Soto Submits Reyes, Crowned First Bellator Champion

By Loretta Hunt and Zhanna Popova Jun 6, 2009
ONTARIO, Calif. –- Joe Soto brutalized Yahir Reyes into a rear-naked choke submission 4:11 into the second round Friday at the Citizens Bank Arena, to become Bellator Fighting Championships’ first featherweight tournament champion.

Soto, who dispatched Ben Greer with a first-round technical knockout in April and decisioned Wilson Reis in May en route to the tournament finals, had little trouble with Reyes. Soto (7-0) grounded the Tijuana fighter in seconds, then drilled away on the prone Reyes (14-6) with punches and hammerfists for five grueling minutes.

Soto repeated his ground-and-pound domination in the second round. After referee Jason Herzog showed no signs of stopping the one-side affair, Soto mercifully mounted Reyes’ back and applied the fight-ending choke. Reyes tapped out instantaneously.

“He was covering up a lot, and when somebody covers up that much they’re in danger,” said Soto. “I thought maybe it should have been stopped sooner, but maybe I just wanted to get the belt.”

The 22-year-old Soto took home a total $175,000 in tournament winnings over three events, and will defend his title in the promotion’s second season beginning in September. Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney said a second 145-pound tournament will be launched, with the winner earning a shot at Soto.

Wilson Reis eked out a close split decision over Roberto Vargas, much to the crowd’s disapproval. Reis took two of the judges’ cards with 29-28 scores, while Vargas got the final 29-28 nod. Sherdog scored the bout 29-28 in Vargas’ favor.

Vargas (6-1) had not an ounce of fear against the well-regarded Reis (8-1). By the end of the first round, the local San Bernardino fighter had accomplished three legitimate submission attempts -- two inverted triangle chokes (channeling Toby Imada) and a guillotine choke -- on the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. Reis escaped everything Vargas threw at him, though he couldn’t launch much of his own attack other than two takedowns.

Reis, who was considered the favorite to win Bellator’s featherweight tournament until he was eliminated by Soto a month ago, quickly took Vargas’ back from a takedown in the second round. The fight remained there for half the round, as Reis swapped between conventional hooks and a body triangle to find some traction on the slippery Vargas. Vargas escaped to his feet, where he got the better of the exchanges with the compact Brazilian.

Vargas attempted another standing guillotine in the final round, then kneed Reis as he dropped levels for the takedown, which opened a sizable cut on the crown of Reis’ head. Again, Reis took Vargas’ back, but his opponent reversed into the Brazilian’s guard until the referee re-stood them for final minute.

“The guillotine choke was definitely tight,” said Reis, who felt he deserved the victory.

Zhanna Popova/Sherdog.com

Baker handled Horwich.
Bryan Baker (10-1) took a clear-cut unanimous decision over Matt Horwich (22-13-1) in their featured middleweight bout.

Baker kept his distance and picked his shots as Horwich pushed forward with consistent left and right body kicks. The Team Quest-trained Horwich executed the sole takedown of the round and Baker made the mistake of rising to his knees and exposing his back. Horwich had one hook in immediately, and fought for the second, then maneuvered to an inverted armbar that Baker shook off.

A patient Baker found his range in the second round and landed a hard body punch to Horwich that forced the jiu-jitsu exponent to drop levels for a takedown. Baker maintained control and eventually landed in top position, then wisely beckoned Horwich to his feet again. The pair ate up the rest of the second-round clock in the clinch.

Baker continued to score into the third round with one-twos and the occasional body shot as Horwich pursued. The Oregon fighter didn’t connect with anything of substance to sway the judges though, and Baker was awarded two scores of 30-27 and one 29-28 tally.

“It was a different style for me,” said Baker. “I’m used to chasing and being the aggressor, so it definitely opened up my footwork.”

Diego Garijo (4-1) survived a vicious opening attack from Saad Awad (7-3) to submit his opponent via a rear-naked choke with only 15 seconds left on the first-round clock of their lightweight tilt.

Awad hunted and dropped Garijo two times with an unending onslaught of looping hooks and uppercuts that sliced Garijo’s face open and sent blood flowing down in buckets. Garijo kept swinging back though, regained his footing and found a double-leg on the fence once Awad had petered himself out. Awad had little answer for the submission.

Israel Giron (10-1) submitted Phillip Brown (2-2) with a rear-naked choke at 2:42 into the first round of their lightweight contest. Giron, 35, took the reins with a beautiful hip-toss on the 19-year-old Brown, which set the stage for an exciting scramble on the mat. Giron won the war for position by mounting a standing Brown’s back. Brown crashed Giron to the canvas, but the Mexico City fighter had the choke cinched in tight.

Heavyweight prospect Travis Browne kept his unblemished record intact with a unanimous decision over Mychal Clark (29-28 all). Browne hammered Clark’s body with a succession of knees in both the first and second rounds, and remained aggressive off his back with two armbar attempts when Clark took him to the canvas.

With the first ten minutes in the bag, Browne succumbed to exhaustion in the final set, but Clark couldn’t coax out the stoppage from mount. The 26-year-old Browne mustered enough juice to end the bout in side control.

Jesse Juarez (11-5) earned a unanimous decision over Mikey Gomez (9-7) in a welterweight rematch with a trio of 30-27 scores. Juarez nailed a handful of takedowns during the 15 minutes to tip the scales in his favor. Juarez, who is now 3-0 in the promotion, stopped Gomez with first-round strikes at Bellator 2 in April.

In a light heavyweight bout, Nick Moghaddam (4-3) earned a second-round victory after Lamar Jiles (2-3) was disqualified by referee Mike Beltran for an intentional knee to the downed Brazilian’s head as he knelt. Jiles was easily leading on the scorecards up until the fight-ending blow, as he avoided Mogghaddam’s telegraphed takedown attempts and the Brazilian’s minimal engagement on its feet.
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