Brett Cooper got the W in a thrilling slugfest with Valdir Araujo at Bellator 50. | Photo: Keith Mills
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Brett Cooper might not be one of Florida's fighting favorites, but the middleweight puncher was the unquestioned star of the Bellator 50 undercard at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Fla., earning a thrilling third-round knockout over Valdir Araujo.
Cooper and Araujo came out in a closely contested first round. Both men fought hard, but it seemed as though neither was able to get an upper hand on the other. It seemed for one shining moment that Cooper had the advantage, as he crumbled the Miami resident with a stiff straight right. Cooper swarmed on the native of Bahia, Brazil, but quickly found himself stuck in an armbar. Forced to ease up on his attack, both men continued to deliver action in the first frame.
Now training out of Kings and Reign MMA in Southern California, Cooper came out with a fire in his belly in the second frame, showing a more aggressive side. When the Brazilian caught his leg off of a kick and pushed him into the fence, Cooper continued to work in the clinch, only to release and get caught with a huge haymaker by Araujo, dropping him. Cooper looked to be in trouble, but showed his resilience and scrambled back to position.
“He caught me clean, but the punch really just knocked me over. It didn’t stun me,” Cooper explained to Sherdog.com. “That’s why I was able to scramble quickly and recover to a good position, so it wasn’t much trouble. It was a tough fight, man. The two first rounds were close, but I just had to go in there and get the win.”
The third round began and Araujo looked winded, huffing for air with every move he made. Cooper saw his opening and went in for the kill, but Araujo held on, even as "Fudoshin" landed punch after punch.
"He’s a tough guy. He took a lot of hits to the face and to the head. All that was going through my mind was ‘Keep on him, keep on him,'" said Cooper.
He did exactly that, swarming with violence until Troy Waugh stopped the bout at 35 seconds of the final frame
One of Bellator's most prized recent acquisitions, ESPN "Outside the Lines" feature subject Rad Martinez, showed off superior wrestling and grappling against lightweight Brian van Hoven, easily taking three scores of 30-27 after 15 minutes.
The 24-year-old West Jordan, Utah, native was workmanlike, powering out from van Hoven's guillotine attempts, as well as overcoming a flash knockdown in the third round to get repeated double-legs and slam takedowns. Van Hoven wisely used butterfly hooks to slow Martinez's grappling on top, but couldn't sweep to dominant positions or pry Martinez off of him often enough.
"I am glad I controlled the fight from start to finish and got the decision," Martinez told Sherdog.com after the bout. "When I get in on the legs, I'm looking to pick him up and slam him down hard, every time."
After 15 minutes, it was an easy call to make for judges Hector Gomez, Barry Luxenburg and John Rupert, who gave Martinez the clean sweep on the cards.
With the win, Martinez moves to 10-2 in his career, earning his first win since having his eight-fight winning streak snapped in May by UFC veteran Brian Cobb. The goal for Martinez now might be 10 pounds south of the lightweight division, however.
"I know there's going to be a featherweight tournament next season," said Martinez. "If Bellator feels like I'm good enough to be in there, I'd love to get in there and compete in that tournament."
Miami featherweight Shah Bobonis earned the biggest win of his career, as he knocked out BJJ world silver medalist Marcos "Parrumpinha" da Matta in the third and final round in tharilling, come-from-behind fashion.
Da Matta dominated the opening 10 minutes, locking in armbars and chokes that repeatedly had Bobonis on the defensive. However, the American Top Team standout slowed as a result of his aggressive offense, and entered the third round with a flagging gas tank. He desperately tried for takedowns, but Bobonis punished him for each in the last round. Finally, an exhausted "Parrumpinha" walked straight into a right cross that put him down and out at 2:04 of the third round.
Smooth-grappling Ft. Lauderdale lightweight Marcel Goncalves moved to 3-0 with a textbook armbar submission over American Top Team's Dietter Navarro. Navarro attempted a triangle, was rebuffed, and quickly found himself in a fight-ending armbar at just 2:01 of the very first round.
Ailton Barbosa moved to 10-2 with his sixth straight victory, quickly dominating Gracie Barra Orlando's Ryan Keenan on the floor. Barbosa pulled guard off of a Keenan takedown, sweeping to take his back and immediately threatening for the rear-naked choke. The submission eventually came and the tap followed at just 1:55 of the first round.
ATT welterweight Cristiano Souza remained unbeaten, earning his fifth career win with an entertaining unanimous decision win (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) over Miami firefighter John Kelly. "Soldier" started slow, but after dropping the first frame, his accurate boxing bloodied the nose and mouth of Kelly, and he also sawed into his foe with heavy low kicks. The victory was the first decision over the 26-year-old Souza's career.
Lightweight James Reese, moved to 5-1 by taking out Vicksburg, Miss., native Martin Brown with three 30-27 scorecards. Brown simply had no answer for the dominant wrestling and top position skills of Reese, who got repeated powerful takedowns, and threatened to pass guard and pound throughout the 15 minutes.