Bellator 285 Report: Benson Henderson dominates Peter Queally, Yoel Romero knocks out Melvin Manhoef
Bellator 285 took place on Friday evening, from the 3Arena in Dublin, Ireland. The card was headlined by a bout in the lightweight division, as former UFC and WEC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson faced Peter Queally, who was coming off of a loss to the current Bellator Lightweight Champion, Patricky Pitbull, in his last fight. Henderson’s run in Bellator had produced mixed results, and he seemed to be on his way out of title contention after losing three consecutive fights, however a win against Islam Mamedov gave Henderson a much-needed boost of momentum, and a win against Queally here would likely move him back into the title picture. For Queally, this was a big opportunity for him to get back on track against a big name, and ideally, create interest in a trilogy fight against the champion. This card also featured a notable bout in the light heavyweight division between Yoel Romero and Melvin Manhoef, in what was promoted as Manhoef’s retirement bout. Romero picked up his first win since 2018 in his last bout when he stopped Alex Polizzi with just a second remaining in the bout. Manhoef has not been the most active fighter in recent years, fighting just three times since 2017, but the 46-year-old fighter was able to defeat two of those three opponents and was looking to end his career with what would arguably be his biggest win, against Yoel Romero. A commentary for this card was provided by the team of Dave Farrar and John McCarthy.
*Luca Poclit def. Dante Shiro by reverse arm-triangle at 4:27 of Round 2
*Asael Adjoudj def. Jordan Barton by TKO at 2:39 of Round 1
*Kenny Mokhonoana def. Alex Bodnar by guillotine choke at 2:42 of Round 1
*Kane Mousah def. Georgi Karakhanyan by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Darragh Kelly def. Kye Stevens by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)
*Brett Johns def. Jordan Winski by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)
*Brian Moore def. Arivaldo Silva by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Karl Moore def. Karl Albrektsson by rear naked choke at 3:36 of Round 2
*Ciaran Clarke def. Rafael Hudson by rear naked choke at 2:50 of Round 3
*Pedro Carvalho def. Mads Burnell by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
*Leah McCourt def. Dayana Silva by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
*Yoel Romero def. Melvin Manhoef by KO at 3:34 of Round 3
*Benson Henderson def. Peter Queally by unanimous decision (49-45 all)
KARL ALBREKTSSON (13-3, 205.2) VS KARL MOORE (9-2, 205.8) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
Albrektsson quickly shot for a takedown, but Moore successfully defended the attempt. Albrektsson connected with a pair of heavy leg kicks following a number of failed takedown attempts. Moore was able to keep the fight on the feet but seemed to be so focused on his defense that his output was fairly low offensively. Still, Albrektsson wasn’t finding much success either, and with a minute to go, this was still anybody’s round. Just before time expired, Albrektsson dropped Moore hard with an elbow, and he landed some ferocious ground and pound until the bell sounded. Albrektsson thought that the referee stopped the fight, but he was merely attempting to signal the end of the round.
Albrektsson easily took Moore back to the ground to begin the second round, however, Moore was able to pick himself back up after eating a number of right hands. Moore decided to switch things up and shot for a takedown of his own, which he was successful in completing, taking Albrektsson down against the cage. Moore was able to take the back of Albrektsson, where he started cranking the neck, forcing Albrektsson to submit.
WINNER: Karl Moore by rear naked choke at 3:36 of Round 2
If Albrektsson had an additional five seconds at the end of the first round, he probably would have been able to finish the fight, but he did not, and Moore responded strongly in the second round. Moore came into this fight following a three-year layoff, so picking up the comeback win here was really a huge moment for him, especially in front of this Irish crowd. In his post-fight interview, Moore called out Yoel Romero. His Bellator MMA record now stands at 2-0 following this win.
CIARAN CLARKE (5-0, 149.2) VS RAFAEL HUDSON (5-3, 149.8) – CATCHWEIGHT
Hudson dropped Clarke with a heavy right hand in the opening minute of the fight, and he immediately followed Clarke to the ground. Clarke attempted an armbar off of his back at one point, however, Hudson was able to defend the submission attempt and maintained top position. Hudson was not terribly active from top position, but the fighters were not stood up, and he was able to keep his position until the end of the round.
Hudson was swinging rather wildly to begin the second round, and Clarke was able to capitalize by changing levels and chasing after a takedown. Unfortunately for Clarke, Hudson was able to defend the attempt and began to work from Hudson’s guard, where he spent the near entirety of the first round. This time, however, Clarke was able to escape to his feet, and he quickly capitalized on a slip from Hudson, taking top position for the first time in this fight. He was slightly more active with the position than Hudson was, but not by much.
Clarke dragged Hudson to the ground just seconds into the final round. Clark transitioned to the back of Hudson, where he began to look for the rear-naked choke. Eventually, Clark was able to lock the submission in, and Hudson was forced to submit.
