Making the Grade: UFC Greenville, Bellator London and BKFC 6

MMA Fighting

Saturday was a very busy night for combat sports fans and there was a little bit of everything to see.

The UFC put on a card in Greenville, S.C. that largely slipped under the radar after the promotion had to scramble to find a main event before ultimately settling on a featherweight showdown between “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung and Renato Moicano.

Bellator traveled to London for a card that was sort of headlined by a middleweight title fight as Rafael Lovato Jr. pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year as he dethroned Gegard Mousasi in a five round fight.

And finally there was the much talked about Bare Knuckle Fighting Championships 6 event that featured the main event between former UFC fighter Artem Lobov and retired boxer Paulie Malignaggi.

All told there was no shortage of action from the weekend but what got a passing grade and what failed from all the fights on Saturday? Let’s take a look in Making the Grade.

PASSES

The GOAT

Artem Lobov was never a top 15 ranked fighter in the UFC but he also gained a kind of cult following not only as Conor McGregor’s teammate and friend but his willingness to face anyone who was thrown at him. When Lobov’s UFC career came to an end, he then decided to try his hand at bare knuckle boxing before engaging in a bloody war with fellow Octagon veteran Jason Knight earlier this year.

That led to the main event at BKFC 6 as Lobov squared off against former boxing champion Paulie Malignaggi in the most talked about fight this past weekend. The rivalry between Lobov and Malignaggi actually didn’t start between them. It began with McGregor, who sparred Malignaggi on a couple of occasions ahead of his fight against Floyd Mayweather in 2017. The brief relationship as training partners ended in hostility with McGregor claiming he got the better of Malignaggi and the retired boxer turned Showtime analyst rebutting by saying it was all a web of lies.

With McGregor under contract to the UFC, there was no way Malignaggi was ever going to get that fight so instead he turned his attention towards Lobov in a bare knuckle boxing match. It was expected that Malignaggi’s boxing skills would be too much for a brawler like Lobov, who’s best defense in past fights seemed to be his ability to eat a punch and keep coming forward.

Over five rounds, Malignaggi tried desperately to out box Lobov but his feints and hand speed didn’t do much damage. In return, Lobov was constantly chasing him around the ring and he even caught Malignaggi in a clinch that cut open the New York native with several gashes on his face including one gaping hole just over his right eye.

When it was all over, Lobov earned a unanimous decision win — a result nearly no one was predicting — and he closed the door on the rivalry with Malignaggi once and for all. For a guy who was barely a .500 fighter in mixed martial arts, Lobov has seemingly found his niche in bare knuckle boxing with far more attention being paid to him now than ever before.

ZOMBIFIED

Following a shocking last second knockout loss in his last fight to Yair Rodriguez, “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung returned this past Saturday night and made short work of Renato Moicano in the main event at UFC Fight Night in Greenville.

Jung has long been considered one of the most exciting fighters on the entire UFC roster — his seven post fight bonuses back that up — but he’s also constantly threatening to become a serious contender in the featherweight division. Unfortunately, Jung had his career derailed twice in recent years with mandatory military service in his native South Korea and then blowing out his knee in his first fight back in 2017.

The win over Moicano put Jung right back into contention and he quickly called for another fight that would put him closer to an eventual title shot. The thing about Jung that makes him such a threat is not only a legitimate skill set that gives him a chance to beat anybody in the featherweight division but a crowd pleasing style that will always land him marquee matchups.

He’s like the Tony Ferguson or Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone of featherweight — win, lose or draw, you know it’s going to be entertaining to watch.

With Max Holloway tied up with Frankie Edgar in July and then presumably the winner marching onto face Alexander Volkanovski, Jung can easily inject himself into several interesting matchups to solidify his spot as a No. 1 contender in 2020.

PROSPECT NO MORE


Bellator MMA

Rafael Lovato Jr. deserved his shot at the Bellator middleweight title even if hardly anyone believed he’d actually win it. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt was undefeated in his career but his wins in Bellator, while impressive, didn’t exactly come against the gold standard of opposition.

