It took former Bellator Fighting Championships lightweight titleholder Eddie Alvarez a little more than two minutes to erase the memories of his December 2008 encounter with Shinya Aoki.
Alvarez (23-3, 7-1 Bellator) stopped the Japanese standout on first-round punches in the Bellator 66 main event on Friday at the I-X Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Aoki (30-6, 0-1 Bellator) ceded to a hailstorm of blows 2:14 into round one, his seven-fight winning streak a thing of the past.
Aoki invited Alvarez, whom he submitted with a heel hook in their first bout, into his spidery guard early in the first round. The Philadelphia fighter refused and forced Aoki to stand. From there, it was no contest. Alvarez backed him into the cage and answered an ill-advised standing elbow with a pair of right uppercuts that drove a retreating Aoki to the ground. Alvarez then connected on a wicked standing-to-ground punch, compromising his opponent’s defenses. Aoki covered up in an attempt to shield himself from further punishment, and Alvarez unleashed his fists until the referee had seen enough.
Spang Stuns Rogers in Semifinals
Strikeforce veteran Andreas Spang wiped out Brian Rogers with a brilliant counter left hook and follow-up hammerfist in the Bellator Season 6 middleweight tournament semifinals. Rogers (9-4, 2-2 Bellator) met his end 3:34 into round two, sending Spang, a late replacement for original semifinalist Bruno Santos, deeper into the draw.
Spang (8-1, 1-0 Bellator) nearly finished the fight it in the first round when he threatened Rogers with a standing rear-naked choke after the Ohioan slipped on a kick. Rogers freed himself from the choke, turned to face the Swede and went back to striking. His straight right hand caught Spang clean more than once.
In the second round, Rogers rocked his opponent with a right uppercut, a searing left hook and a flurry of follow-up punches. Somehow, Spang stayed on his feet. The 33-year-old pressed forward and countered Rogers with a left hook of his own.
The Strong Style Fight Team representative fell backwards, his head bouncing off the canvas. Spang pounced for the finish, landing one final blow for good measure.
“He’s very tough,” Spang said. “He caught me with some really good shots. I love to fight. I’m here to win. My left hook is my go-to weapon when I get hurt or when I get into trouble.”
Goncalves Halts Vasilevsky Streak
Heavy power punches, a stout clinch game and brutal ground-and-pound carried UFC veteran Maiquel Jose Falcao Goncalves to a unanimous decision over Vyacheslav Vasilevsky in the Bellator Season 6 middleweight tournament semifinals. Goncalves (30-4, 2-0 Bellator) swept the scorecards by identical 29-28 counts.
Vasilevsky (16-2, 1-1 Bellator), who entered the cage on a 15-fight winning streak, was effective out of the gate with a series of beautiful trip takedowns. However, he did little damage while in top position, and Goncalves escaped the first round unscathed. Vasilevsky picked his spots from the outside early in frame two and struck for another takedown. However, Goncalves maneuvered into top position and spent the last 90 seconds of the round grinding away at the 23-year-old Russian with punches, hammerfists and forearms to the head and body.
Goncalves had Vasilevsky in serious trouble in the third round, as he uncorked his clubbing right hand and brutalized his wobbly foe in the clinch with knees and short punches.
The Russian turned to takedowns in response and mounted Goncalves briefly, only to surrender the position and eat more ground-and-pound for his troubles.
Hawn Stops Woodard, Advances to Final
Rick Hawn capitalized on an overaggressive Lloyd Woodard and stopped the man they call “Cupcake” on a series of brutal second-round punches in the Bellator Season 6 lightweight tournament semifinals. Woodard (12-2, 2-2 Bellator) succumbed to the blows 10 seconds into round two.
Hawn (13-1, 5-1 Bellator) refused to play Woodard’s game, inviting the Montanan into his clinch and scoring with a trip takedown in the first round. The 2004 Olympic judoka met the oncoming Woodard with a clean right hand to start round two. Woodard collapsed, ate a few hammerfists and left the referee no choice but to step in on his behalf.
“We had a game plan for this guy,” Hawn said. “We knew what he was going to do. He was going to come out strong, and you can’t get sucked into that. Just got to play a smart fight, a chess match, and that’s what I did.”
