Bellator’s inaugural season of its much-anticipated “Fight Master” reality series kicked off Wednesday night and began its foray into the reality realm. While the formula has been created and molded into what has proven to be a very successful product by the UFC, Bellator looks to offer a refreshing approach with its own version of reality MMA.
Featuring four coaches instead of two, the fighters are given the option of which coach they would enjoy the pleasure of being coached by. Considering Randy Couture, Frank Shamrock, Greg Jackson or Joe Warren as potential candidates, 32 welterweights compete in the qualifying round to earn a spot on the show of 16 fighters and the chance to pick the coach of each man’s liking.
The first episode of “Fight Master” opened with five very exciting welterweight fights. While many are names you may not have heard, each fight showcased some pretty solid talent.
The show started with a battle of some very technically sound strikers in Chris Moraza-Pollard and Tim Welch. Each man looked very poised and both put together some crisp boxing combos in the initial round. Moraza-Pollard was the initial aggressor with use of a very stiff jab and solid overall striking. Welch, who seemed even more capable with his excellent footwork and well-timed punching combos, stayed extremely patient in his approach and, after timing his opponent, uncorked an unbelievable right and left-hand combo to knock Pollard senseless, ending the fight in the first round.
At the conclusion of the fight, Welch approached the panel of coaches with a question for each, until finally deciding on the coach of his preference. After each coach expressed extreme interest in the young man who acknowledged using motivation from being bullied as a red head, he elected to go with Greg Jackson for the length of the show.
In the show’s second fight, Eric Scallan takes on Christopher Curtis. Once again, the man who appeared to begin the stanza as the more aggressive fighter would soon have the tables turned. Curtis landed the more significant strikes, even flooring his opponent with a jab, until his more decorated grappling counterpart made the fight into a grappling match. Scallan repeatedly took down the inferior wrestler and earned the majority decision. Scallan, who credited MMA with his sobriety and even saving his life, picks Joe Warren as his coach, much to the coach’s dismay.
Next up is ballerina-turned-fighter, Brendan Tierney, facing a man 15 years his junior in Nick Barnes. After both men traded heavy punches, the 37 year-old Tierney grounded Barnes with a knee to the jaw and then threatened with a rear-naked choke. The resilient Barnes fought the choke and then offered his own version of the same choke, eliciting the tap from the former ballerina. Yet again, all four coaches salivate over the winner, who decided to go with Shamrock.
Darryl Cobb and A.J Matthews square off in the show’s fourth fight. Cobb, who pushes the pace in the first round, lands solid punch and kick strikes and looks to be the more dominant fighter. When the second round starts, Matthews looks like a different man. Landing heavy leg-kicks and well-timed take downs, he takes both the second round and sudden victory round to earn the decision. After his triumph, he goes with Randy Couture as his coach.
In the show’s fifth and final fight, Bellator veteran Chris Lozano takes on Josh Quayhagen. While Quayhagen offers decent resistance throughout the first round, Lozano has his way for the better part of the first round. The onslaught then intensified in the second round as Lozano scored a take down and then latched a seat belt, pinning Quayhagen’s left arm. After thunderous right hands, the referee stepped in to save Quayhagen from further punishment. Lozano, who previously trained with Jackson, opted to learn from another legendary mind as he chose Shamrock.
As five men were sent packing, 27 remain and look to take one step further to $100,000 and a spot in the upcoming Bellator welterweight tournament. Tune in to Spike TV next Wednesday for the second episode and next series of qualifying fights.
Front-Page Photo Credit: Bellator