Andrey Koreshkov showed little regard for Bellator MMA’s prized free-agent acquisition.
The reigning welterweight champion dominated Benson Henderson at every turn in the Bellator 153 headliner on Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, winning a lopsided unanimous decision -- 50-45, 50-45, 50-45 -- to retain his title.
Henderson (23-6, 0-1 Bellator), who entered the contest on the strength of back-to-back 170-pound triumphs over Jorge Masvidal and Brandon Thatch in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, had no answer for the superior size, reach and power of his opponent. Koreshkov (19-1, 10-1 Bellator) set the tone for the rout in the opening stanza, where he brutalized the ex-lightweight king with kicks to the body before nearly finishing the bout with a flying knee at the end of the frame.
It did not get any better from there. Koreshkov continued to attack the body and often forced his foe to shoot for takedowns out of self-preservation, as he landed clean hard punches, spinning kicks and knees and dropped his foe with an uppercut in the fourth frame. Unfortunately for the MMA Lab product, he was never able to take the stronger Koreshkov to the canvas. Instead, “Smooth” relied on heart and guile to survive until the final horn.
“I hate losing. I hate it more than anything,” Henderson said. “Hat’s off to Andrey. Coming in, we knew how tough he was. We knew it was gonna be a tough fight. Big as heck, strong as heck. I don’t like losing. I want to get back in there right away.”
Koreshkov has now won seven straight fights since being overwhelmed by then-welterweight champion Ben Askren at Bellator 97 in July 2013. Henderson has lost three of his last five bouts.
In the co-main event, Patricio Freire shook off a slow start to bring an abrupt end to his featherweight encounter with Henry Corrales. The ex-featherweight king submitted Corrales, who took the bout on short notice, with a guillotine choke 4:09 into the second round. With the win, Freire rebounds from a decision loss to Daniel Straus that cost him his title at Bellator 145 in November.
“After my loss to Straus, I am prepared for everything. I am a complete fighter,” Freire said. “Straus, I am ready for you. I am coming to take my belt back.”
Both fighters were measured during their exchanges on the feet, so Freire (25-3, 13-3 Bellator) used his grappling to impose his will. In the first round, “Pitbull” secured a takedown near the fence and immediately moved to full mount before threatening with an arm-triangle choke. While Corrales (12-3, 0-3 Bellator) escaped that predicament, he found himself caught in Freire’s airtight guillotine when he attempted to scramble to his feet after being taken down in the second frame. Moments later, the combatants crashed back to the canvas and Corrales tapped out.
Elsewhere, Evangelista Santos dashed the championship dreams of Brennan Ward, submitting the hometown favorite with a heel hook just 30 seconds into the opening stanza of their welterweight clash. Santos (21-16, 1-0 Bellator) has won three of his last four fights, while Ward (13-4, 8-4 Bellator) saw a five-bout winning streak come to an end.
“He has a weak heel, so I had my eyes on the heel hook. I was looking to take his foot home,” said Santos, who earned the sixth submission of his professional career. “I came here to get my hands on the belt.”
Ward began the bout by catching a Santos kick and landing a hard right hand to the face of his opponent. The Waterford, Connecticut, native then spun to take his opponent’s back, but Santos countered the position by rolling for a kneebar. As Ward attempted to free himself, the Brazilian transitioned to the fight-ending maneuver, forcing his foe to tap as he screamed in agony.
Earlier, Brent Primus edged Gleristone Santos via split decision in a featured lightweight pairing. Two cageside judges scored the contest 29-28 in favor of Primus (7-0, 5-0 Bellator), while a third submitted a 29-28 tally for Santos (27-6, 0-2). It was Santos’ second consecutive heartbreaking defeat within the promotion, as he also dropped a split verdict to John Teixeira da Conceicao in his Bellator debut.
Santos appeared to be faring well early, forcing Primus to chase him while landing crisp combinations and leg kicks. Primus struggled to get his opponent to the canvas for the first 10 minutes, and when he did, “Toninho Furia” was able to scramble and transition out of danger. However, the opening round was extremely close, and Primus likely left a lasting impression on the judges in the final stanza by closing the fight with a takedown and ground-and-pound from top position.
The method was unusual, but the result was familiar, as Michael Page earned the ninth first-round finish of his professional career, submitting Jeremie Holloway in the first round of their welterweight encounter in the opening main card contest. “Venom” brought an end to the match with an Achilles lock at the 2:25 mark of the period, giving him his third career victory via tapout.
“I’m in the gym working on my all-round game, just so when things like that happen, I’m ready for it,” Page said.
Holloway (7-2, 0-2 Bellator) rushed Page (10-0, 5-0 Bellator) as soon as the opening bell sounded, only to be sent to the canvas by a crushing counter right hand. Holloway quickly returned to his feet but was later wobbled by another sharp right from Page. From there, the Englishman tossed his man to the ground, worked his way into guard, grabbed hold of his opponent’s left foot and forced a quick tapout.
In preliminary action, Josh Koscheck training partner Chris Honeycutt (7-1, 3-1 Bellator) bounced back from a knockout loss to Paul Bradley and cruised to a unanimous decision triumph -- 30-25, 30-27, 30-27 -- over Matt Secor (1-2 Bellator); Djamil Chan (12-2, 1-0 Bellator) knocked out World Series of Fighting veteran Richard Patishnock (6-4, 0-1 Bellator) with a counter overhand right at the 3:09 mark of round one in a lightweight tilt; and Mike Zichelle (7-4, 1-1 Bellator) submitted Joe Cronin (19-17, 0-1 Bellator) with a rear-naked choke 1:25 into the opening round in a catchweight affair.