The one-night tournament returned to the sport of Mixed Martial Arts on Saturday night, with Bellator: Dynamite.
Four light heavyweight’s battled for the chance to call themselves the next No. 1 contender at 205 pounds: Former UFC standout Phil Davis, Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal, Englishman Linton Vassell, and former Bellator light heavyweight champion Emmanuel Newton.
An alternate fight between Francis Carmont and Anthony Ruiz was featured on the preliminary card in case of injury.
At the conclusion of the evening, former Nittany Lion Phil Davis emerged as the tournament victor with two rousing first-round stoppages in what was his Bellator debut.
At the start of the night, Davis dispatched Newton with a slick first-round kimura. On the other side of the bracket, “King Mo” put away Linton Vassell via unanimous decision.
However, Lawal suffered an apparent injury during the fight and was removed from the final. Vassell would have replaced him, however he was deemed unable to compete in the final by the California State Athletic Commission.
So, that paved the way for Francis Carmont to step in for what could have been a golden opportunity.
Davis had other plans, however, and put Carmont down at 2:15 of the first round with a devastating overhand left-hook to win the Bellator light heavyweight tournament.
“I wanna fight Liam McGeary,” Davis said post-fight. “He’s young. He’s fresh. He’s long. I want to be the guy to take him out. But if it happens to be Tito Ortiz, ‘the legend,’ then I’m fine with that, too.”
The one-night tournament came to prominence during the early 90’s. The Ultimate Fighting Championship featured multiple tournament-style events in their infancy. UFC’s 1-10 all featured future MMA legends Royce Gracie, Mark Coleman and Ken Shamrock.
Later, the tournament format reached mythic proportions during the mid-2000’s in the Japanese promotion, PRIDE FC.
In Pride, fighters competed to establish the pecking order in their respective divisions – and they did so with frequency.
Fans loved it, and for years that excitement was missing from the MMA landscape.
That all changed on Saturday.
Admittedly, it wasn’t the heyday of Pride but Coker and Co. pulled out all the stops to make it feel like it. There was the “Crazy Screaming Lady” Lenne Hardt. Former commentating duo Mauro Ranallo and “The Fight Professor” Stephen Quadros were on hand.
And, oh yeah: There was that whole Fedor Emelianenko signing, too.
Whether Dynamite and its tournament format sticks with the viewing audience is anyone’s guess. It certainly didn’t help that Lawal pulled out due to injury right before the main event.
But that shouldn’t take away from Davis’ impressive promotional debut, and the glimpses of nostalgia the event brought along with it.
(H/T to reddit/mma for the GIFs)