This was not the first impression Melvin Guillard envisioned when he signed with Bellator MMA.
Repeated takedowns, a stifling top game and steady ground-and-pound spurred Brandon Girtz to an upset win over the Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran, as he left the Bellator 141 headliner with a split decision on Friday at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif. Scores were 29-27 and 29-27 for Girtz, 29-28 for Guillard.
The underdog set the tone in the opening seconds. He followed a crackling two-punch combination with a pair of slam takedowns on the unsuspecting and dazed Guillard (32-15-2, 0-1 Bellator), all inside the first 50 seconds. Girtz (13-4, 5-2 Bellator) spent the rest of the first round in side control, feeding “The Young Assassin” a stream of elbows. Guillard’s situation did not improve in round two, where he again found himself on the bottom, eating punches and elbows from the King of the Cage alum.
Girtz nearly gave it away in the third round. After a referee restart, he walked away from Guillard and let down his guard. The New Orleans native capitalized on the mental lapse and had Girtz reeling with punches, kicks and knees. However, Guillard wound up on the bottom in the waning moments following a failed throw, his comeback bid put on ice.
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‘Pitbull’ Tops Awad, Eyes Title Shot
In the lightweight co-main event, two-time Bellator tournament finalist Patricky Freire recorded his fourth win in five fights, as he claimed a unanimous decision against former Gladiator Challenge titleholder Saad Awad. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 30-27 for Freire (14-6, 7-5 Bellator), who now has 155-pound champion Will Brooks in his crosshairs.
After a tepid first round, Awad and Freire picked up their pace. Awad (18-7, 6-4 Bellator) popped the Brazilian with kicks to the legs and body before snapping back his head with a clean right uppercut in the second round; however, much of his efforts were undone by a timely “Pitbull” takedown. Freire further distanced himself from the Millennia MMA rep in round three, where he fired off inside and outside leg kicks and punched aggressively in combination to the body and head.
The loss put an end to a three-fight winning streak for Awad.
Returning Wren Outguns Burns
Justin Wren made a triumphant return to the cage, as he captured a unanimous verdict over Josh Burns in a plodding three-round heavyweight showcase. Fighting for the first time since July 2010, Wren (11-2, 1-0 Bellator) carried the scorecards with 30-27, 30-26 and 30-26 marks from the judges.
Burns (8-9, 0-6 Bellator) was ineffective, outside of a few punching bursts. Wren lured him into a maze of clinches and wore him down in close quarters. The 28-year-old did his best work in the second round, where he battered Burns with repeated knee strikes against the cage, some to the head and others to the body. Wren fought through fatigue and the residue of a five-year layoff in round three, where he mixed together jabs, leg kicks and power punches on the stationary Burns.
Wren will ride a four-fight winning streak into his next outing.
Coenen Armbar Submits Blencowe
Former Strikeforce champion Marloes Coenen submitted Arlene Blencowe with a second-round armbar in a women’s featherweight showcase. Blencowe (6-5, 1-1 Bellator) tapped 3:23 into round two, just as her left arm bent beyond its bounds.
Coenen (23-6, 2-0 Bellator) deftly managed the distance against the Australian boxer. She executed multiple takedowns and passed guard with ease, waiting for an opportunity to finish it. Coenen struck fore one of those takedowns a little more than two minutes into round two, shifted to side control and eventually locked in the armbar, going belly-down for the tapout.
The 34-year-old Coenen has won seven of her past 10 bouts, losing only to Miesha Tate and Cristiane Justino (twice). The defeat halted a four-fight winning streak for Blencowe.
Prelims: Undefeated Primus Edges Anderson
In preliminary action, Sports Lab export Brent Primus (6-0, 4-0 Bellator) remained unbeaten and eked out a split decision -- 28-29, 29-27, 29-28 -- over Derek Anderson (12-2, 3-2 Bellator) in their three-round undercard battle at 155 pounds; Team Hurricane Awesome’s Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (2-0, 1-0 Bellator) took a split verdict -- 28-29, 29-28, 29-28 -- from Maria Rios (2-3, 0-1 Bellator) in a preliminary women’s flyweight affair; and Jungle Fight veteran Emiliano Sordi (13-5, 1-1 Bellator) retired on his stool in between the first and second rounds of his undercard clash with Blackline MMA’s A.J. Matthews (8-3, 4-2 Bellator) at 185 pounds.
Postlims: McKee KOs Barnes in First
In postliminary action, A.J. McKee (2-0, 1-0 Bellator) knocked out James Barnes (4-1, 0-1 Bellator) 1:42 into the first round of their featherweight tilt; Curtis Millender (8-2, 1-2 Bellator) walked away with a unanimous decision over Steven Ciaccio (4-4, 0-1 Bellator) in a three-round pairing at 170 pounds; Adrienna Jenkins (19-6, 1-1 Bellator) put away Lissette Neri (6-3, 0-1 Bellator) with punches 2:38 into round one of their women’s featherweight tussle; Luc Bondole (5-1-2, 1-1-1 Bellator) seized a unanimous decision against Ray Sloan (8-1, 2-1 Bellator) in a three-round clash at 205 pounds; and Johnny Cisneros (9-4, 1-2 Bellator) captured a unanimous verdict from Gabriel Miglioli (9-8, 0-1 Bellator) in a three-round welterweight affair.