Instead, Lovato racked up five straight wins in Bellator in fights he was probably supposed to win before being thrown into the fire against a veteran like Gegard Mousasi, who could have easily staked a claim as the best fighter in the world at 185 pounds. Over the course of five rounds, Lovato definitely had his hands full but he showed a strong ground game coupled with enough striking that kept Mousasi off balance over all five rounds.

It was definitely a close fight but in the end, Lovato earned a majority decision to become Bellator middleweight champion. Lovato might not get to celebrate too much because it’s entirely possible that he’ll be facing Mousasi in a rematch after such a closely contested battle but make no mistake, his feat this past weekend proved that he’s absolutely a legitimate threat to anybody and everybody in the middleweight division.

FAIL

REAL TIME

It seems like so long ago that any sport was actually tape delayed for broadcasts taking place overseas with the primary audience in the United States. The UFC ran into that headache when they were just getting started with Spike TV while holding cards in international locations like England but over time they realized that not airing something live was just a disaster waiting to happen with results getting out there not to mention bootleg streams popping up all over the place.

Unfortunately, Bellator MMA still can’t seem to figure out the best way to broadcast a card whenever they travel overseas, particularly with shows in England and/or Ireland.

This past weekend was an unmitigated disaster with a string of fights airing on the Bellator app, including the three fight main card that featured the Mousasi vs. Lovato title fight. Then the rest of the featured bouts including Paul Daley facing off with Erick Silva were tape delayed and broadcast later that night on both the Paramount Network and DAZN.

Now it’s not uncommon to split a broadcast between two outlets but then when you throw in tape delayed cards in the middle of everything, it just becomes confusing.

It’s unclear why Bellator still struggles with these broadcasts when putting on cards overseas but you’d imagine they’d have it figured out by now. Hopefully that will get rectified in the future because Bellator has put on some great fights in places like England and Ireland in the past, it’s just too bad hardly anyone in the United States knows when or how to watch them.

EPIC FAIL

NO RABBIT IN THE HAT


Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Paulie “Magic Man” Malignaggi retired from boxing in 2017 yet he’s seen his name in the headlines non-stop for the past two years thanks to a 12-round sparring session against UFC superstar Conor McGregor. While brief clips have been shown of that sparring session along with some photos, only a few people at the gym that night actually witnessed what happened between McGregor and Malignaggi.

The maelstrom of controversy that followed that sparring session eventually led to the bare knuckle boxing match between Malignaggi and Lobov this past Saturday night. In the lead up to the fight, Malignaggi slapped Lobov, spit on him and promised to do serious bodily harm to him once they finally started throwing hands.

The result wasn’t nearly what was promised, although Malignaggi didn’t look bad as he tried to out box Lobov for five rounds. In fact by boxing standards, Malignaggi actually had a solid night as he used a lead jab and good head movement to frustrate Lobov for the majority of the fight. Sadly, that wasn’t enough to get the job done in a bare knuckle brawl with Lobov busting up the retired boxer with the few punches he did land including one giant gash that opened up over Malignaggi’s right eye.

When it was over, Lobov and Malignaggi actually hugged it out and even high fived at the end of the post fight press conference. Sure, Malignaggi complained about the decision while feeling like he did enough to win but ultimately he paid homage to Lobov on a job well done while showing respect to the former UFC fighter.

With that, Malignaggi said his fighting career is finished and he’s returning to the broadcast booth where he’s actually a very good analyst for Showtime Boxing. This will hopefully also close the door on whatever strange rivalry was built up between Malignaggi and McGregor not to mention the rest of the mixed martial arts community.

Malignaggi was headline fodder for the better part of two years because he was constantly barking at McGregor and the former two-division champion definitely did his part to keep the rivalry alive with his verbal jabs and fiery responses. Still, the culmination of that rivalry was a bare knuckle boxing match between Malignaggi and McGregor’s teammate and while it may not silence the New York native now that it’s over, hopefully the rest of us can move onto more pressing matters….

So when exactly is this Justin Bieber vs. Tom Cruise fight happening?

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