Chael Sonnen Smothers Wanderlei Silva in Bellator 180 Grudge Match at Madison Square Garden

By Joseph Santoliquito Jun 24, 2017

NEW YORK -- There are just some things that may never go away: Tito Ortiz’s hatred of Chael Sonnen, for instance. While Sonnen was fighting Wanderlei Silva, it was Ortiz sat cageside attracting the attention of the fans during the Bellator 180 main event on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

Sonnen had his way with Silva (35-13-1) while Ortiz played to the crowd, mouthing choice words to his rival between rounds and trying to draw Sonnen’s attention to his interesting hand gestures. If anything, it seemed to fire up Sonnen (29-15-1), who won for the first time in four years, beating Silva by unanimous scores of 30-26, 30-27 and 30-27.

Sonnen kept taking down Silva with double-legs, and “The Axe Murderer” seemed powerless to stop it. Most of the time, however, it was Ortiz gathering the attention, as fans began chanting obscenities at him. In the end, Sonnen saw his hand raised and cautioning Ortiz not to mess with an “American Gangster.”

Mitrione Smashes ‘The Last Emperor’

Fedor Emelianenko, 40, had not fought in a year but remains the greatest heavyweight of all-time in the minds of many. However, his co-main event took on a cartoonish quality, not just because of the animated Matt Mitrione but because of what happened when they fired off right hands at each other.

They threw and landed at the same time, creating a rare double knockdown. Both fell to the canvas, the major difference being Mitrione (13-5) got up while Emelianenko was still down. Mitrione jumped on Emelianenko (36-6) and pounced on “The Last Emperor” as he laid supine. The punishing shots forced referee Dan Miragliotta to wave it off at 1:14 of the first round.

“I told my coaches and trainer all week this was going to be just like when I knocked out Derrick Lewis,” Mitrione said. “I felt it. I knew it was going to happen. He’s so freaking smart. He was watching my hips and he saw my feet, and that’s when I thought about switching things up on him and try to confuse him. I didn’t know when he engaged and I engaged that we would knock each other down at the same time. I saw him on his back and I jumped on him. That’s what it was.

“That dude has crazy-high fight IQ,” he added. “I could literally see him calculating my every move in there; just watching his eyes calculating is crazy. He’s the greatest to ever do it and just having the opportunity to step in there and trade blows with him is crazy. I’m very fortunate, but at the same time, I think I made the most of that opportunity. I’m just still in awe of Fedor’s cage intelligence -- amazing.”

Primus Takes Title Off Injured Chandler

It was cringe-worthy after being seen on the large screens that filled Madison Square Garden. Michael Chandler sat there on his stool pleading his case that he could continue, though after seeing the replay, it was apparent that he could not.

Chandler, the Bellator lightweight champion, could not stand, and referee Todd Anderson knew it. So did Brent Primus, who had undercut Chandler with a low kick that forced him to stumble and consequently land awkwardly on his left ankle. Primus nailed Chandler (16-4) with a left hook, and Chandler was visibly struggling to move. That was enough for the ringside doctor to wave off the fight, giving it to the undefeated Primus (8-0).

“It's a dream come true right now,” Primus said. “I feel like I’m on top of the world. This is all of the sacrifices I’ve made, all the time away from my family, all the injuries combined makes this moment so special to me. I trained my butt off, and this is what it’s all about in the end. Like I told Chandler months ago, I’m going to beat you and I’m going to give him a rematch after. I’m going to let my body recover and rest up, but then, I’m 100 percent up for a rematch.”

Freeman Plays Spoiler, Upsets Pico

It was as if Zach Freeman did not exist. The 10-fight veteran was supposed to be put in the cage as mere fodder for 20-year-old stud Aaron Pico, who was making his pro debut. Only no one told Freeman (9-2) he was supposed to lose to the highly touted Pico.

Somehow, Freeman went off script and slammed Pico with a right uppercut mere seconds into the fight. Pico toppled over and Freeman immediately locked him in a guillotine choke at 24 seconds of the first round in a scheduled three-round lightweight fight. Pico quickly tapped, and Freeman jumped everywhere, challenging the world. Pico laid on his side frozen, while everyone ringside and throughout Madison Square Garden wore blank expressions, in disbelief of what they had just saw.

“Why not?” Freeman asked. “It’s the power of belief. This is the night of the upset. Look at St. Louis and the hype around there; there were so many people that believed in me there. If you were at the presser on Friday, I didn’t give hardly anyone an interview, because the only ones I did interview with were the people who took the time to say hello to me or anyone who asked me a question. People ignored me. No one gave me the time of day, so you know what? I’m going to steal the post-fight press conference. The only people I’ll talk to are the people who gave me the time of day, and there weren’t many.”

Freeman thought Pico would do the same thing he did, and that was lead with uppercuts. The difference was Freeman beat Pico to it.

“I played his own game on him,” Freeman said. “He was going to be aggressive, which is my game. I wasn’t going to give him any space. I was going stand there toe-to-toe and fight with the man. Here’s the thing though, I told him, ‘Aaron, now is my time. You’re going to be a champion, dude. I’m 33 and on my way. I have a few fights in me.’ It’s a huge moment for me. It’s my biggest victory. No one would take this fight, and I did. No one knew much about me. I want the bonus for the night. I’m sure I’ll get some attention for what I did.”

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Lima Defends Welterweight Belt

Douglas Lima was not going to let the interloper walk off with what he earned in his time with Bellator. Lorenz Larkin, coming off a couple of UFC victories, was on Lima’s turf.

Lima (29-6) successfully defended his welterweight title, with the help of a pulverizing left hook that got Larkin (18-6) in trouble in the second. He also connected with a barrage of connecting rights in the third and closed with a right kick to Larkin’s ribs, followed by a left hook. There was nothing to question, because Lima removed all of the doubt. He won by unanimous scores of 50-45, 48-47 and 48-47.

“It’s amazing to be fighting in such a big show and in my first trip to the Garden,” Lima said. “It’s such an honor for me to get the win over such a tough opponent in this arena. I’m excited for the future and looking forward to defending the title against Rory [MacDonald]. I just have to heal up the body a little bit and prepare for Rory. I’m ready to take on all the big names now.”
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