Rich Hale (right) weathered D.J. Linderman's early attack at Bellator 42. | Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
Rich Hale capitalized at a most opportune time.
The 25-year-old Arizonan rode a dominant third round to a split decision victory over D.J. Linderman in the Bellator Fighting Championships Season 4 light heavyweight tournament semifinals at Bellator 42 on Saturday at the Lucky Star Casino in Concho, Okla. All three judges scored it 29-28, two of them for Hale, who advanced to the 205-pound championship final.
Linderman pressed the fight for much of the 15-minute encounter. However, Hale -- blessed with a three-inch height and more than seven-inch reach advantage -- countered effectively with kicks to the leg, a pawing jab and occasional power punches. Linderman enjoyed his best stretch in round two, as he knocked down a back pedaling Hale with a spinning back fist, delivered a takedown and landed the more effective strikes.
In round three, Hale’s size advantage came into play. Linderman pinned him to the cage but lost his base and collapsed to his back under the weight his foe. Hale fell into mount, forced Linderman to surrender his back and went to work on the rear-naked choke. Linderman defended well and survived the submission attempts, but he lost the round and ultimately the fight on the scorecards.
Judge Jason Greenwalt saw the bout 29-28 in favor of Linderman. However, judges Nick Atwood and Jim Lambert each scored it 29-28 for the victorious Hale, who improved to 17-3-1.
A lightning strike of a straight right hand followed by a right uppercut wiped out the previously unbeaten Tim Carpenter and left France's Christian M’Pumbu in tears, his seat in the Bellator Season 4 light heavyweight tournament semifinals secure. Carpenter met his demise 2:08 into round one after referee Kevin Nix intervened on his behalf.
M’Pumbu, 33, executed his game plan to perfection. The Paris-based M-1 Challenge veteran peppered Carpenter’s legs with a steady stream of quick kicks from the start. Through those, M’Pumbu slowly drew the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt into a chase and waited for the opening. The right hand doubled over Carpenter in a standing position and left him vulnerable to the finishing uppercut. M’Pumbu delivered it with savage precision. Carpenter briefly protested the stoppage to Nix, to no avail, as M'Pumbu upped his record to 17-3-1, just like the man he will face in the tournament final.
At the post-fight press conference, Bellator officials announced that Hale and M’Pumbu will meet at Bellator 45 on May 21 at the L’Auberge du Lac Casino and Resort in Lake Charles, La.
Elsewhere, British import Ronnie Mann cruised to a unanimous decision at the expense of an overmatched Josh Arocho in a featured 145-pound tilt. All three cageside judges sided with Mann, a 2009 Sengoku Raiden Championship featherweight grand prix quarterfinalist who posted his third win in as many outings.
It was clear from the start that Arocho was in over his head. The 25-year-old Nebraskan scored with an early first-round takedown, only to see Mann sweep into top position with stunning ease. Mann showered him with punches and elbows for more than three minutes, opening a small cut on Arocho’s forehead and damaging both of his eyes.
Rounds two and three followed the same pattern, as Mann stuffed takedowns, sprawled into top position and chipped away at Arocho with punches and elbows. He added submissions to the mix in the third, as he moved into side control and threatened with a keylock, topside inverted triangle and an arm-triangle choke. None of them finished Arocho, but the fight belonged to the Brit.
Judges Nick Atwood and Jason Greenwalt saw the bout 30-27, while Jim Lambert saw it a lopsided 30-25 for Mann, as the 24-year-old upped his MMA mark to 19-2-1.
“He’s a tough lad. He just stayed in there. I just kept doing it for the whole three rounds.” Mann said. “Better beware man; I'm here. I'm here to stay."