BELLATOR 203: Rome Welcomes MMA

Complete report of the event that saw the return of Alessio Sakara to Rome

Weltering heat, the kind that can be felt only Rome in mid-July. So far the summer had been mild for the standards of the Italian capital. But Mother Nature decided to wait for the day of this great event to give its best, or its worst from the athletes’ point of view.

A wonderful location like the Centrale del Tennis, that has hosted in the past many sports and non-sports events (Tennis, Volleyball, and Boxing as well as famous rock bands and theatrical performances), welcomed to Rome the most important event of the year for Italian MMA. Bellator 203 was the culmination of 2018, which has been very eventful in terms of MMA shows in our Country. This international event served as a definitive springboard to put Italy on the map of the sport.

The Centrale del Tennis, surrounded by the CONI (Italian National Olympic Committee) complex welcomed the fans, and started filling up at the beginning of the Kickboxing card already, despite the afternoon heath. The crowd attendance rivaled that of much more popular sports in Italy, roughly 5000 people, who welcomed with enthusiasm the return home of local idol Alessio Sakara. Having been preceded by a great Kickboxing card, with Giorgio Petrosyan winning and exciting all the fans, the MMA card also delivered spectacularly.

Bantamweight Bout 3×5
Michele Martignoni (4-0) vs. Simone D’Anna (4-1)
W Michele Martignoni KO R1 0:06

This derby of roman fighters between two of the best Italian talents at bantamweight was one of the most anticipated matches by the fans, and ended up being in a way a historical fight. As soon as the referee started the match Martignoni threw a high kick that landed on the face of D’Anna knocking him out. The fight only lasted 6 seconds and is tied for the fastest finish in the history of Bellator. KO of the night.

Lightweight bout 3×5
Simone La Preziosa (3-4) vs. Radu Maxim (8-1)
W Radu Maxim TKO R1 4:15

La Preziosa is another roman athlete that had all the support of the crowd on his side, but was facing one of the most promising young fighters in the Italian MMA landscape. Maxim was able to demonstrate right away his ground game superiority scoring a takedown and achieving side control. Having seen an opportunity for a submission, Maxim immediately went for it but La Preziosa was able to escape well. Unfortunately the roman fighter was powerless against Maxim’s ferocious ground and pound and La Preziosa had to give in towards the end of the first round. A very important result for the Moldovan athlete based in Italy who scored his sixth consecutive victory and can look forward to other future opportunities in Bellator.

Middleweight bout 3×5
Alen Amedovski (5-0) vs. Will Fleury (4-0)
W Alen Amedovski KO R1 1:39

A matchup of unbeaten fighters that promised to be spectacular and certainly delivered. Amedovski, whose five victories have all come by KO/TKO, started strong scoring a combination of punches to the face of the Irishman, who absorbed them well and managed to bring to the ground the Macedonian-Italian with a takedown. After a few moments of scramble the match was back on the feet and Amedovski landed a huge right hook to the chin of Fleury stunning him and bringing the match to a sudden end.

Welterweight bout 3×5
Andrey Koreshkov (20-2) vs. Vaso Bakocevic (33-17-1)
W Andrey Koreshkov KO R1 1:06

The match between the Russian Koreshkov and the Montenegrin (Macedonian) (?) Bakocevic had international appeal. The Russian talent displayed all his class against a tough opponent with a lot of experience. After a feel-out process of about a minute, Koreshkov, out of nowhere, scored a spinning back kick to the liver of Bakocevic that put an end to the match with the first real strike landed of the fight. A highlight that we will see many times in Bellator’s future promos.

Featherweight bout 5×5
Patricio “Pitbull” Freire vs. Daniel Weichel
W Patricio “Pitbull” Freire SD (49-46; 47-48; 48-47)

The Bellator featherweight title was on the line in this rematch between the Brazilian Freire and the German Weichel. The fight started very slowly and in the first round almost nothing happened. The crowd, after the series of spectacular knockouts in the previous matches, soon became restless. It was only halfway through the second round that the fight started to heat up, when the champion landed a series of strikes that had the challenger in trouble and nearly knocked out. Weichel though, was able to recuperate and to control from his back keeping Pitbull in his full guard. In the third round there was a momentum shift as the German was able to score a takedown right away, which allowed him to control the whole round on the ground landing some meaningful strikes. A choke attempt put the champion in serious trouble, but ultimately he was able to escape beautifully climbing up the cage with his legs. In the 4th round Freire was back to form landing another devastating combination but was again unable to finish the match. In the last round both fighters were extremely tired and Weichel attempted various takedowns but the champion managed to defend them well. The split decision awarded to the champion raised some eyebrows as it seemed clear that at least three rounds had gone in favor of Freire. Although defeated, Weichel too can keep his head high after a strong performance.

Light Heavyweight bout 3×5
Alessio Sakara (19-12) vs. Jamie Sloane (8-4)
W Alessio Sakara TKO R1 1:19

Nearly everyone had come to see him. And they showed it at the moment of the entrance into the arena. It was almost like a pagan rite. All the fans standing up singing the walkout song (Vasco Rossi’s Rewind) and acclaiming the arrival of “Legionarius”, Alessio Sakara. The return home of the prodigal son. A son of Rome that left fifteen years ago to perform on some of the greatest stages of the world had come home as a hero.

All roads led to a victory by Sakara. The crowd expected it and was satisfied. Sloane started strong, aggressive and fearless, but ended up on the ground almost immediately (possibly from a slip while attempting to throw a knee in the clinch) and had to give in to Sakara’s powerful strikes.

All photo’s credit: Bellator/Lucas Noonan

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