Alvarez Subs Neer, Curran Decisions Huerta

By Jack Encarnacao May 6, 2010
BOSTON -- Eddie Alvarez notched a victory over a grizzled UFC veteran as his first title challenger inched closer at Bellator Fighting Championships 17 on Thursday.

Alvarez jumped onto the back of a standing Josh Neer and brought him tumbling to the mat with a lights-out rear-naked choke. With his two spitting-image brothers and his wife cheering wildly at cageside, Alvarez used authoritative takedowns and damaging punches from the mount to keep Neer guessing in the first round. After flexing much of the same game in the second, the Philadelphia product sunk in the choke at 2:08 into the round.

It was only the fourth time Neer has been submitted in a nearly 40-fight career. The bout was non-title and at a 160-pound catch weight.

Alvarez said Neer's pre-fight talk of wanting to avoid a ground battle played games with his head.

"It started to make me think maybe he's going to try to take me down and lay on me," said Alvarez. "I thought maybe he was trying to play head games.”

The field for Alvarez’s next title challenge was narrowed to two earlier in the night, as Pat Curran and Toby Imada notched victories that will pit them against each other in the 155-pound tournament finals. The winner gets a title shot against Alvarez.

Curran scored an upset decision over Roger Huerta, landing hard body kicks and right hands that stifled Huerta, who had resorted to uninspired shots and some bomb-throwing by the third round.

Huerta, thought to be the most expensive acquisition in Bellator history, was a candidate for the highest-profile fight the promotion could currently muster against Alvarez. No more, as all three judges awarded the fight 29-28 to an ecstatic Curran.

"Pat fought a good fight," said Huerta at the post-fight press conference. "I guess I started out pretty flat, I don't know, I just started out slow and he capitalized on it. It's my fault for leaving it to the judges, especially with a new commission out here.”

Imada overcame a first-round deficit from capable wrestler Carey Vanier to lure his opponent into a grappling skirmish in the second. Imada transitioned from a kneebar attempt to a rear-naked choke attempt and then to an armbar that drew the tapout at 3:33 of the third round as Vanier struggled to adjust position. Imada apologized for holding the lock too long, though Vanier seemed to come out with his arm intact.

The card also saw the third MMA victory by two-time NCAA national wrestling champion Cole Konrad, a heavyweight who trains with Brock Lesnar. Konrad, who will compete in Bellator’s season three heavyweight tournament this fall, used his smothering top control to punish Pat Bennett, though fatigued noticeably down the stretch. Konrad earned 30-26, 29-28 and 30-27 scores.

“Obviously I still have a long ways to go with my game," said Konrad. "A lot of things I got to work on. I'm excited to get in there and work on it. You can only learn so much in practice. It's when you get out there and all the eyes are watching. I learned a lot about myself and about the fight game in general.”

The event took place before 1,036 fans at the Citi Performing Arts Center/Wang Theatre near downtown Boston. Like Bellator’s event at the Chicago Theatre, the cage was situated on a stage with spectators on one side and a curtain and press row on the other. It was the first televised MMA event overseen by the recently-formed athletic commission in Massachusetts.

In Other Bouts:

Greg Rebello def. John Doyle -- Unanimous Decision (30-27 all)
Justin Torrey def. Lance Everson -- TKO (Strikes) 3:55 R2
Josh LaBerge def. Dan Bonnell --TKO (Strikes) 0:48 R1
Chuck O'Neil def. Damian Vitale --TKO (Cut) 1:02 R3
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