Alexis Vila knocked Joe Warren out cold before he hit the floor. | Photo: Keith Mills
CANTON, Ohio -- In Bellator 51’s battle of wrestling world champions, it was fists that made the difference inside the Canton Civic Center, where 1996 Olympic Games bronze medalist Alexis Vila knocked Bellator featherweight champion Joe Warren out cold just 64 seconds into the opening round.
Warren, the 2008 Greco-Roman wrestling world champion at 132 pounds, was making his bantamweight debut in MMA after earning the Bellator featherweight title at 145 pounds. On the other hand, Vila, a Cuban defector now based in Miami, carved out most of his 9-0 record entering the fight in the flyweight division, 10 pounds south of the bantamweight limit.
The carnage started with an overhand right just seconds into the bout, as Vila clipped a surging Warren. The rattled Warren turned and retreated, but Vila gave chase, swinging heavy leather. When Warren thought to punch back, Vila landed a crushing left hook that left Warren unconscious before he ever hit the mat. When he did, his head whipped violently off the floor.
Now 10-0, the 40-year-old Vila has had stoppages in nine of his bouts, including six straight knockouts. Warren falls to 7-2 with the loss.
On the other end of the age spectrum, the bantamweight tournament contains several notable prospects but perhaps none quite as interesting as 22-year-old Nova Uniao prodigy Eduardo Dantas, who knocked out Wilson Reis in impressive fashion.
The Philadelphia-based Reis controlled the action early, getting the better of Dantas by bringing the bout to him. However, after Dantas just missed with a knee to start the second round, Reis was stumbling back, moving away to avoid danger. The Brazilian would have none of it, though, and immediately pounced on his opponent. Reis tried to recover and shoot in for a takedown but it played right into Dantas’ game. Just as Reis went down for the takedown, Dantas came in with a devastating jumping knee that knocked the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt out cold.
The powerful finish came 62 seconds into round two, moving Dantas’ career mark to 11-2.
Dantas was not the only successful Nova Uniao representative on the bill, nor even in the bantamweight bracket, as his elder teammate Marcos Galvao turned in an impressive display in taking a deserved split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29) over former WEC champion Chase Beebe.
Fighting for the first time since losing a controversial decision to Joe Warren at Bellator 41 in April, Galvao went out aggressively, leaving nothing to chance in this bout. From the opening bell, Galvao wore Beebe down with his superior jiu-jitsu and did just enough in the striking department to supplement his game, landing wild-but-effective overhand rights.
Beebe valiantly stuck it out, threatening with guillotines in the first round that made the Brazilian sweat. However, Galvao escaped and took top positon, where his grappling proved superior over the 15-minute bout. Although judge Mike Barry had a hard-to-believe 29-28 Beebe scorecard, judges John Beltz and Darren Austin saw it 29-29 for Galvao, now 10-4.
The first man to advance to the semifinals was former Bellator bantamweight tournament runner-up Ed West, who earned a crafty unanimous verdict over another talented young Brazilian in Renovacao Fight Team's Luis Alberto Nogueira.
The Tucson, Ariz., native used every inch of his 5-foot-10 frame to stay outside of Nogueira for most of the 15 minutes. Nogueira repeatedly sought to clinch West along the fence and secure takedowns, but when it did occur, West was able to separate from the cage -- or escape to his feet -- where his wild kick arsenal was on full display.
With the fight close in the third frame, West turned it on with a salvo of kicks and punches. It paid dividends, as judges Mike Barry and Darren Austin saw the bout 29-28, while John Beltz had it 30-27 for West, now 17-5 with the win. West's lone loss in his last 10 was his championship contest with Bellator 135-pound king Zach Makovsky.