground.
It was a crazy technique Sanchez used to win the fight, but the most surprising thing about the contest is that no one really knew who the hell Sanchez was before he defeated Sicilia. It’s a fair bet that there are still a number of casual fans that have never heard of the Roufusport product. What a shame.
It does look as if Sanchez will get the winner of the upcoming rematch between Patricio Freire and Daniel Weichel that’s scheduled for July 14 in Rome. Regardless of who leaves Italy as the featherweight champion, “El Matador” will be ready and waiting. The last man to beat Sanchez is Weichel, so there’s little doubt Sanchez would love nothing more than to run that fight back with gold on the line. As for the “Pitbull”? Well, the Brazilian might be the only high-level fighter on the featherweight roster that Sanchez hasn’t fought yet. To be the best, Sanchez has to beat the best.