WINNER: Ciaran Clarke by rear naked choke at 2:50 of Round 3
Hudson had the clear advantage on the feet, but after dropping Clarke early in the bout, he chose to engage Clarke on the ground instead and was unable to mount much offense against Clarke from this position. Clarke was given plenty of time to recover, and he slowly began to take control of this fight as it progressed, until he finally sunk in the rear naked choke, picking up another third-round submission victory, his third since debuting in Bellator back in 2019. Clarke improved to 6-0 in Bellator MMA with this win.
MADS BURNELL (16-4, 145.8) VS PEDRO CARVALHO (12-6, 146) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Burnell’s attempted to take Carvalho to the ground early, and he was eventually successful. Burnell tried to take Carvalho’s back, but Carvalho was able to pick himself back up in the process. Burnell racked up a lot of control time throughout this round, however, he wasn’t doing a ton with the position, and whenever the fight returned to the feet, Carvalho seemed to be landing the heavier shots. It was a tough round to score, but I would give the slight edge to Burnell. 10-9 Burnell.
Burnell was able to take Carvalho back to the ground in the opening minute of round two. Much like the first round, Burnell wasn’t doing much damage or really threatening submissions on the ground, but unlike round one, Carvalho did not have many opportunities on the feet, and as a result, this was a far easier round to score in favor of Burnell. Carvalho did manage to escape to his feet in the round’s final minute, where he secured a takedown of his own, however, he was unable to do much with the position before time expired. 20-18 Burnell.
Carvalho attacked the body of Burnell with a brutal combination of knees to begin the final round, before opting to take Burnell down near the cage. Burnell seemed gassed by this point in the fight and was unable to do much with Carvalho on top of him. Carvalho did not do a ton from top position, but he was able to maintain it until time expired, which was more than enough to score the round in his favor. 29-28 Burnell.
WINNER: Pedro Carvalho by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Burnell came into this fight with a grappling-heavy game plan, which resulted in a very dull fight. Burnell was able to get Carvalho to the ground with ease, but he was unable to do much after getting him there, and he was gassed by the end of the second round. To Carvalho’s credit, he tried to make something happen whenever the fight was on his feet, and ultimately, that’s why the judges scored the fight in his favor, but unfortunately, there just weren’t many of those moments.
LEAH MCCOURT (6-2, 146) VS DAYANA SILVA (10-7, 146) – FEATHERWEIGHT
McCourt slapped Silva with a head kick in the opening minute of the fight, avoiding a heavy right hand in the process. McCourt was doing well on the feet but eventually decided to start chasing takedowns. Silva was able to defend McCourt’s takedown attempts, however, she was not finding much success on the feet either, and opted to take McCourt down herself. McCourt immediately escaped to her feet, and actually ended the round in top position after Silva slipped to the ground in the round’s final seconds. 10-9 McCourt.
The fighters exchanged light shots on the feet throughout the first two minutes of the second round, before Silva really started to load up on her shots. She was loading up a bit too much however, giving McCourt plenty of time to avoid the big shots. It was very tough to say which fighter was getting the better of these exchanges, and neither fighter was able to take their opponent to the ground either, despite numerous attempts. This was a difficult round to score, but I gave the slightest of edges to Silva. 19-19.
Silva was finding some success by throwing these looping right hands that were visibly damaging the left eye of McCourt. McCourt landed a solid uppercut at one point, and Silva responded with a strong hook. Silva defended a takedown attempt from McCourt but partially ate a knee to the head a few moments later. This was a fairly slow-paced round, but I thought Silva did enough to earn this one on the scorecards. 29-28 Silva.
WINNER: Leah McCourt by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
This was a very dull fight. Neither fighter really had any moments of significance throughout the fight, but Silva seemed to do more damage, and I thought that was enough to earn her the final two rounds. The judges disagreed, and while I don’t really see the case for McCourt winning all three rounds, I wasn’t terribly offended by the decision either. McCourt is now 6-1 in Bellator MMA following this win, and as one of the promotion’s higher-ranked featherweights, I don’t think a title shot is out of the realm of possibility for McCourt in the near future. Leah McCourt versus Cris Cyborg certainly sounds like a criminal mismatch on paper, but that’s never bothered Bellator, and there just aren’t a ton of options at featherweight.
YOEL ROMERO (14-6, 205.9) VS MELVIN MANHOEF (32-15-1, 2 NC, 205.7) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
An early leg kick from Romero caught Manhoef off-balance, tripping him to the ground. Romero followed him down, where he began to work from half guard. Romero dropped a series of heavy elbows before he started to work for an Americana. Manhoef defended the technique but was unable to get Romero off of him, and the spent the majority of the round trapped beneath Romero on the ground.
