Joe Warren willed his way into the history books.
Repeated takedowns, tenacious clinches and a number of knee strikes in close quarters carried Warren to a unanimous decision against Eduardo Dantas, as he unified the Bellator MMA bantamweight championship in the Bellator 128 headliner on Friday at the Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla.
All three cageside judges scored it the same: 48-47 for Warren (12-3, 10-2 Bellator), who entered the cage as interim champion at 135 pounds and walked out as the first Bellator fighter to capture undisputed titles in two different weight classes. A gold medalist in Greco-Roman wrestling at the 2006 Fila Wrestling World Championships, Warren secured takedowns in all five rounds. His approach bottled up Nova Uniao’s Dantas, who spent far too much time playing defense in the closely contested 25-minute unification bout. Warren -- who held Bellator’s featherweight crown from Sept. 2, 2010 until March 9, 2012 -- set the tone with a strong first round, where he staggered the dynamic Brazilian with a knee to the chin before landing the first of his many takedowns.
Dantas (16-4, 6-1 Bellator) did his best work in rounds two and four, sliding to mount in the second and delivering a three-punch combination punctuated by a clean left hook in the fourth. Still, he could not keep Warren at bay. Down the stretch, the 37-year-old won a majority of their exchanges on the ground. Warren executed an illegal kick to the head while the two men were grounded against the cage in the fifth round, as referee “Big” John McCarthy issued a stern warning but elected not to take away a point. That decision cleared what was the final obstacle standing between the self-professed “Baddest Man on the Planet” and a career-defining moment.
Related: Bellator 128 Play-by-Play
Undefeated Page Downs Burrell
Much-talked-about London Shootfighters representative Michael Page kept his perfect professional record intact with a unanimous decision over Nah-Shon Burrell in the welterweight co-main event. Page (7-0, 3-0 Bellator) swept the scorecards with 30-27s across the board, going the distance for the first time in his career.
Burrell (10-5, 1-2 Bellator) relied almost exclusively on clinches, much to the chagrin of those in attendance. His bid to frustrate Page did not bear fruit. The charismatic Englishman landed the more effective strikes throughout the 15-minute bout and also mixed in a second-round takedown. Burrell ducked a spinning kick and executed a takedown of his own late in round three but did no damage from top position, as the man they call “Venom” ultimately returned to his feet without much resistance.
Sarnavskiy Choke Submits Cochrane
Bellator Season 9 lightweight tournament finalist Alexander Sarnavskiy submitted Dakota Cochrane with a first-round rear-naked choke in a featured catchweight tilt at 160 pounds. Cochrane (17-7, 0-1 Bellator) conceded defeat 2:32 into round one.
Sarnavskiy (29-2, 5-2 Bellator) was the aggressor from the outset. The 25-year-old Russian staggered Cochrane with a perfectly timed spinning backfist inside the first 30 seconds and followed it with hard knees to the body from the clinch. Sarnavskiy muzzled Cochrane’s takedowns, created space with his punches and snapped back the Resurrection Fighting Alliance alum’s head with a stiff jab to the nose. A jumping knee then drove the bloodied Cochrane to all-fours and left him vulnerable to the fight-ending choke.
A protégé of former Bellator middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko, Sarnavskiy has won nine of his last 10 bouts.
Sordi Guillotine Finishes McDaniel
Emiliano Sordi submitted “The Ultimate Fighter 17” quarterfinalist Bubba McDaniel with a first-round guillotine choke in a middleweight showcase. Sordi (13-4, 1-0 Bellator) finished it 58 seconds into round one.
McDaniel (23-9, 2-1 Bellator) dove in an attempted single-leg and wandered into the guillotine during a subsequent scramble against. Sordi closed his guard and adjusted his grip, turning McDaniel’s situation from desperate to dire. The tapout followed soon after.
Another promising Nova Uniao product, the 23-year-old Sordi has rattled off four consecutive victories, all of them first-round finishes.
Prelims: Once-Beaten ‘Macapa’ Outduels Cleve
In preliminary action, “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil” Season 1 graduate John Teixeira da Conceicao (17-1-2, 1-0 Bellator) eked out a split decision over Scott Cleve (15-5, 2-2 Bellator) in a three-round featherweight clash; Jason Butcher (8-1, 5-1 Bellator) put away Andreas Michailidis (5-2, 0-1 Bellator) with punches 28 seconds into the second round of their middleweight scrap; Roufusport prospect Emmanuel Sanchez (9-1, 1-0 Bellator) submitted Stephen Banaszak (3-4, 1-2 Bellator) with a rear-naked choke 2:18 into round one of their featherweight duel; Cortez Coleman (11-6, 3-3 Bellator) picked up a unanimous decision over Will Florentino (5-4, 1-1 Bellator) in their welterweight affair, earning 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 marks from the judges; King of the Cage veteran Johnny Cottrell (14-3, 1-0 Bellator) submitted Jonathan Gary (10-6-2, 0-1 Bellator) with a guillotine choke 3:38 into the second round of their lightweight encounter; Brandon Seyler (3-1-1, 1-0 Bellator) submitted Demario Cade (0-1, 0-1 Bellator) with a rear-naked choke 85 seconds into round one of their battle at 125 pounds; Cody Walker (4-2, 1-1 Bellator) knocked out Treston Thomison (8-3, 1-2 Bellator) with a head kick 4:59 into the second round of their featherweight pairing; and Jason Sampson (11-1, 3-0 Bellator) pocketed a unanimous decision in his featherweight duel with Danny Sykora (7-5, 0-1 Bellator).