With the opening round now completed, “Bellator: Fight Master” moves forward with the quarterfinals.
Last week, Evan Cutts submitted Cristiano Souza and Eric Bradley triumphed over A.J. Matthews, leaving eight fighters remaining in the competition. Coach Frank Shamrock will send three fighters into the quarterfinals, while Greg Jackson and Randy Couture each saw two of their charges advance. Joe Warren, meanwhile, leads just one fighter into the round of eight.
The coaches will now decide the quarterfinal seeding. Though everyone agrees that Jackson’s Joe Riggs should remain at No. 1, Warren’s suggestion that Cutts vault into the No. 2 spot does not sit well with his fellow coaches. Instead, Cutts lands in fourth, while Cole Williams and Nick Barnes earn the second and third positions. Meanwhile, Chris Lozano, Bradley, Joe Williams and Mike Bronzoulis round out the field.
The second seed will fight first tonight, and Xtreme Couture’s Cole Williams chooses Team Shamrock’s Barnes as his opponent. Williams hopes to poke holes in Barnes’ standup attack, while Shamrock’s fighter expresses his desire to counter-strike against his aggressive foe.
As in Barnes’ last fight, Shamrock emphasizes kickboxing over boxing and urges Barnes to chop away at Williams’ lead leg and body with round kicks. Meanwhile, Couture puts Williams through “worst-case scenario” training, which requires the wrestler to fend off repeated rear-naked choke attempts.
The preparation will not be needed, however, as Williams quickly finds himself in a best-case scenario just moments after the referee starts the action. Couture’s man counters a low kick with a straight right hand that plants Barnes flat on his back. Though Shamrock’s charge tries gamely to cover up and recover, Williams is relentless with his assault against his scrambling foe. The referee waves off the contest less than 30 seconds into the bout.
“I got the finish I really wanted, but I wish it would have gotten stopped a little earlier,” says Williams. “He’s a friend of mine, and it’s unfortunate when people have to take extra damage when they don’t need to.”
Up next, coaches Shamrock and Couture will rematch when the fifth-ranked Lozano faces bottom seed Bronzoulis. Though the men have developed a friendship since joining the show, both competitors now look to distance themselves as the fight approaches. Couture instructs Bronzoulis to drag Lozano into deep waters and “make it a dogfight,” while Shamrock wants his pupil to maintain distance and keep the fight technical.
Suddenly, the cordial but tense buildup to the fight turns nasty as both men shed water weight in the sauna. The argument spills out into the hallway, waking Eric Scallan from his afternoon nap.
“I walk outside, and Bronzoulis and Lozano are getting in each other’s faces,” says Scallan. “Bronzoulis and Lozano are going to murder each other. It’s going to be a barn burner.”
Bronzoulis fires a right hand to start the fight, but Lozano slips under it to try a double-leg takedown. “The Greek” stuffs the shot, but Lozano turns into a rear waist lock and takes his foe’s back. Couture’s fighter finds himself trapped for nearly two minutes but eventually manages to worm his hips free and pivot into top position. Lozano regains his vertical base but eats a knee on the way up.
With two minutes left in the frame, Bronzoulis starts swinging hard and heavy. Lozano reciprocates, but neither man can find his mark before Lozano tries for a single-leg. Bronzoulis stifles the attempt and applies pressure with strikes as the round expires.
Bronzoulis charges forward to start the second frame, winging wild punches and kicks before grabbing a rear waist lock. Lozano tries to roll for a kneebar but stands right back up after Bronzoulis defends it well. Shamrock’s fighter breaks the hold and separates, rifling off several punches and low kicks that back up Bronzoulis. Couture’s fighter responds by clinching up and burying a knee in Lozano’s midsection.
Lozano dives on another takedown attempt, but Bronzoulis once again sprawls out and blasts his opponent to the body before standing. Undeterred, Lozano cranks up his output and rifles off combinations in the center of the cage. Though both men land cleanly to end the round, Lozano appears to get the better of the exchanges.
Host Jimmy Smith informs the fighters that the judges have scored the fight a draw through 10 minutes, meaning that a third round will be fought. Bronzoulis drives forward with a high kick and clinches to start the sudden victory period. Lozano fires stiff jabs from distance, but Bronzoulis pursues relentlessly with low kicks and jabs of his own. Later, Bronzoulis counters a low kick with a right hand that knocks Lozano to his back, despite the shot being partially blocked.
Lozano pops right back up, and both men begin to fire with everything left in the tank for the last two minutes of the fight. The action is sloppy but exciting as the two fatigued fighters trade blows for the fight’s final moments. With 30 seconds left, Lozano nearly scores a takedown, but Bronzoulis reverses him, and the men swing away as the fight comes to a close.
After 15 hard-fought minutes, Bronzoulis is announced the winner by unanimous decision, and he joins Williams as the second Xtreme Couture fighter to advance to the semifinals. Next week, Rino Sports’ final hope will face the competition’s top seed, as Cutts meets Riggs. Also featured, Jackson MMA’s Bradley will do battle with Team Shamrock’s Joe Williams.