Andrey Koreshkov made his intentions known at the expense of Chidi Njokuani: He wants his title back.
The former Bellator MMA welterweight champion cut through Njokuani with punches and elbows in the first round of their Bellator 182 headliner on Friday at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, New York. Koreshkov (20-2, 11-2 Bellator) brought it to a close 4:08 into Round 1, rebounding from his knockout loss to Douglas Lima on Nov. 10.
Njokuani (17-5, 4-1 Bellator) attacked the Russian’s base with a series of powerful kicks to the lead leg but could not keep him at bay. Koreshkov knocked the onetime Tachi Palace Fights titleholder off-balance with a spinning backfist, swarmed with punches and uncorked a flying knee before securing the second of his two takedowns. From there, he moved to a dominant position and let fly with unanswered punches and elbows until referee John McCarthy had seen enough.
The defeat halted a seven-fight winning streak for Njokuani.
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In a co-main event that was contested at a catchweight of 180 pounds, Team Quest export Fernando Gonzalez submitted Brennan Ward with a third-round guillotine choke. Gonzalez (27-14, 7-1 Bellator), likely in a two-rounds-to-none hole, drew the curtain 62 seconds into Round 3, as he won for the seventh time in eight appearances.
Ward (14-6, 9-6 Bellator) built his lead on the strength of tactical takedowns, superior output and a probing jab. He grounded Gonzalez twice in the first and second rounds, only to see his efforts erased by a momentary lapse in judgment. Early in the third round, Ward left his neck exposed in a bid for another takedown. Gonzalez caught the guillotine, wrapped the Bellator Season 9 tournament winner in full guard and prompted the tapout.
The 29-year-old Ward has lost three of his last four fights.
Meanwhile, fast-rising Team Bodyshop prospect A.J. McKee remained unbeaten with a clear and convincing unanimous decision over Blair Tugman in a three-round featherweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it for McKee (9-0, 9-0 Bellator): 30-27, 30-26 and 30-26.
Tugman (10-7, 5-3 Bellator) was outgunned by a superior athlete 15 years his junior and offered little in the way of resistance. McKee, 22, controlled distance with kicks to the leg, body and head, mixed in takedowns and drew blood with a slicing elbow strike in the third round, putting the finishing touches on his latest conquest with heavy ground-and-pound.
The defeat snapped Tugman’s three-fight winning streak.
Elsewhere, Team Nogueira’s Bruna Ellen did just enough across three competitive rounds to warrant a split decision over Veta Arteaga in a featured pairing at 125 pounds. All three cageside judges saw it 29-28, two of them siding with Ellen (4-1, 2-1 Bellator).
Arteaga (3-2, 2-2 Bellator) was the aggressor for much of the match. However, Ellen answered her forward progress with crisp counters and well-timed takedowns. The 21-year-old Brazilian did some of her best work in close quarters, where she attacked with elbow and knee strikes from the clinch. Ellen appeared to seal Arteaga’s fate by securing one final takedown with roughly 90 seconds left on the clock.
In preliminary action, former World Series of Fighting champion Georgi Karakhanyan (27-7-1) stopped Daniel Pineda (22-13) on an upkick-induced cut 4:05 into the second round of their featherweight scrap; Talita Nogueira (7-0) submitted Amanda Bell (5-5) with a rear-naked choke 3:44 into the first round of their women’s featherweight confrontation; Henry Corrales (14-3) captured a unanimous verdict over Noad Lahat (11-3) in a three-round tilt at 145 pounds, drawing 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 marks from the judges; Vadim Nemkov (8-2) knocked out Philipe Lins (10-3) with punches 3:03 into the first round of their light heavyweight tussle; Ricky Rainey (13-4) took a unanimous decision from Marc Stephens (21-11) in a three-round welterweight affair, sweeping the cards with matching 29-27 scores; Kate Jackson (9-2-1) was awarded a technical knockout when Colleen Schneider (11-8) was forced to bow out with a knee injury between the first and second rounds of their women’s flyweight matchup; Chris Honeycutt (10-1) took care of Kevin Casey (9-6-2) with punches 2:06 into the second round of their middleweight encounter; Arlene Blencowe (10-6) claimed a split decision -- 28-29, 30-27, 29-28 -- over Sinead Kavanagh (4-2) in a three-round women’s featherweight clash; Joey Davis (2-0) dispatched a bloodied Justin Roswell with punches 95 seconds into the first round of their catchweight pairing at 175 pounds.