Brandon Girtz looked like he had been struck by the claw side of a hammer.
Derek Campos forced a doctor stoppage and took a 2-1 lead in their head-to-head series, as he was awarded a technical knockout in between the second and third rounds of the Bellator 181 headliner on Friday at the Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. Blood was everywhere by the time it was over.
Campos (19-6) withstood wild exchanges and opened a gnarly gash on his rival’s forehead with a knee strike in the first round. The two men did not hold back, authoring one of the more memorable fights of 2017. They staggered each other with power punches in the second round, and during one of the brief respites, referee John McCarthy summoned the cageside physician to examine the cut. Girtz (14-7) was allowed to continue, even as blood poured from the wound and covered his face. In between rounds, McCarthy was advised to stop it.
Related » Bellator 181 Round-by-Round Scoring
In the middleweight co-main event, a surging John Salter submitted “The Ultimate Fighter 3” winner Kendall Grove with a first-round rear-naked choke. Grove (23-17) bowed out 4:37 into Round 1, as the 6-foot-6 Hawaiian suffered his second consecutive defeat.
Salter (14-3) softened his counterpart with leg kicks, ducked under a right hook and delivered a takedown. He then advanced to the back, secured his position and uncorked a series of right hands before snaking his arms into place for the choke. Grove had no choice but to tap.
The 32-year-old Salter has won six fights in a row.
Meanwhile, Emily Ducote moved to 4-1 under the Bellator flag with a unanimous decision over Jessica Middleton in a three-round women’s flyweight showcase. All three judges sided with Ducote (6-2): 29-27, 29-28 and 29-28.
Middleton (2-2) started strong, but failed to maintain momentum. She did her best work in the first round, where she threatened Ducote with a guillotine choke and punished her takedown attempts with hammerfists and elbows to the side of the head. Ducote bounced back over the final two frames, as she scored with takedowns, achieved full mount twice and nearly cinched a rear-naked choke in the closing moments.
Elsewhere, a familiar recipe -- relentless takedowns, suffocating top control and effective ground-and-pound -- carried former two-division Bellator champion Joe Warren to a unanimous decision over Steve Garcia in a featured bantamweight matchup. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 30-27 for Warren (15-6).
Garcia (7-2) had no answers for the onetime NCAA All-American wrestler. Warren, 40, executed takedowns in all three rounds, bottled up the prospect on the canvas and piled up points with short punches and elbows. The self-professed “Baddest Man on the Planet” played it safe and smart, never straying far from his approach. He dodged a kimura attempt from Garcia in the second round and countered his standups by moving to the rear waistlock position and firing knees into his legs.
In other action, Rafael Lovato Jr. submitted Mike Rhodes with a rear-naked choke 1:59 into the first round of their middleweight clash; Valentin Moldavsky took a unanimous decision from Carl Seumanutafa in a three-round heavyweight affair, drawing 30-26, 30-26 and 30-27 scores from the judges; Andre Fialho eked out a split decision -- 28-29, 29-28, 29-28 -- over A.J. Matthews in a three-round welterweight tilt; Logan Storley wiped out Kemmyelle Haley with elbows 1:44 into the first round of their welterweight battle; Romero Cotton was awarded a split decision -- 30-27, 27-30, 29-28 -- against Aaron Rodriguez in a three-round middleweight tussle; and Katy Collins captured a unanimous verdict from Bruna Vargas in a three-round women’s flyweight bout, sweeping the scorecards with 30-27 marks across the board.