BELOIT—The stakes were once again high for Alex Polizzi heading into last Saturday night’s Bellator 266 fight in San Jose, Calif.
With a split decision over previously undefeated and seventh-ranked Grant Neal, the Beloit light heavyweight likely rose into the top 10 rankings in Bellator Mixed Martial Arts and hopefully secured a new contract with the fighting organization. The Neal fight was his last on his current deal.
Polizzi improved to 9-1-0 as a pro and 3-1-0 in Bellator while Neal dipped to 8-1-0 overall and 6-1-0. Neal was moving up the ladder in Bellator expecting to climb from the prelims to the main card.
Now it’s Polizzi who can argue for a larger platform while he negotiates a new contract.
“I like to be a little more decisive than leaving it to the judges,” Polizzi said afterward. “That’s the way it goes. Grant is a really tough opponent and he stuffed me on some real good shots. We were going at it. You could tell I was kind of feeling (fatigue) with my hands dropping a little. I think he was feeling the same way as I. We were pushing each other and we were able to finish the fight and I scraped by.”
Grant had the upper hand in the first round, but an adjusting Polizzi began to assert himself in the second into the third.
“If you notice I’m getting better technically you have to throw it out to my cornermen,” Polizzi said. “They are relentless in making sure I’m doing the right thing. Not just during training camp, but out there on the fly. I’m able to keep standing and do the athletic stuff, but if you see there’s something that looks technical and you’re thinking, oh man, that was a smart move by Polizzi, it’s all those guys.”
Polizzi said the pace of the fight wasn’t always to his liking, nor was Neal’s ability to counter some of his best strikes.
“He was leaving me at a little bit of a standstill,” Polizzi said. “There was a moment in the second I was able to get on top of him and able to do some ground and pound. My best stuff is when I can get in nice and close.”
Polizzi said style of fighting had a lot to say in the outcome.
“My game plan is to keep pressure on them and tire them out,” he said. “I think the difference between our styles is that when I get on top of a guy I’m looking to do some damage and look for the jiu-jitsu moves. If you’re going to take a guy down and just hang onto his legs I don’t see how that is furthering your game.
“Later in the fight, anyone who watches freestyle wrestling knows I did a classic crotch lift and got him on his back.”
The aggressiveness and grit at the finish pulled out the fight for Polizzi, the former Beloit Memorial and Northwestern wrestling standout who trains in McFarland.
“It is awesome to be out there and press my skill and competitiveness against fighters of Grant Neal’s caliber,” Polizzi said. “I know there were a couple of times in that Grant Neal fight where things got a little slow and there wasn’t the full violence I like to promise fans. Next time we’re pushing for the full 15 and I’m going to make sure it’s jam-packed full of violence.”
Polizzi didn’t walk away unscathed. He sported a puffy right eye afterwards, but he laughed it off.
“He got a good hit, no doubt, but it’s a little squeaker just to remind me how much fun we were having,” he said. “It will be there about a week.”
Famous for wearing temporary tattoos rather than permanent ink, Polizzi was asked after the fight about one in particular. Diisplaying an Arby’s logo on his right shoulder, he was asked if that’s where he was heading to celebrate his victory or whether he was working on a new sponsorship deal.
“If we’re picking up steam, I’m here,” said Polizzi, channeling Ricky Bobby from Talladega Nights. “I’m ready. I’m hungry. Let’s make something happen.”
He hasn’t forgotten his hometown, either. Before signing off he told his fans who watched the fight on Bellator’s UTube channel at the bar, “Grab a couple of beers and raise them high. We got the ‘W’ and we’re bringing it back to Beloit.”