Phil Davis is now officially Bellator MMA’s light heavyweight No. 1 contender.
The 13-time UFC veteran took a unanimous decision over former Strikeforce titlist Muhammed Lawal in the Bellator 154 headliner at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday night, setting up a future showdown with reigning 205-pound king Liam McGeary. The scorecards did not quite reflect how close the bout really was: Two judges submitted 30-27 scorecards for Davis, while a third saw it 29-28, also for “Mr. Wonderful.”
The first two rounds were especially hard to score. Lawal picked his spots with power punches, relying on his left hook and right hand while also digging to the body when the opportunity presented itself. Meanwhile, the taller Davis’ offense consisted primarily of a variety of kicks. Overall, it appeared that Lawal landed the more powerful shots through 10 minutes.
However, Davis authored the most significant moment of the fight in the third stanza with he staggered “King Mo” with a short right hand and uppercut and then drove his dazed foe to the canvas. The Alliance MMA product then moved to side control and threatened with a kimura and an armbar before Lawal could escape to his feet. Neither man was able to land anything significant in the bout’s waning moments.
“Once I got to it I was like, ‘For sure you’ve got this. Relax, take your time,’” Davis said of the kimura. “I should’ve had a little more urgency to get it in there nice and tight.”
Davis has won three straight since signing with Bellator, while Lawal saw a seven-fight winning streak come to an end.
In the co-main event, Evangelista Santos went to the leg-lock well once again, and Saad Awad made him pay. After submitting Brennan Ward in 30 seconds with a heel hook in his promotional debut last month, “Cyborg” tried a similar approach against Awad. However, Awad defended himself well and eventually found himself in a position to unleash a significant amount of punishment on his opponent.
With Santos (21-17, 1-1 Bellator) clinging to a leg, Awad (19-7, 7-3 Bellator) landed a barrage of unanswered punches and hammerfists on the mat. Awad eventually bloodied his foe with the assault and “Cyborg” finally gave up on the leg lock. By then, it was too late. More hammerfists and elbows followed and referee Jason Herzog mercifully stepped in and called the bout 4:31 into round one.
Awad has won four of his last five in Bellator, while Santos saw a two-bout winning streak come to an end.
Elsewhere, Adam Piccolotti dominated short-notice foe Ray Wood on the canvas en route to a first-round submission triumph in a lightweight encounter. The 27-year-old Californian forced his opponent to tap out with a rear-naked choke at the 3:17 mark of round one. Piccolotti (8-0, 4-0 Bellator) has finished three of his four Bellator foes via submission.
Wood (7-2, 1-1 Bellator) landed a head kick in an early exchange, but that would be his only significant offense of the evening. When Wood followed with a low kick, Piccolotti caught it and dumped his man on the canvas. From there, the American Kickboxing Academy product took his foe’s back, moved to full mount and then took Wood’s back again before locking in the fight-ending maneuver when Wood attempted to return to his feet.
Wood was a replacement for the late Jordan Parsons, who died earlier this month due to injuries suffered in a hit-and-run accident in Delray Beach, Fla.
“I was definitely thinking about it,” Piccolotti said. “I want to say rest in peace Jordan, much respect and condolences to his family and his loved ones.”
Andre Fialho’s first-round knockout streak continued in his second Bellator outing, as he overwhelmed Rick Reger in a featured welterweight tilt. Fialho stunned his opponent with a pair of left hooks to the head, followed up with a stiff right hand and put Reger’s lights out with an uppercut 2:11 into round one. Fialho landed one final hammerfist on the mat before referee Ed Collantes could intervene.
The matchup was never competitive. Fialho (7-0, 2-0 Bellator), who has finished six of his seven wins inside of a round, kept Reger on the defensive throughout the short-lived contest with his superior reach. The Portugal native rocked Reger (7-2, 0-1 Bellator) repeatedly with stiff straight punches before unleashing the decisive final flurry.
In other action: Josh San Diego (7-1, 2-0 Bellator) garnered a unanimous verdict (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) over Jeremiah Labiano (9-5, 1-1 Bellator) at bantamweight; Sam Spengler (9-5, 1-0 Bellator) took a unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27) against Doyle Childs (2-2, 0-1 Bellator) at welterweight; JD Hardwick rendered Jorge Acosta unconscious with a guillotine choke 1:21 into round one of their 160-pound catch-weight affair; Jamielene Nievara (1-0, 1-0 Bellator) finished Stephanie Frausto (5-5, 0-1 Bellator) with a barrage of ground-and-pound at the 2:43 mark of round three at strawweight and Mark Dickman (11-2, 1-0 Bellator) defeated Ousmane Thomas Diagne (5-6-1, 0-2-1 Bellator) via technical knockout 3:05 into the third round of their featherweight clash.