There are those out there that will tell you that Bellator 149 was a Bad Show. It’s not hard to understand why someone would feel that way, especially if you’re the type that enjoys MMA as a serious sport. Neither of the main events will go down in the history books as good fights, and the rest of the main card wasn’t much to write home about either.
Still, those people who characterize the show as bad are ultimately wrong. Yeah, Bellator 149 was basically a train wreck, one marred by nut shots, controversy and one of the fighters ending up in the hospital where his heart stopped, but by god it was an entertaining train wreck. Before the end of 2016 you’re going to see a lot of shows with better in-ring action but you may not find a show as fascinating and hilarious as Bellator 149.
On paper, it looked like a show that couldn’t lose. The undercard featured fighters with storylines just interesting enough to keep people tuned in ahead of the main events, and the main events had storylines that were really easy to become invested in, even when you knew the fights themselves weren’t going to be classics.
But they didn’t need to be; for Scott Coker and Bellator, all Kimbo Slice and Dada 5000 needed to do was go out and trade shots for 60 seconds while making mean faces at each other. All Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock had to do was prove they weren’t zombies and then hug after rolling around in the ring for 15 minutes so that everyone got a MMA history feel good moment.
Neither of these things happened. In fact, not only did things not go accordingly to plan, they didn’t even go according to reason; these weren’t bad fights, these were absurd fights. One fight being bizarre is funny, two fights being bizarre is legendary.
Understand that I’m well aware that what I’m about to write makes me a monster. Decency says that when a man goes into a cage to fight and ends up in the hospital and his heart stops, you don’t proceed to talk about how hilarious the fight was. You massage the narrative, you look for different adjectives to describe the action and then you move on.
But that doesn’t change the fact that I laughed more during the Kimbo Slice/Dada 5000 match than at anything I’ve seen in any medium in the recent past. What was sold as a blood feud between two guys from the same city who love to punch people in the face devolved into two guys with cardio issues stumbling around the cage, occasionally swinging at each other but mostly just hugging aggressively, and before too long they weren’t even doing that anymore.
This is a fight where the ref made the fighters stand up owing to inaction when Kimbo had full mount on Dada, which is almost literally the best position a fighter can have on someone; that moment, like seeing a unicorn, was magical.
And yeah, Dada lost the fight in a moment that launched a dozen memes, but truth be told, I walked away from this fight respecting both fighters a lot more. Sure, neither one of them is particularly great at the fighting part of his job, but both are excellent at being characters and selling their fights. Kimbo Slice is never going to be a great mixed martial artist, but that doesn’t change the fact that he has mystique and people will continue to want to see him fight. I don’t know if Dada 5000 enters the cage again after what happened on Friday night, but all week I was impressed by how likable and charming he was. And to their credit, even when the fight went well beyond sloppy to the point that neither man could really do anything, neither one of them gave up. It might not have been the smart choice, but it’s one I respect.
Ken Shamrock lost the main event because of a nut shot and some bad reffing. That’s part of life in the cage; sometimes factors that you have no control over are your downfall. When it happens, a fighter has every right to be upset, but can usually take solace in the fact that there will be more fights and more chances to work his way up the ladder.
But this wasn’t a normal fight for Ken Shamrock. He had been waiting for his chance to prove that he was truly better than Royce Gracie for two decades. This was about his legacy. He was ready to trade blows with Royce and he was ready to go to the mat with him.
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What he was not ready for was a nut shot, because really, who is?
The post-fight press conference had been pretty jovial until Ken Shamrock entered the room. He had been understandably angry immediately after the fight, but had calmed down by the time he was interviewed in the cage. But in the press conference, he seemed less like a man angry and more like a man trying to grasp how everything had gone so wrong so fast. Sure, he’s got at least one more fight in him – he’s fighting Dan Severn in what is literally the most carny event ever (which is saying something when it comes to combat sports) – but you could tell he wanted this one in the worst way.
As for Royce Gracie, he was his normal calm and collected self. He’d even argue that there was no controversy to the end of his fight. He may never even step into a cage again. But he did make a bit of history in Houston. For the first time in his career, he won a fight with strikes.
Bellator 149 was so weird that the original God of MMA, the man with little to no stopping power, beat Ken Shamrock via TKO. No one could have predicted that.