Jay Hieron (right) won the season 4 Bellator welterweight tournament. | Photo: Keith Mils/Sherdog.com
A 10th consecutive victory came by the narrowest of margins for Jay Hieron.
Hieron took a razor-thin split decision from the previously unbeaten Rick Hawn to win the Bellator Fighting Championships Season 4 welterweight tournament at Bellator 43 on Saturday at the First Council Casino in Newkirk, Okla. Two of the three cageside judges -- Jim Lambert and Gary Ritter -- saw it 29-28 for Hieron. A third, Jason Greenwalt, cast a dissenting 29-28 score in Hawn’s favor.
“I feel awesome,” Hieron said. “Hard work pays off. I live by that. I train my butt off.”
The win gives Hieron a perfect 3-0 mark inside Bellator and secures his shot at the promotion’s reigning welterweight champion, 2008 Olympian Ben Askren.
Though he spent much of the fight circling and backpedaling in the face of a relentlessly advancing Hawn, Hieron countered beautifully throughout the competitive 15-minute affair. He utilized a variety of strikes -- jabs, leg kicks and spinning back kicks among them -- to offset Hawn’s aggression.
Rounds one and three appeared fairly clear cut in terms of scoring, with Hieron taking the first and Hawn capturing the third. Round two was far more difficult to call, as Hawn stalked and landed and Hieron countered as he came forward.
Hawn, a 2004 Olympian in judo, finished the stronger of the two. He wobbled Hieron with a clubbing right hand, met him with a series of stiff left jabs and attacked the legs with opportunistic kicks in the third round. Still, his excellent work was not enough to sway the scorecards fully in his favor.
Baker Pops Riggs, Then Pops Question
A brutal left hook from WEC import Bryan Baker spoiled the promotional debut of Joe Riggs and brought a decisive conclusion to their featured middleweight matchup 3:53 into the second round.
Action was sparse between the two 185-pounders in the first round, outside of some counterpunching from Riggs and two flying knees from Baker. They picked up the pace in round two, as Baker drew the UFC veteran into the clinch, where he softened up Riggs with knees to the body and legs. Ultimately, they separated and exchanged. Baker landed with authority, as he dropped his foe with the left and hovered above him for a few awkward seconds until referee Jason Herzog saw Riggs was in no condition to continue.
“That’s exactly what I was looking for -- to get in, finish and show my greatness,” said Baker, a 25-year-old judo black belt who has won nine of his last 10 fights.
Afterward, Baker dropped to a knee and proposed to his girlfriend. She said yes.
Beebe Guillotine Finishes Vega
Former WEC champion Chase Beebe qualified for the forthcoming Bellator Season 5 bantamweight tournament, as he submitted Jose Vega with a first-round guillotine choke. Vega met his demise 4:06 into round one.
The two bantamweights traded takedowns and spent much of their time engaging one another in the clinch. Beebe tried two standing guillotines earlier in the fight, and Vega freed himself without much of a problem. Later, as they grappled against the cage, Beebe landed another choke, dragged Vega to the ground, arched his hips and finished him there.
“He threw me off,” said Beebe, who has rattled off four consecutive victories. “He was a lot tougher than I
anticipated. I’m just happy I got to finish it.”
Unbeaten Sparks Submits Lucero
Hulking undefeated heavyweight Ron Sparks submitted journeyman Vince Lucero with a first-round keylock in a featured matchup between two beefy big men. The end came 2:18 into round one.
Sparks chopped down Lucero with a series of thudding low kicks, the last of which put the International Fight League veteran on his back. He moved to side control without much resistance, isolated Lucero’s arm and cinched the keylock. His face contorted by visible pain, Lucero surrendered.
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