Pat Curran (left) took it to Roger Huerta at Bellator 17. | Photo: Dave Mandel
Toby Imada vs. Jorge Masvidal
Bellator 5, May 1, 2009 -- Dayton, Ohio
What can you say about this? It is the clip that helped put Bellator on the map. It was everywhere.
With over a million views just on the official Bellator YouTube channel -- not including how many saw it on TV, on another YouTube channel or somewhere else -- word got out about Bellator because of what Imada accomplished. This coming at a time when Bellator was on just their fifth show and people were still skeptical about the tournament format they were running.
Imada’s inverted triangle, even if it was in a forgettable organization, will go down in history as one of the best submissions in MMA history. Plus, to make things even more story-like, Jorge Masvidal was dominating the fight up until the finish. Imada, a total journeyman until that remarkable victory, told the tale with his face when his hand was being raised in victory.
Bjorn Rebney calling highlights "Bellator moments" all started with this fight right here.
Joe Warren vs. Joe Soto
Bellator 27, Sept. 2, 2010 -- San Antonio
Talk about a huge come from behind win.
Joe Warren fans had to have their rally caps on in the crowd for this one, and this time, they actually worked. In round one we saw a very confident Joe Soto landing multiple combinations and snapping Warren's head back repeatedly. Virtually everybody who watched the fight agreed it was a 10-8 round.
The second period started with a right hand by Warren, and that was the turning point.
Punches turned into hammerfists after Soto dropped to the ground. Soto was able to get back to his fee, only to be rewarded for his efforts with a huge knee and then a left hook to end the fight.
This fight legitimized the big-talking Warren like no win before it, and gave many fans a fun introduction to the self-proclaimed "Baddest Man on the Planet."
Megumi Fujii vs. Zoila Frausto
Bellator 34, Oct. 28, 2010 -- Hollywood, Fla.
Megumi Fujii was considered the top woman in the sport for a very long time, but to prove it, she stepped into Bellator's 115-pound tournament. However, in about that many felt she deserved the nod in, she ended up losing her unbeaten streak against one of California's finest.
Frausto's strong kicks and overall standup game were on display. Frausto was able to use her striking to score points while Fujii seemed to forget what her style was. When Fujii did try to get the fight on the ground, she failed.
In the big picture, we had the biggest 115-pound fight to date, over five rounds. It was competitive, never sloppy. What a joy to watch.
But, the bout was not without a black eye. Even though both women fought a close fight, judge Rich Green turned in a 49-46 Frausto scorecard, in addition to Hector Gomez's 48-47 scorecard. John Rupert saw it 48-47 for Fujii.
Maybe judges elsewhere just do not have the experience of MMA judging like in Vegas or California -- and we've seen how little it helps those judges. But to say that one woman won four rounds in such a competitive fight is a joke, and a cruel reminder of what can happen in this sport.
Pat Curran vs. Roger Huerta
Bellator 17, May 6, 2010 -- Boston
Once a UFC posterboy, Roger Huerta signed with Bellator for a big signing bonus -- reportedly $250,000 -- choosing the new company over Strikeforce, who also bid on the free agent.
Huerta previously being on the cover of Sports Illustrated and coming in as a bonus baby, however, did not faze the young Curran in their lightweight tournament bout. Curran used hard body kicks and right hands downstairs to get the upset victory over the greatly favored Huerta.
Huerta got that big bonus because he was the big-name fighter Bellator wanted as an opponent for the face of its company and lightweight champion, Eddie Alvarez. In MMA, these plans almost never work out, and this was no exception.
Huerta came into Bellator still holding his UFC hype, but went a meager 1-2, and was destroyed by Alvarez in their non-title bout.
Even though he has become a fan favorite for allegedly beating a guy down in the streets for slapping a woman, Huerta hasn't regained the place he had prior to the Curran fight, while Curran's career is on a major upswing.
Jared Hess vs. Alexander Shlemenko
Bellator 20, May 27, 2010 -- San Antonio
I have seen a lot of bad things happen in the cage, but when Hess injured his knee in his bout against Alexander Shlemenko at Bellator 20, I will admit I had to turn away.
Good thing Sherdog's Dave Mandel was shooting and not me, because I probably wouldn't have gotten the gruesome shots like he did.
Hess used his wrestling to dominate the first two rounds, but then Shlemenko landed one of his trademark brutal knees that sent Hess crashing down awkwardly on his leg. Hess reportedly "only" tore his LCL, but it was disgusting.
What's truly crazy is that Hess didn't quit. Shlemenko backed off, and waited for Hess to stand. He failed to do so, but Hess showed amazing heart, assuring the referee he could stand, as if to say "Give me a second, I'm in this," even though his knee was on
Hess, one of Bellator's original signings, showed incredible toughness and ability to withstand pain in this one.
And a bonus close to my heart ...
Jaime Jara vs. Waachiim Spiritwolf
Bellator 35, March 5, 2011 -- Lemoore, Calif.
It wasn't shown on the TV broadcast, but Bellator's lone appearance at the Tachi Palace in Lemoore, Calif. turned out one of the craziest fights I have seen, between two local fighters I've gotten to see many, many times.
In the first round, Jara dropped Spiritwolf with punches and nearly submitted him with a guillotine choke. The always-tough Spiritwolf battled back, bloodying Jara’s face, slicing his forehead open with some brutal ground-and-pound.
In the blood-heavy last round, they were just swinging for the fences, hoping to deliver the knockout blow. Both fighters were covered in blood, so was the first row of fans. I had to give my cameras a bath and my new shoes as well after the show was over.