Bellator MMA returned to the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif., on Friday night, and UFC veteran Melvin Guillard returned to the cage in his promotional debut.
It was a good night for Bellator, but not so much for Guillard.
Brandon Girtz took full advantage of the opportunity before him, giving Guillard a not-so-warm welcome to the Bellator cage.
Not giving Guillard any time to get into a rhythm, Girtz scooped him up and slammed him down twice in the opening moments of the fight, setting to the tone for the duration.
Each time Guillard started to get some momentum, Girtz found another takedown and worked Guillard over with a methodical ground-and-pound attack. He attempted a couple of submissions, but it was really the takedowns and his control once they hit the mat that secured the victory.
Inexplicably, when the scorecards were read, it was a split decision.
Guillard finished strong late in the third round, but it really wasn’t enough to award him the fight. Luckily for Girtz, two of the three judges scored it in his favor and he walked away with the biggest victory of his career.
After losing his shot at the lightweight title to Marcin Held nearly a year ago, Patricky “Pitbull” Freire made a successful return to the cage against heated rival Saad Awad.
Each of the rounds was close, but Freire edged ahead of Awad with his takedowns and by pushing the pace. In the closing moments of the fight, he stepped it up a notch, putting Awad on the back foot, and securing a unanimous decision.
The victory put Freire back on the winning track, but also quelled some of the tension between his and Awad’s camp, as there was nearly a brawl between them earlier in the week.
“Saad is a good guy. I respecting him. He respecting me,” said Freire at the end of the fight.
Former UFC fighter Justin Wren returned to fighting on Friday night for the first time in five years. During his time away, he became close to a pygmy tribe in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and says he returned not in an effort to reignite his MMA dreams, but to support his new family, the Mbutis.
Much of his return has centered around drawing attention to his efforts to help the pygmy tribe and the book that he wrote about his plight.
All of that would lose its luster, however, if he wasn’t successful in the cage… but he was. Wren ate some heavy leather from Josh Burns early, but used his reach and superior clinch work to wear Burns down, battering him with knees and punches. He eventually won a unanimous decision.
“I really landed some knees that were solid. My knee is swollen from hitting his head. He can take a shot, that’s for sure,” Wren said after the fight, before adding, “I’m very happy for the exposure and everything that was gained for my pygmy family.”
Former Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion Marloes Coenen made her second successful start for Bellator. She survived some heavy, albeit wild, punches from Arlene Blencow early on en route to securing an armbar submission in the second round.
A heavyweight bout between Lorenzo Hood and Raphael Butler was scrapped at the last minute, when Hood suffered an injury while warming up in the locker room.
Bellator 141: Guillard vs. Girtz Results
Brandon Girtz def. Melvin Guillard via split decision (29-27, 28-29, 29-27)
Patricky Freire def. Saad Awad via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Justin Wren def. Josh Burns via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)
Marloes Coenen def. Arlene Biencowe via submission (armbar) at 3:23, R2
Curtis Millender def. Steven Ciacco via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Ilima Macfarlane def. Maria Rios via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Brent Primus def. Derek Anderson via split decision (29-27, 29-28, 28-29)
A.J. Matthews def. Emiliano Sordi via TKO (corner stoppage) at 5:00, R1