Bellator MMA just completed its eighth season and its first one on Spike. Personally, we thought it went great. Okay, maybe we're a little biased. But judging by the numbers, tweets, and app downloads, quite a few of you seemed to agree (and we thank you!).
Now that another season, four tournaments, and six title fights are in the books, let's take a look back at the highlights of the biggest season yet.
EMANUEL NEWTON UPSETS KING MO, GOES ON TO WIN TOURNAMENT
We're still not even halfway through April, but it's hard to imagine a bigger upset going down in MMA than Emanuel Newton's shocking spinning backfist KO
of the heavily favored former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion, Muhammad "King Mo" Lawal. The Hardcore Kid then went on to prove that the win was no fluke, out-pointing the multi-faceted Mikhail Zayats en route to a decision win and Tournament Championship.
THE RHINO'S RAMPAGE
Although nobody doubted the danger Doug Marshall posed to his opponents, few had him pegged as a sure-fire finalist, let alone a Middleweight Tournament Champion. But that's just what happened as Marshall knocked out tournament favorite Andreas Spang in the opening round and repeated his performance in the final against Brett Cooper
. He's not the most technically gifted middleweight on the roster, but his smash-mouth, bull-headed style is perfectly suited for the tournament format and could give new champion Alexander Shlemenko a headache. Literally.
THE FEATHERWEIGHT TOURNAMENT
There were a lot of great and intense fights this season, but the most top to bottom entertaining and stacked lineup was in the Featherweight Tournament
. In the end, it gave us Pat Curran's next challenger and arguably his toughest to date: Magomedrasul "Frodo" Khasbulaev.
BEARD VS. BEARD
This season's Lightweight Tournament got interesting before the first bell even sounded when David Rickels and Lloyd Woodard
somehow came to the conclusion that fighting each other in a cage wasn't enough to prove who the better man was. So they upped the ante by putting their respective, epic beards on the line. Rickels won in a hard-fought fight that ended up being one of the best fights of the entire season. True to his word, Woodard showed up to the post-fight press conference with an electric razor in hand.
DAVID RICKELS WALKS A DINOSAUR TO THE CAGE
Rickels was at it again in the finals of the Lightweight Tournament
when he walked a dinosaur to the cage to the tune of the Was (Not Was) song "Walk the Dinosaur." Even better –the dinosaur was equipped with a mechanism to make it roar, and it roared in approval when he won. Tremendous.
THE ASCENSION OF SAAD AWAD
Saad Awad didn't just take a fight in two days' notice, he took an entire tournament on two days' notice. Not only that, but he steamrolled his first two challengers
and nearly won the whole damn thing. It takes a lot to be considered one of the toughest guys in the toughest tournament in sports, but Awad managed to do just that in an impressive performance.
MICHAEL PAGE DEBUTS WITH A BANG
Page had a lot of hype in the UK, thanks in large part to his epic knockouts (just search "Michael Page" on YouTube and you'll see what we mean). Page made his North American debut with Bellator this season and did not disappoint, needing only ten seconds to get yet another highlight reel knockout win
MICHAEL CHANDLER'S DOMINANCE
Chandler had proved himself by coming through the Bellator tournament and getting a resounding win over his rival Eddie Alvarez to win the title in November of 2011. Yet as good as he was, few expected him to so thoroughly dominate the larger, skilled judoka Rick Hawn
the way he did in the main event of our season premiere. Chandler not only proved he'd be hard to beat, but he cemented himself as one of the greatest MMA practitioners at any weight.
PAT CURRAN, FIGHTING CHAMPION
We knew Featherweight Champion Pat Curran was great, but he definitely proved himself as belonging in the upper echelon of the sport when he defended his title twice
in a single season, the first time that's ever been done in Bellator.
BEN ASKREN FINISHES A FIGHT
Whether you like him or not, there is simply no doubting Askren's skill. Personally, we enjoy watching his style of wrestling, since it's technically sound and he throws in a lot of transitions. But he silenced a lot of people who criticized him as a "lay and pray" fighter when he pounded on Karl Amoussou
for three rounds until the doctor at ringside determined he couldn't continue.
NEW MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPION ALEXANDER SHLEMENKO INVITES CHALLENGERS TO "COME ON IN CAGE"
And we finally got a new Middleweight Champion in Alexander Shlemenko
, who didn't disappoint in the cage or in the post-fight interview. Shlemenko had the crowd in stitches with his exuberance and broken English, particularly when he pantomimed his training regimen and encouraged any and all challengers to "come on in cage." It was a great moment.
Are there any moments you think we missed? Let us know in the comments!