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Bellator Fighting Championships came to New Jersey Saturday night and they did not disappoint.  Caesar’s Palladium Ballroom in Atlantic City was jam packed with fans that were ready to see some great fights.  They came in happy and they left even happier as the folks at Bellator put together a great show with some fantastic matchups. 

For those that could not get to Caesar’s, they were able to watch the fights live on MTV2.  The production was top notch and the fans were electric.  That is a good combination for a great night of mixed martial arts action.  I would welcome Bellator back here anytime as I am sure the fans in attendance would concur.

The televised broadcast started off with Alexander Schlemenko taking on Brett Cooper. Schlemenko showed off some great striking early on and dropped Brett Cooper twice in the first round.  Cooper showed great resilience though and fired back with some solid strikes of his own.  The first round was a close one, but a great start to this night of fights.

Round two saw both fighters come out swinging again and Cooper landed a good takedown.  This round had a much slower pace, but some good back and forth action from both fighters that made the fans happy.  These guys were beyond tired, but continued to put on a show for the capacity crowd in the ballroom that roared with excitement.

Schlemenko landed a good spinning back fist to start the third and final round and some solid knee strikes that found their mark on Cooper.  Schlemenko displayed more solid striking in this round as he continued his assault.  Schlemenko must have thrown roughly twelve spinning back fists during the five minute round.  Both fighters were completely exhausted after a very entertaining fight.

The fighters left it all in the cage and received a standing "O" from the fans who appreciated their efforts.  In the end, Schlemenko walked away with the unanimous decision victory.  This was a great fight to kick off the live broadcast on MTV2.  The tone was now set for the remainder of the fight card.

Next up was Sam Oropeza and Giedrius Karavacras.  "Sammy O" was clearly the crowd favorite here despite Karavackas being from Atlantic City.  The fight started with some explosive striking from Oropeza.  Karavackas landed a great takedown, but Oropeza scrambled to get into the guard and delivered some good ground and pound.  The first round was a very exciting one.

Both fighters displayed some great striking to the delight of the crowd, but Oropeza seemed to be getting the better of it. Karavackas answered back with some good Muay Thai clinch work with knee strikes.  Karavackas secured a good takedown and ended up with side control.  The second round was a closely contested one.

Karavackas landed a takedown to start the final round.  After some ground and pound work, he was able to secure side control to inflict more damage.  With a variation of the crucifix, Karavackas landed more good strikes to score points. Karavackas then locked up Oropeza’s arm with his legs and while using a headlock, forced the tapout. Karavackas was no doubt behind on the cards, but pulled off a monster comeback to get the victory in his hometown.

The co-main event featured Falaniko Vitale against Middleweight Champion, Hector Lombard in a non-title affair.  The fight began with Lombard loading up his punch and trying to find an opening.  Vitale did a great job of ducking the punches and avoiding any damage.  Lombard was very patient with feeling out his opponent while Vitale threw some nasty leg kicks.  

The "feeling out" process lasted well into the second round and the fans became restless.  Both fighters exchange some punches and kicks, but not much else was happening.  Lombard took the fight to the mat, but could not keep it there as both fighters made their way back to their feet.

The opening seconds of this round had more action than the entire fight so the fans were a little happier.  There seemed to be some mutual respect in play as neither fighter seemed to be rushing any offense knowing how dangerous the opponent was.  After another brief exchange of punches, Lombard threw, and landed, a big punch that sent Vitale down and out.   The crowd waited patiently and finally got to see the KO they were waiting for. Lombard walked away victorious.

The main event of the night was the final of the lightweight tournament. Patricky “Pitbull” Freire brought his high powered offense in the cage against Michael Chandler.  Not many were giving Chandler a chance in this fight, but Chandler begged to differ.   Chandler showed absolutely no fear of “Pitbull's” offense and stayed in the pocket to go toe to toe with the highlight reel maker.  “Pitbull” showed some very effective striking in round one, but nothing significant.  Chandler showed some tremendous takedown defense in this round as well.  It was a close round and the fans were loving it.

There were some lightning fast strikes in round two, from both fighters.  We saw some flying knees, flying kicks, and some vicious punches.  This was shaping up to be a great fight and Chandler was still not letting up and was taking the fight right at “Pitbull”.  Chandler got the better of the striking, but got taken down towards the end of the round, although “Pitbull” could not do much with it.  This fight was razor close going into the third and deciding round.

The third and final round kicked off (literally) with a low blow and “Pitbull” is deducted one point. That was huge factor as “Pitbull” knew full well he needed to finish this fight to win it.  “Pitbull” was able to land a huge takedown with a slam. Chandler hung in there and defended well and when the fight went back to the feet, “Pitbull” lifted him up and slammed him again to the canvas. 

After some brutal ground and pound the fight ended.  “Pitbull” dominated the round, but it was not enough to win and Chandler scores the big upset, remains undefeated, and earned a title shot against Champ, Eddie Alvarez.  Chandler showed tremendous heart in that cage and I think he surprised a lot of people out there.  Chandler earned every bit of that win and looks forward to fighting for the championship in the near future.

Before the live television broadcast, Bellator had some local talent on display.  The featured contest of the undercard saw Pellegrino standout and former Ultimate Fighter contestant, Jeff Lentz take on a very tough Anthony Leone.  The two started off exchanging some punches, although not many found their mark.  Leone landed some big inside and outside leg kicks early on, but nothing too damaging.

The second and third rounds saw Lentz just imposing his will and landing the better of the striking and landing some effective takedowns.  Lentz displayed some great ground and pound too to the approval of the fans that were there to root for him.  This fight was very competitive, but after three very tough rounds, Jeff Lentz walked away victorious after a unanimous decision victory.  Leone is as tough as they come so this is a huge win to get Lentz back on track.

All in all, we saw some great fights and it was a fun time to see such an emotionally charged crowd behind their favorite fighters.  The ballroom was sold out and there were barely any standing room spots left.  Watching great fights is one thing, but when you get a great crowd on top of that, it makes the atmosphere in the room twice as exciting.  Welcome to New Jersey Bellator and we hope to see you back here very soon.

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