As one of the most accomplished jiu-jitsu players of his generation, the resume of Rafael Lovato Jr. speaks for itself.
Lovato let his skills shine in the Legacy Fighting Championship 54 main event, as he stopped Marcelo Nunes with punches to capture the vacant Legacy middleweight title on Friday at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The 32-year-old Lovato, who has won a number of championships in gi and no-gi competition, added to his collection of hardware with a dominant performance against Nunes. He eventually finished Nunes 4:51 into round two. The two Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts were all over each other from the start, but Lovato’s ground skills proved to be superior.
Nunes could not get his muay Thai going against Lovato, who grounded the younger fighter and nullified his strikes. While the two neutralized each other’s submission attacks, Lovato was always a step ahead. After seeing his counterpart slip out of sever leg lock attempts, Lovato moved to mount at the midway point of the second round and never looked back. From there, he rained down an endless stream of punches that forced Nunes to squirm and shrimp underneath. However, Lovato dug his hips deep, prevented any meaningful movement and continued to punch until referee Kevin Nix stepped in to halt the mugging.
In the co-main event, middleweight contender Andrew Todhunter submitted Evan Thompson with a rear-naked choke 2:28 into the first round. Todhunter improved to 8-0, as he dragged “The Titan” to the ground, quickly seized his back and took the choke. Afterward, Todhunter affirmed his plan to retire from MMA.
Meanwhile, Bilal Williams made quick work of Ed Cline Jr., as he took him out just 21 seconds into their welterweight match. A knee to the face rocked Cline, who then sagged to the canvas against the cage. From there, Williams pounded away with punches until referee Don Turnage had seen enough.
Elsewhere, Logan Cunningham spoiled the pro debut of Kyle Driscoll, as he submitted him with a slick armbar 2:17 into the first round. Driscoll, who had just escaped a standing guillotine, tried to slam Cunningham out of the armbar. However, he kept a tight grip and drew the tapout once he rolled over Driscoll.
Featherweight Justin Rader proved to be too much for Aaron Robinson, who escaped a number of submission attempts in every round but never got his own game in gear. Rader earned a unanimous decision via tallies of 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27.
Finally, Derrick Adkins dominated fellow welterweight Daryl Wilson for every minute of every round, winning a lopsided unanimous decision. Atkins used his excellent wrestling to grind down Wilson, earning marks of 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26.