Bryan Baker was true to his nickname against Jared Hess at
Bellator 50. | Photo: Keith Mills
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Most onlookers saw Bellator’s middleweight
tournament quarterfinal between former bracket finalists Bryan Baker
Hess, and thought the bout would produce the Season 5 favorite.
Bellator 50 in Hollywood, Fla., Baker went a long way to
establishing himself as that alpha dog.
“The Beast” overcame early adversity Saturday night at the Seminole
Hard Rock Hotel and Casino to earn a third-round stoppage over Hess
in a dominant display of offensive grappling.
The 25-year-old Baker, now based out of Denver, had Hess on his
back early, as the former Central Oklahoma University wrestler
threatened with a rear-naked choke within the first minute of the
fight. However, Baker showed defensive savvy to not just escape,
but to roar back in the first round with two deep brabo choke
attempts, one of which was only cut short by the bell.
After the initial surge, Hess slowed considerably,
as the Season 1 middleweight tournament finalist struggled to set
up takedowns, and found himself beneath Baker repeatedly. When Hess
did get in close enough to attempt takedowns, the Season 2
middleweight runner-up stuffed them, or reversed him, even taking
full mount in the third frame and raining down punches.
Baker's submission game was key.
The grueling physical nature of the fight sapped Hess. After being
controlled in the clinch and from the front headlock for most of
the fight, Baker's third-round mount proved too much to overcome.
Hess hung on, squirming just enough to keep referee Jorge Alonso
from intervening, but “The Beast” refused to relent. The end
finally came at 2:52 of the final round.
Baker, who is in remission from chronic myelogenous leukemia with
which he was diagnosed in April 2010, moved his career mark to
16-2, and likely cemented himself as the early tournament favorite
heading into the semifinals. However, Baker's Season 2 conqueror,
Shlemenko, did his part to earn 185-pound attention, surprising
Galesic by submission.
Galesic clinched quickly with Shlemenko, perhaps expecting a clinch
striking war. Instead, the Omsk, Russia, native tripped the
Croatian kickboxer to the mat, instigating a fight of a different
Shlemenko guillotined Galesic.
Galesic got back to his feet, but the difference in mentality soon
revealed a difference in skill. After botching a throw from the
clinch, “Storm” simply grabbed a standing guillotine, arched his
back and popped his hips, forcing his foe to tap out to the choke
at 1:55 of the first.
Shlemenko, now 41-7, has won 10 of his last 11 bouts with eight
stoppages. His lone loss in that nearly two-year span was in his
Bellator middleweight title challenge against Hector
Lombard last October.
Controversy appeared elsewhere, as Brian
Rogers stopped fellow Ohio middleweight Victor
O'Donnell in less than two minutes.
Rogers looked every bit as predatory as his nickname and previous
fights would suggest, immediately getting in the face of his Ohioan
opponent with head kicks, hooks and uppercuts. It was a heavy left
hook from O'Donnell, however, that really got the ball rolling,
instigating heavier brawling and swinging from the like-minded
Rogers took it to O'Donnell.
The end came when Rogers shucked O'Donnell into the cage, following
with a heavy head kick and a crushing right hook that put O'Donnell
on the deck. The Independence, Ohio, native pounced, unloading four
hammerfists to the face. Referee Troy Waugh intervened immediately
just 1:56 into the first frame. The stoppage enraged O'Donnell, who
got to his feet and angrily protested.
“Don't boo me, give me my time to shine,” Rogers implored the
Seminole Hard Rock crowd, surely after a questionable stoppage.
“Honestly, I was surprised that the ref stopped it, but that's what
I do: I finish fights.”
The 27-year-old Rogers has now won seven straight bouts, with all
seven coming by way of first-round knockout.
One of the tournament's more-acclaimed exponents, Brazilian
jiu-jitsu ace Vitor
Vianna, had tough sledding against Sam Alvey, but
pulled out a close split decision to see the next round.
The Las Vegas-based Brazilian started slow, dealing with the rangy
striking of the 6-foot-2 Wisconsin native. However, by round two,
Wand Fight Team rep was able to get his foe to the floor, take
the back and threaten with the rear-naked choke. Time was the
biggest foe of Vianna, who had the second-round bell end a choke
attempt that may well have ended the bout.
Vianna slipped by Alvey.
The third round was a nip-tuck affair, as both fighters landed
punches and kicks tit-for-tat. However, after 15 minutes, judges
Rich Green and Hector Gomez saw the contest 29-28 for Vianna, who
moved to 11-1-1. Dissenting judge John Rupert favored Alvey 29-28,
giving him the first and third rounds.
The Bellator middleweight tournament will reconvene at
Bellator 54 on Oct. 15 in Atlantic City, N.J., where Bryan
Baker will meet Vitor Vianna, while Alexander Shlemenko squares off
with Brian Rogers.
Bellator 54 is headlined by a lightweight championship bout between
champion Eddie Alvarez and unbeaten challenger Michael Chandler.