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Bellator Featherweight Title Fight:
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Brian Moore (135.8) vs. Jordan Winski (134.7)
Round 1In the opening fight of the card, we have a solid, competitive match-up, as Bellator veteran Brian "The Pikeman" Moore (13-7), who actually fought tonight's main-eventer AJ McKee back at Bellator 187, faces tough newcomer Jordan Winski (11-2), who has wins over two UFC veterans, Andre Ewell and Terrion Ware. The oddsmakers have this one dead even. Overseeing the bout will be former top welterweight and current referee Frank Trigg. Moore starts the fight back up his opponent and landing a nice jab against the cage. Oddly, Moore decides to clinch against the fence, which Winski defends well against. Moore lands a few knees to the body, but nothing significant. Winski throws a few knees of his own, but they're largely in a stalemate, despite Moore's double underhooks. Referee Trigg is taking a close look, and then warns the pair for inactivity with about 3 and a half minutes left in the round. Moore has double underhooks but isn't even looking for any takedown. Finally, with 3 minutes left in the round, Trigg separates and restarts them. Winski throws a 1-2 coming forward, but Moore dodges it well. Moore scores a nice leg kick, and then both men trade punches. Winski gets off the cage and lands a hard leg kick of his own in the center of the cage. Both men are cautious with their jabs. Moore counters Winski with a short right hook coming forward, adn not long after, Winski returns the favor. Moore then goes back to the jab, and it's more effective than Winski's, but Winski partially lands a neat short right behind the ear that backs Moore up. With Winksi leaning, Moore catches him unawares with a neat right cross. Winski soon retaliates with a right cross of his own. This is a very entertaining, even striking contest. Moore goes back to work, partially landing a straight right and then a leg kick, with Winksi connecting on a jab. Very close, fun round, but Moore edged it out. 10-9 Moore.
Round 2Winski comes out aggressive, again throwing a right cross, but Moore retreats well. Moore lands a hard calf kick, and for the second time, Winski counters with a jab rather than a cross. Moore lands a neat punch combination punctuated by another very hard leg kick. Suddenly, Winski is limping badly, and he shoots for a desperation takedown. Moore easily stuffs it and pushes Winksi onto his own back. Moore postures up, but Winski doesn't take an opportunity to scramble up, perhaps favoring his calf too much. Moore lands a few hard, repeated right hands before Winski ties him up again. Moore advances to half-guard and lands a few short forearms, but nothing significant. Halfway through the round, the fight has suddenly become all Brian Moore. Winski is against the fence, but again, doesn't look to wall-walk. Moore postures up and this time lands some hard elbows. Winski is purely passive right now. Moore continues landing elbows at a workmanlike pace while thoroughly controlling his opponent, limiting his movement. Moore lands some solid left hands to the head, made worse by Winski's head being pinned right against the cage. Moore hammers away with elbows and punches, none hard enough to finish the fight, but plenty of them significant. The round ends with Moore completely in control. 10-9 Moore.
Round 3Winski comes to the center of the cage tentatively. Moore cracks him with another vicious calf kick and Winski limps badly on his right leg. Moore then connects with a solid right cross, and not long after, he tags him again. Winski looks slow and out of sorts with how badly his legs are messed up, while Moore continues to pick him apart. Moore is circling nicely, and looking for his spots, repeatedly pummeling Winski with a series of right crosses. Winski's own attempts are now too slow, not able to push off the right foot well. Winski is game, though, and with Moore getting a little too confident, Winski lands two right crosses. Moore comes back with a nice right cross, and then lands a neat 3-punch combination. He then remembers his kicks, landing another hard one to the calf. Everything is working now for Moore, who lands a hard jab, too. Winski is tough in coming forward, but Moore retreats, and is faster, since neither of his legs are compromised. Winski is limping very badly now, and Moore keeps pelting him, alternating jabs with crosses. They're all landing flush, but Winski has a chin on him. Winski throws a few weak, pawing jabs, and gets countered with an uppercut by Moore. It's strange that Moore hasn't targeted the calf even more after his opponent was so badly compromised early in the round. Both men exchange in the center, and Moore lands another hard right cross. Good, impressive performance by Brian Moore, but he might have gotten a finish with a few different tactical decisions. 10-9 Moore (30-27 Moore)
The Official ResultBrian Moore def. Jordan Winski via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)
Georgi Karakhanyan (155.6) vs. Kiefer Crosbie (155.9)
Round 1Coming up next, we have a main card caliber fight for any promotion, when long-time top Bellator contender Georgi Karakhanyan (30-11-1), who has fought both of tonight's main-eventers in the past, takes on Irishman Kiefer Crosbie (8-2), a fixture of Bellator's European cards. Keeping them honest will be referee Jason Herzog. Karakhanyan begins the fight with a nice, fast calf kick. Crosbie tries to counter with one of his own, but only partially connects. He does, however, throw a neat combo, first going for another calf kick but then connecting upstairs with a sudden straight punch. Oddly, Crosbie decides to grapple now, pushing Karakhanyan against the fence. Crosbie goes for a short elbow, but Karakhanyan ducks at the right time. As Karakhanyan gets ready to spin off the cage, Crosbie holds onto his waist and pushes him back. Crosbie then scores on a nice short elbow that gets the veteran Karakhanyan's attention. They now trade a few knee strikes, including to one another's legs. Karakhanyan manages to turn Crosbie around for a while, but does nothing against it. Crosbie turns Karakhanyan back around, and when Karakhanyan goes for a knee, Crosbie gets a nifty outside trip takedown. With Karakhanyan being a little reckless in getting up, Crosbie takes the back with both hooks in and is looking for the RNC. Karakhanyan is wily, however, and lets Crosbie get too high before suddenly shaking his opponent off, ending up on top! Very nicely done by the veteran. Crosbie is now blatantly grabbing the cage to get up, and Jason Herzog warns him. Suddenly, with Crosbie being a little lackadaisical, Karakhanyan expertly steps over for an arm triangle attempt. It's very tight, and while Crosbie tries to gut it out and get out of the side, he cannot. With his face turning various shades of purple, he has no choice but to tap out. A fine victory for Karakhanyan in front of his hometown LA crowd.
