Bellator 289: Stots vs. Sabatello Recap

Bellator 289
Photo Credit: MMAjunkie. USAtoday

Bellator 289 lived up to the hype, that surrounded it.

(IC) Raufeon Stots vs #6 Danny Sabatello

In the main event, Interim Champion Raufeon Stots (18-1) faced Danny Sabatello (13-1). This was a championship fight that was also a semifinal matchup in the Bellator Bantamweight World Grand Prix. Stots was coming off an impressive knockout victory against former Bellator champion Juan Archuleta. Sabatello was undefeated in Bellator coming into this matchup (3-0) and had won his previous fights by dominant decision victories. Both fighters are highly accomplished wrestlers. Stots was a Division 2 National Champion, while Sabatello was an NCAA championships qualifier from the University of Purdue.

Round one started slowly as both fighters wanted to gauge distance and feel each other out. At the three-minute mark of round one Sabatello secured a takedown and maintained the top position until the end of the round. In the early rounds, Sabatello was able to out-grapple Stots, again securing a takedown in round two. The first two rounds were easy to score for the challenger Sabatello, who looked to be gaining momentum as the fight went on. Round three was a better showing for the champion Stots, who defended the relentless takedowns of Sabatello and landed significant shots on the feet. Heading into the championship rounds the consensus in the arena was that Stots had to win the final two rounds to advance in the tournament.

Rounds 4 and 5

In a round, four Stots started to find his rhythm on the feet landing hard shots on Sabatello against the cage. The champion Stots seemed to gain confidence with every takedown attempt he defended. The fourth round was the clearest round of the fight to score for Stots. I had the fight even at 2 rounds apiece going into the final round. In the fifth round, Stots came out strong landing a shot that bloodied the nose of Sabatello. However, Sabatello was able to gain his composure and take the fight back to the ground at the two-minute mark. Sabatello maintained control from the top seemingly earning him a victory on the judges’ scorecards.

Judges Scoring and What’s Next?

The judges’ scorecards were a mystery all night, and what happened next was a surprise to the fans in attendance at the Mohegan Sun. One judge scored the contest 50-45 for Sabatello, while the other two scored the fight 49-48 for Raufeon Stots. This is a huge discrepancy in scoring, and it was almost like the judges watched different fights. Sabatello had 10 minutes of control time in this fight, although Stots outstruck Sabatello 95-48 on the feet. This fight came down to what the judges valued most, either the damage and volume of Stots or the control time of Sabatello. This was an incredible fight that was highly competitive throughout. Raufeon Stots earned a split decision victory (45-50, 48-47,48-47) retaining his title and moving on to the million-dollar Bantamweight Grand Prix final to face Patchy Mix.

(C) Liz Carmouche vs. #1 Juliana Velasquez

In Bellator 289’s Co-Main event Flyweight champion Liz Carmouche faced former champion, Juliana Velasquez. This fight was a rematch of their title bout in April in which Carmouche won a controversial TKO victory. Velasquez was ahead on the scorecards in that fight but got caught on the ground in the crucifix position, absorbing 10 unanswered punches that stopped the fight. Coming into this matchup the current champion Carmouche was a slight underdog at (+140).

Round one was fought at a high pace as Carmouche and Velasquez exchanged punches on the feet for the majority of the round. Carmouche eventually shot for a takedown at the 2:40 mark and overpowered Velasquez to the ground. The rest of the round was controlled by Carmouche as she maintained the top position until the bell.

Round Two Carmouche again took the fight to the ground, controlling Velasquez against the fence. Midway through the round Velasquez tried to escape from the bottom and got caught in an armbar. But Velasquez could not escape this position and ended up losing via Submission (Armbar).

With this impressive victory, Carmouche improved her Bellator record to 5-0. Carmouche is a true veteran of the sport having competed for the UFC championship and winning the Bellator title. Since joining the promotion Carmouche has revived her career and it will be interesting to see who Bellator puts up against her next.

#2 Patchy Mix vs. #3 Magomed Magomedov

The first semifinal matchup in the Bellator World Grand Prix featured Patchy Mix (17-1) and Magomed Magomedov (19-2). Mix was coming off an impressive victory in the tournament beating former Bellator and Rizin champion Kyoji Horiguchi. Magomed Magomedov is an impressive Russian fighter whose only losses were to Bellator bantamweight champion Raufeon Stots and Former UFC champion Petr Yan.

Round one was highly competitive as both fighters had good moments. Magomedov was able to secure takedown attempts only to be nearly caught in multiple submissions attempts from Mix. On the feet, both fighters traded shots in what was a very hard round to score. In the second round Magomedov once again attempted a takedown, this time Mix was ready. As Magomedov got Mix to the ground, Mix expertly caught the head of his opponent and applied a guillotine choke. There was nowhere for Magomedov to escape as Mix had the submission locked in tight. Magomedov refused to tap and was separated from his conscious by the Guillotine choke of Mix. This was an incredible performance by Mix that moves him into the Bellator Bantamweight World Grand Prix Final.

Being able to submit the grapple-heavy Magomedov was a huge victory in the career of Patchy Mix and a major statement to the rest of the Bantamweight division. Next, Mix will take on Champion Raufeon Stots for the Bantamweight championship and One million Dollars.

#5 Dalton Rosta vs. #10 Anthony Adams

Bellator 289’s main card started off with a ranked middleweight fight between #5 Dalton Rosta and #10 Anthony Adams. Rosta (8-0) was undefeated coming into this fight. For Adams (9-2) this was the biggest fight of his career and was a major step up in competition. Round one was controlled by Rosta as he landed crisp straight shots on the feet and got a takedown late in the round.

The second round was very similar to the first. Rosta was able to maintain control of Adams for the majority of the round putting tremendous pressure on him while striking. In the final round, Rosta was again able to control his opponent out striking him on the feet and landing a knockdown late in round three. The judges awarded Rosta the Unanimous Decision victory (30-27).

Bellator 289 Prelims:

The Bellator 289 Prelims were highly entertaining with many upsets and spectacular finishes. In a Middleweight fight, Memphis native Jaleel Willis (16-4) took on the #8 ranked Kyle Crutchmer. The latter was a significant favorite in this fight (-250) and was 5-1 inside the Bellator cage. Round one set the tone of the fight as Willis easily defended the takedown attempts of his opponent and landed significant punches on the feet. Willis put on a well rounded and impressive performance against the highly touted Crutchmer, earning a Unanimous decision victory (30-27). It will be interesting to see what Bellator does next with Willis, who should join the official middleweight rankings next week.

Christian Echols Def. Pat Downey via KO

Also on the prelims Christian Echols faced former Division 1 and USA wrestling team member Pat Downey. Downey was the biggest betting favorite on the card (-1200) and was thought by some to be the future of the Bellator Middleweight division.

This fight was incredible for as long as it lasted. One minute into the first round Downey took Echols down and applied a choke that looked to be the end of the fight. Echols however, refused to tap and scrambled back to his feet. Once back on the feet Downey seemed to be fatigued from the submission, he attempted moments earlier. Echols took full advantage of his opportunity and floored Downey with a massive left hook. Downey looked surprised and quickly got back to his feet, only to be knocked out cold by a beautiful uppercut. This was a highlight moment in the career of Echols and frontrunner for Upset of the Year in MMA.

Bellator’s next event will be a massive New Years’ Eve show from the legendary Satiama Super Arena in Japan.

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