Manhoef began the second round with a hard leg kick. A straight left hand from Romero knocked Manhoef off balance, and Manhoef responded with a left hand that seemed to narrowly miss its target. Both fighters had an extremely low output offensively, but Romero seemed to have the advantage in terms of power whenever he did land. Manhoef defended a takedown attempt from Romero but ate a left hand in the process. Romero connected with a strong kick to the body as the second round approached its final minute. A left hand from Romero seemed to hurt Manhoef towards the end of the round, but Romero did not follow up on the strike.
Manhoef landed a heavy body shot in the opening minute of round two, which Romero had no reaction to, as his body is likely made of steel. Romero opted to take Manhoef down near the cage, where he eventually postured up, and started throwing down elbows. It didn’t take long for those heavy elbows to knock Manhoef unconscious, and Romero picked up the third-round stoppage victory.
WINNER: Yoel Romero by KO at 3:34 of Round 3
Going into this fight, I think the vast majority of people excepted Romero to win by knockout in brutal fashion, and that’s exactly what happened here. This was a clear mismatch on paper, and the fight played out as such. While you can look at their respective records and say that Romero and Manhoef have had a similar number of wins throughout the past few years, that does not indicate the extremely high level at which Romero has been fighting, and for Manhoef, his days of fighting elite level fighters are long behind him, something Bellator didn’t take into account when they matched him up against Corey Anderson in his last fight either. In the end, I just thought it was sad to see Manhoef fed to Yoel Romero in his final bout, and the image of 46-year-old Melvin Manhoef lying there unconscious while his distraught family watched on was not a particularly pleasant one. Manhoef retires from the sport with a record of 32-16-1(2 NC), with 29 of those 32 wins coming by way of knockout. Still, he gave a nice speech after the fight and left his gloves in the octagon to a beautiful ovation from the Dublin crowd. Romero improved to 2-1 in Bellator MMA following this win, and both of those wins have come by way of third-round knockout.
BENSON HENDERSON (29-11, 155.4) VS PETER QUEALLY (13-6-1, 154.2) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Queally began the fight very aggressively, backing Henderson up quickly. Henderson changed levels early, taking the fight to the ground, however, Queally rolled to safety, and the fight continued to play out on the feet. Henderson was more successful with his next takedown attempt, landing some short strikes as Queally picked himself up against the cage. Henderson opened up a small cut on the bridge of Queally’s nose, seemingly with an elbow. Henderson landed a strong leg kick before time expired in the round. 10-9 Henderson.
A brutal low blow immediately floored Queally to start the second round. A point was deducted from Henderson for the foul, but the bout continued. Henderson took Queally back to the ground, and while Queally made it back to his feet, he was having trouble creating separation from Henderson, and eating a lot of short strikes in the process. It was not the most eventful round, but likely, another round for Henderson. 19-18 Henderson.
Henderson took Queally back to the ground a minute into the third round. Henderson landed a series of left hands as Queally tried to cover up against the cage, and when Queally finally picked himself up, Henderson overwhelmed him with brutal elbows until he was able to drag him right back down. This was a very one-sided round for Henderson, and honestly, this was probably the best round I’ve seen from Henderson in years. 29-27 Henderson.
Queally landed a heavy right hand in the opening seconds of the fourth round, which was arguably his best strike to that point in the fight. Just moments later, Henderson dropped Queally against the cage with an elbow and landed some strong strikes as Queally attempted to recover. Queally made it back to his feet, but Henderson was doing a lot of damage with body shots, and this was yet another one-sided round for Benson Henderson. 39-36 Henderson.
Henderson continued to overwhelm Queally in the final round, constantly throwing strikes while mixing in takedown attempts. Even after the beating that he had sustained throughout the prior twenty minutes of this fight, Queally’s takedown defense was solid, however, he was unable to create the separation that he needed, and whenever they did separate, Henderson was the far more aggressive fighter. Henderson had pretty much quintupled Queally’s output throughout this fight, and unsurprisingly, he took this round with ease as well. 49-45 Henderson.
WINNER: Benson Henderson by unanimous decision (49-45 all)
The crowd was hot to begin this fight, but their excitement was quickly extinguished as this turned into an extremely one-sided fight in favor of Benson Henderson. Queally had no answers for Henderson throughout this fight and was even on the verge of being stopped with strikes a few times, which is certainly a rarity in Benson Henderson’s fights. I thought this was Henderson’s best performance perhaps since his run in the UFC, and in his post-fight interview, he called for a title shot, which seems like a legitimate possibility after a win like this. For Queally, this was certainly a tough loss, and it’s clear that he’s not quite on the level of the top lightweights in Bellator. That being said, Queally really feels like a star whenever he fights in Ireland, and I’m sure we’ll see him featured in a prominent position on the card whenever Bellator next returns to the country.