Bellator 217: Gallagher v Graham Main Card

It was a historic night at the 3Arena in Dublin, Ireland as the next crop of Irish talent rose to the occasion in prime time viewing live on Sky Sports. This was Bellator’s big opportunity to sweep up an entire market that had been abandoned by other promotions and they well and truly delivered. A very close to sellout crowd turned up to support their own and there won’t be a single fan going home tonight who didn’t think they got their money’s worth. The atmosphere steadily built all night before spilling over just as the main card began. If anyone hasn’t experienced a live Irish MMA crowd for an event like this, it should be on everyone’s bucket list. There is nothing else like it. They were absolutely deafening at certain points and just like other major cards held on the Emerald Isles, the crowd were just as big a part of the story as the fighters were.

The main event saw James Gallagher get a hero’s reception as he bounced back from his first career defeat in emphatic fashion. Steven Graham was an ideal opponent for him to showcase his skills against and Gallagher would have come across as an absolute superstar to the viewing audience as he totally dominated in front of his vocal hometown. The Irishman landed a takedown within seconds of the fight beginning and fluidly moved from side control to the mount before finding the back and sinking in a rear naked choke half way through the first round. His previous loss against Ricky Bandejas will now be quickly forgotten as Gallagher is back on track to reach the heights that many were touting him for earlier in his career. After the fight, he talked about how the whole experience of fighting in front of his countrymen humbled him and he was more aware of his actions inside of the cage this time around. Gallagher made it clear that he wants to fight in May before returning to compete in Dublin later on this year. He also didn’t rule himself out of competing in the upcoming 16 man featherweight tournament but he made it known that Bellator would need to show him the money for that to happen.

Peter Queally and Myles Price faced off in a highly anticipated grudge match in the evenings co-main event. The crowd were heavily supporting Queally and Price walked into the arenas with a number of boos from those fans who had bought into the whole ‘Irish traitor’ storyline. Queally walked out to ‘Zombie’ by The Cranberries which proved to be one of the moments of the night. When the song cut out to allow Michael Williams to introduce the competitors, the crowd continued to sing the lyrics at full voice in a scene that was reminiscent of Aisling Daly making the walk in the UFC at the 3Arena in 2015.

Price looked to implement his grappling game from the outset as he held Queally against the cage towards the start of the first round. Queally managed to get separation so he could land some big shots on the feet before succumbing to Price’s forward pressure once again towards the end of the first round. More of the fight took place at range in the second round as Queally continued to pose some threat when throwing his hands. Price answered with some shots of his own and a body shot stumbled his opponent which enabled Myles to revert back to pressing Queally against the cage. The third round was Price’s strongest as he dictated where most of the action took place and he took Queally’s back towards the end of the round after successfully landing a takedown. It was enough to earn Price a split decision win with both men admitting after the fact that the beef was over.

Also on the main card, Kiefer Crosbie improved to 6-0 as he beat Daniel Olejniczak. The fight began with both fighters trying to work out their range with both hesitant to commit to any big shots. As the round wore on, Crosbie began to figure out his distance and began hitting ‘OB1’ with significant shots before one dropped him. Kiefer chased him down to the mat and sunk in a rear naked choke at 4:09 of round 1. Crosbie encouraged Bellator to introduce the 165lbs division in his post fight scrum as he doesn’t think he is big enough to compete against the best in the welterweight division.

In the first televised fight of the night, Richie Smullen defeated Adam Gustab by unaminous decision. Smullen’s grappling proved too much for the Polish fighter as he struggled to defend any takedowns and couldn’t mount any offense from his back. Gustab did have some success on the feet and landed some big shots on Smullen but he couldn’t keep the fight there long enough for it to have an impact. This was a grappling heavy affair and in hindsight, with this kicking off the show on Sky Sports, a match up between strikers could have been a better way to maintain the interest of general sports fan tuning in. This is something that Bellator should bear in mind for upcoming European shows airing in prime time.

After the show, Head of Bellator Europe, David Green announced that the company would be returning to Dublin in September of this year which Irish fans will be delighted to hear. It is yet to be seen how well the show did ratings wise but it was great to see Sky Sports running some articles on the event this week and a post about the main event result featured on their home page which is great exposure for MMA. The future looks very bright for European MMA and there is now a big chance for Bellator to come in and make a serious dent on the scene by looking to become the dominant promoter over here. It’s now up to them to go and grab it.

Main Card Results

James Gallagher (8-1) defeated Steven Graham (6-4) via submission (rear naked choke) at 2.31 of round one

Myles Price (11-7) defeated Peter Queally (11-5-1) via split decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)

Kiefer Crosbie (6-0) defeated Daniel Olejniczak (3-3-1) via submission (rear naked choke) at 4.09 of round one

Richie Smullen (4-1-1) defeated Adam Gustab (3-4) via unanimous decision (30-27 x2, 30-26)

Image courtesy of Bellator

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