Bellator shook up the world of mixed martial arts with the signing of former UFC lightweight Roger Huerta. “El Matador” was immediately installed as the favorite of Bellator’s season two lightweight tourney. Huerta won his first Bellator match versus the very game Chad Hinton to improve his record to 21-3-1 (1 NC). Many of his fights have been classic brawls but here are five that stand out.
Huerta vs. Leonard Garcia
The fight that made Huerta’s career and introduced MMA to a mainstream audience. Fans who witnessed Huerta and Garcia war at UFC 69 were treated to one of the greatest fights in UFC history. Garcia survived a furious assault for three rounds before losing via unanimous decision. The people at Sports Illustrated took notice, making Huerta the first mixed martial artist to grace the cover of the popular weekly magazine.
Huerta vs. Clay Guida
Another breathtaking battle between two MMA fighters assured of providing at least double your money’s worth. Huerta was trailing after two rounds having being neutralized by The Carpenter’s superior wrestling. Seconds into Round 3, Huerta landed a knee to Guida’s face and eventually silenced him with a rear naked choke. The rally was so dramatic it left a three-man UFC announcing team nearly speechless.
Huerta raced to a 6-0 start in the UFC beginning with a unanimous decision victory over Jason Dent. In what was a harbinger of things to come, El Matador’s effort earned the bout “Fight of the Night” honors.
Huerta decided to take a break from fighting to pursue acting and a modeling career, but not before ending his UFC run the way he started it – with a flourish. He was on the losing end of a split decision to Gray Maynard at UFC Fight Night 19, but the opening round set a pace of what was a tenacious and furious contest, in other words what defines Huerta’s greatness. Maynard almost ended the bout in the third when he locked in a Kimura from half guard. Instead of tapping, Huerta landed shots to Maynard’s ribs and eventually got the fight back to a vertical base.
(Photo by Tom Hill.)
Huerta tangled with a gritty and game Chad Hinton in his Bellator debut before taking over the last two rounds to score a sweet transition into a knee-bar that forced Hinton to tap at 56 seconds of the third round. The victory snapped a two-fight losing streak for El Matador and quickly established he’s worth the hype and one that will generate more attention if he’s able to advance deep into the lightweight tournament and a showdown with champion Eddie Alvarez.