Saul Rogers was game, but former title challenger Daniel Weichel was too much for him to overcome at Bellator 228, as Weichel advanced in the featherweight grand prix.
If ever there was an underdog, it was Saul Rogers in Bellator’s featherweight grand prix. Rogers wasn’t a current or former title holder. He’d only been in the promotion a short while, making his debut back in May. Not on a long winning streak, like fellow tournament fighter Juan Archuleta. And certainly not a tournament winner like Bellator 228 opponent Daniel Weichel.
Weichel won the Bellator Season 10 featherweight tournament, back when the promotion did that sort of thing. Which made the theme heading into this card-opening bout Saturday night in Los Angeles one of experience versus youth. That, given Rogers was five years Weichel’s junior.
On the side of youth, Rogers was more than happy to start firing from the outset, connecting almost immediately. Weichel, outside, circled away from danger, and threw a leg kick, looking to break Rogers’ rhythm. If Rogers was supposed to be an underdog, he didn’t show it early. Instead he ducked down, changing levels and shooting for a single-leg takedown. He would have had it, were it not for Weichel’s impressive balance.
The rest of the round would play out on the feet, until Rogers tried another takedown in the final minute, only to be stuffed. Otherwise, the pair traded throughout, but it was a huge hook with seconds left in the round that changed to complexion of the fight.
That blow came from Weichel, and rocked Saul Rogers. His legs were wobbly, nearly going out from under him. With precious seconds ticking away, Weichel attacked, throwing everything he had while Rogers was trapped, covering up, back to the fence. Only the bell, realistically, saved Rogers.
How he’d look coming out for round two was a huge question, with just a mere minute to recover. A minute in, he’d shoot for a takedown, but Weichel employed a whizzer, fighting off the attempt. Weichel attacked his opponent’s lead leg with a kick to the inside. As they had in the first, prior to that final flurry, the pair settled into trading single strikes and short combos. Rogers, no doubt, was rather wary of being caught once again. It didn’t seem to stop his forward momentum however. And it wasn’t a punch that gave him trouble in the second, but a leg kick that took him off his feet. Rogers was immediately back up at least, landing a combination of his own.
A spot in the second round of the grand prix loomed large heading into the third frame. The pair could very well have split the first two stanzas, though a 20-18 score for Weichel could be a possibility.
Once again, early in the round, Rogers worked for a takedown. Once again, nothing came of it, as Weichel’s defense was up to the task. Rogers wound up tagged a moment later, but ate the punch without issue.That led to another round of exchanges, but a closer one. It would be Rogers who ended up on his back, Weichel dumping him after catching a kick in the final minute. Weichel, however, opted to keep the fight standing, which took them to the judge’s scorecards.
All three judges deemed Weichel the winner, advancing him in the tournament. Following the fight, Weichel was asked who he might select for the next round of the tournament. “I have to sit back with my team and think about it,” he admitted. “I have no favorite fighter I want to fight.”
Result: Daniel Weichel def. Saul Rogers by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28)