Welterweights Neiman Graice and Logan Storley faced off in the Bellator 274 main event on Saturday — which, for the first time, saw a full five rounds afforded to fighters in a non-title fight.
As it turned out, those extra rounds would be needed. In fact, what had been a dull affair through three saw a surge in the final two rounds that completely changed the complexion of the fight.
Both fighters entered the night coming off single wins, but ranked #4 (Gracie) and #5 (Storley) in the weight class. Whether a statement victory would be enough to secure a title shot depended not just on their own showing, but the outcome of May’s Douglas Lima vs. Jason Jackson match-up.
Storley clipped Gracie with a right hand early in Saturday’s main event, but the Brazilian ate it, and fired back with a spinning kick that sailed wide. Storley continued walking forward; Gracie kept him at range with a front kick. “Storm” would back Gracie up to the fence, firing a number of right hands, then landing a knee when they tied up in the clinch. Storley had the edge come the end of the round, with the bigger strikes landed.
Round two saw the stand-up battle continue. Storley kept Gracie on his heels, and while Gracie worked his jab and had his moments on the feet, he struggled to find the mark while moving backwards. Storley had to contend with an uppercut from Gracie, but returned fire with one of his own and again had Gracie backed up against the cage for a moment. As the round progressed, Storley’s right hand was once again money.
The biggest story through the first two rounds? At no point did either fighter seriously look to get to the fight to the ground. Despite the obvious wrestler vs. grappler storyline, the two skill sets appeared to have forced a kickboxing battle.
More stand-up in round three. Both Storley and Gracie were showing some blood leaking from the nose. Officially, to the midway point of the round, each man had been credited with a single takedown attempt, though neither had even come close. Both men mixed in some kicks, but primarily relied on their hands. A takedown attempt seemed seriously overdue, especially at the end of the round, but neither man pulled the trigger. In a close round, Storley appeared to have more success, with Gracie spending far too much time backpedaling.
Despite arguably having more success to that point, Logan Storley was showing more damage come round four. And in the first half of the round, Gracie turned up the heat. He began teeing off on Storley, backing him up and forcing him to cover up. Storley shelled up, while Gracie walked forward, adding smashing elbows to his combos. Gracie split the guard several times, his punches finding their mark. Storley’s eye appeared to be bothering him after taking a right hook, and suddenly, he was looking like a punching bag. Blood was in the water, but Storley then turned the tables, rocking Gracie and dropping him! Gracie was dazed, and Storley landed some big shots from the top. Somehow, Gracie held on, and Storley stood back up, wanting the fight back on the feet. They’d battle it out to the buzzer and head to round five.
A festival of strikes!?!
— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) February 20, 2022
Round five was about to determine who wanted it more. Gracie looked to find a home for his uppercut. Storley seemed a little fresher, and landed a right hand by the ear. Gracie seemed to find a second wind, but was backing up, out of range of Storley’s attacks, without offering enough of his own counters. Storley landed a left. Gracie connected, doubling up on his jab. Come the final minute, someone needed to empty the tank. Storley would have more success, though Gracie raised his hands in victory at the final bell. That was premature, as all three judges scored the fight for Logan Storley — though the actual scores were all over the map.
Official Result: Logan Storley def. Neiman Gracie by unanimous decision (48-47, 50-45, 49-46)