Weedman Earns Split Verdict, Ousts Silva
Takedowns and an active top game carried Brent Weedman to a close split decision over Thiago Michel Pereira Silva in the Bellator Season 6 lightweight tournament semifinals. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28, two of them in favor of Weedman (20-7, 6-2 Bellator).
Weedman moved into top position in all three rounds, attacking the Brazilian kickboxer’s body with knees from side control. However, he did not escape unscathed. Silva was clearly the superior standup practitioner and did plenty of damage when the two lightweights were on their feet, raising a horrendous swelling over Weedman’s right eye and opening a cut near the other.
Silva (10-3, 1-1 Bellator) was at his best in the third round, as he unleashed his entire arsenal: spinning back fists, spinning back kicks, front kicks and other more traditional strikes. Weedman weathered the onslaught to win for the 12th time in 14 appearances.
“I thought it was a close fight,” he said. “All the respect to Thiago, one of the toughest opponents I’ve ever had.”
Hawk Upends Finnish Prospect Vanttinen
Strong Style Fight Team representative John Hawk handed Finnish prospect Marcus Vanttinen just his second loss in his past 14 fights, as he took a split decision in an undercard matchup at 205 pounds. Two of the three cageside judges scored it for Hawk (7-4, 2-1 Bellator) by 29-28 counts; a third inexplicably gave Vanttinen (21-4, 0-1 Bellator) all three rounds.
Hawk turned to a high-volume approach with his hands and kept Vanttinen out of his comfort zone for much of their encounter. The 24-year-old Fin score with a takedown in the second round, only to find himself in bottom position once Hawk sprang a reversal. Though his output diminished in round three, Hawk sprawled effectively and did enough work with his fists to keep victory in his corner.
ATT’s Vegh Outpoints Spohn at 205
American Top Team’s Attilla Vegh was successful in his promotional debut, as he captured a split decision from Dan Spohn in a preliminary light heavyweight tilt. Two of the three cageside judges scored it for Veigh (25-4, 1-0 Bellator) by 29-28 and 30-27 counts. A third cast a dissenting 29-28 verdict in favor of Spohn (6-2, 1-2 Bellator).
Vegh neutralized his Ohio-based opponent with takedowns and a strong clinch game. Spohn made his play for victory and did his best work in round three, but he could not keep himself out of the Slovakian prospect’s clutches long enough for it to swing the decision to his side. Vegh has rattled off five consecutive wins.
Caraballo Knee Flattens Walker
North American Allied Fight Series featherweight champion Frank Caraballo knocked out UFC veteran Donny Walker with a beautiful jumping knee in the fourth round, as he retained his 145-pound crown in a one-sided undercard scrap. An unconscious Walker (15-9, 0-1 Bellator) fell to the canvas 2:25 into round four.
Clearly the more capable striker, Caraballo (9-4, 2-1 Bellator) exploited his advantage throughout the match. By round two, the punishment he had unleashed had begun to take its toll on his opponent. Walker was cut beneath the left eye and was unable to defend Caraballo’s multi-level attack, which featured, among other weapons, a string of leg kicks.
Walker’s situation did not improve as the bout entered the championship rounds, and Caraballo put quite the exclamation point on his fourth straight win.
Lane Guillotine Submits Heiland
Wreckroom Athletics representative Julian Lane kept his perfect professional record intact, as he submitted Joe Heiland with a first-round guillotine choke in a preliminary lightweight encounter. Heiland (6-1, 0-1 Bellator) succumbed to the submission 2:49 into round one.
Lane (4-0, 1-0 Bellator) has stopped all four of his opponents, three of them with guillotines. A Strong Style Fight Team representative, Heiland had never before been finished.
Finally, Strong Style Fight Team prospect Jessica Eye recorded her fourth win in as many outings, as she posted a unanimous decision over Anita Rodriguez in a preliminary women’s battle at 130 pounds. All three judges scored it 30-27 for Eye (7-1, 2-0 Bellator). Rodriguez (5-3, 0-1 Bellator) has lost two of her last three fights.