Bellator Episode Seven Recap
In episode seven, the 16 round elimination tournament is entering into its final stage. Joe Warren, the most vocal and successful coach in the selection process, is now entering his only fighter, Evan Cutts against the favorite Cristiano Souza. Souza is a capoeira based striker, who is leaps and bounds above Evan Cutts in the striking department as agreed by both coaches, Randy Couture and Joe Warren. Evan Cutts, however, has a wrestling Jiu Jitsu based skill set is his best bet to win. Warren and Cutts devise a plan, to neutralize Souza’s striking and wear him down against the cage.
Interestingly Cutts teammate, Eric Scallan, comments on the upcoming fight, stating that Cutts lone chance against a highly skilled striker is “funky submission”. Having lost the previous week to Joe Riggs, Scallan offers commentary on Joe Warren’s coaching style, “Joe tries to get all of us brainwashed and convince us the sky’s the limit, and you can fly…Sometimes you can’t fly.” This telling and honest statement from a fighter discussing both his coach and teammate illustrates the distinctive angle the Fightmaster presents, that of an insight into the coaching side of the fight game.
Of note in this regard is the success of Frank Shamrock, who was blunt in his dismissal of fighters and voracious in his want of others. He is entering the semi-finals with the most fighters, three, while Warren enters with one.
The Cutts, Souza fight began exactly as predicted with Souza dominating the stand-up exchanges and Cutts having a hard time implementing his “wear him down” game plan. Near the end of the first frame, Cutts falls to the ground and after nearly locking an armbar on Souza, who confidently follows him to the ground, his angle to win reveals itself. Souza, tired, fails to stuff a late take down and gives up his back, only to reverse into top position. Cutts, however, pulls guard and locks a triangle on Souza, submitting him. Cutts reveals himself as a fighter whose patience is on even keel with his persistence while Souza’s tiring near the end of the round displayed the blueprint to beating him is to simply last longer.
The final fight of the elimination round pits Jackson fighter and All American wrestler, Eric Bradley against Randy Couture fighter A.J. Matthews. Both Jackson and Bradley have confidence in their prospects, Jackson declaring Bradley as on of the better wrestlers he has seen and Bradley himself viewing Matthews selection of him as a desire to fight the toughest fighter in the house.
Bradley had trained with Randy Couture, which gives Team Couture an advantage, although Bradley’s key to victory, wrestling, is there in plain sight. We learn Jackson’s game plan is to utilize this wrestling while Couture’s game plan is more elusive to the viewers. Jackson’s wrestling game plan reveals a belief, coupled with their confidence, that this fight is a foregone conclusion. Couture’s assurance to Matthews, that no fighter goes in 100%, reveals an understated knowledge of the big picture and implies his game plan with Matthews will revolve around taking advantage of these idiosyncrasies.
The fight starts slowly and proceeds as planned, with Bradley landing a take down early in the round. Matthews stands up while Bradley maintains control of his back for the rest of the first round, an essential stalemate of game planning.
The second round has more energy, with Matthews landing strikes only to be taken down. After standing again, Bradley hugs Matthews legs and simply holds on despite Matthews outpouring of elbows and knees. Bradley makes no attempt to advance, but because of control, wins the fight via unanimous decision.
The final elimination match up reveals the importance of game planning and Couture’s stated desire that his fighter attempt to “finish the fight”. Bradley did exactly what he was expected to do, nothing more, nothing less while Matthews could not deal with this expectation.
Next week the quarterfinals begin. Shamrock enters with three fighters, Couture and Jackson two, and Joe Warren with his lone underdog, Evan Cutts.