The Official ResultGeorgi Karakhanyan def. Kiefer Crosbie via Submission (Arm-Triangle Choke) at 4:25 of Round 1
Joshua Jones (179.6) vs. Johnny Cisneros (179.2)
Round 1Moving up the card, we have an old-fashioned slugfest brewing between Johnny Cisneros (13-7), nicknamed the "Tattooed Terror", and Joshua Jones (10-5), two men who throw caution to the wind. Keeping a keen eye throughout will be referee Michael Beltran. The two men waste no time, throwing power punches, although nothing lands. Jones lands two early left hands, and Cisneros wisely clinches along the fence, getting a takedown. Cisneros pounds away with left punches to a downed Jones, and then adds some more as he wall-walks back up. Jones does get back to his feet though, and they switch to grappling. Cisneros tries to pick up and slam Jones, but is unsuccessful. Jones works a kimura grip, but has to give it up. Jones lands several hard knees to the body on the inside, and uses it to get back at range. Cisneros lands a solid leg kick, but Jones then hits a hard uppercut that hurts Cisneros. Cisneros then lands another hard leg kick that knocks Jones off his feet. Jones gets back up and gains respect with a punch. Suddenly, it's Jones who is grappling, getting a nice trip against Cisneros. In side-control, Jones is mauling Cisneros, repeatedly bashing him with big forearms and punches, which Cisneros is doing little to defend. Cisneros is in pure defense mode, getting beaten up with punches and forearms he is simply eating. Finally, Cisneros moves to his knees, but Jones laces his legs through the opponent's, and with one hook, hammers away with more punches, now from behind. Jones is thinking about a RNC, but soon gets back to striking. Jones moves around and goes to mount, with no resistance from Cisneros. Jones blasts Cisneros with more forearms and punches. As the round ends, Jones lands a series of Mongolian chops, a la Sakuraba. Very entertaining stanza. 10-8 Jones.
Round 2The 41 year-old Cisneros looks tired to begin the second, but he is as game as ever, landing a hard leg kick. Jones retaliates with a left cross. Jones is feeling himself, throwing a spinning back kick, although it misses. As Cisneros wades forward, Jones changes levels for a blast double-leg that gets Cisneros on his back again. He again quickly moves to side control, landing some nice punches. Jones briefly spins around to the back, and as Cisneros moves, pushes him against the fence again. Normally that's not ideal, but Cisneros has shown no ability to wall-walk. Jones continues the punishment from round 1, pelting Cisneros with punches and forearms as referee Mike Beltran is taking a close look. Jones briefly thinks about a kimura, but then goes back to strikes. Suddenly, Cisneros musters his remaining energy and scrambles back up to his feet. It's not for long, though, as Jones works to break his base and eventually gets him back to the canvas, although Cisneros is seated now. Not for long, though, as Jones pushes him down and blasts him with punches, alternating rights and lefts, for good measure. Jones is smart, not only head-hunting, but frequently going to the body, too. Jones is confident enough to posture all the way up and throw a devastating series of punches. Cisneros tries to get out, but gets caught in a wrestling ride, and Jones hits a bunch of short, hard hammerfists behind the ear. Referee Mike Beltran has seen enough, putting a halt to the sustained beating. A nice win for Joshua Jones.
The Official ResultJoshua Jones def. Johnny Cisneros via TKO (Punches) at 4:15 of Round 2
Khasan Magomedsharipov (144.6) vs. Jonathan Quiroz (146)
Round 1Khasan Magomedsharipov (5-0) is a highly intriguing prospect, as the 20 year-old Dagestani is not only Zabit's younger brother, who he bears a striking facial resemblance to, but is also a massively tall featherweight, standing 5'11". He is also a prohibitive -1200 favorite against Jonathan Quiroz (3-4). Referee Blake Grice gets the assignment. Magomedsharipov gets the first strike with an inside leg kick. Quiroz goes for a sudden Imanari roll which elicits excitement, but is utterly unsuccessful. Meanwhile, Magomedsharipov lands another hard inside leg kick. Quiroz clinches, but gets pushed off to his knees by the Dagestani native. He eventually goes back to the clinch, and Magomedsharipov pushes him against the fence. It's a 50/50 position, meaning each man has an underhook apiece. Quiroz is game, and even turns Magomedsharipov around against the fence. Blake Grice temporarily halts the action, as Magomedsharipov lands a knee a little low, although replays appear to show that it landed firmly on the leg. Some possible play-acting by Quiroz here. They restart in the clinch, and Magomedsharipov immediately turns Quiroz around. Blake Grice warns the pair for a lack of activity. Magomedsharipov listens, and scores on a neat inside trip with Quiroz slamming to the canvas thunderously. Quiroz goes for a weird, loose body triangle guard. Magomedsharipov is trying to posture up, and throws a few short punches on occasion. Referee Grice is making himself a part of the fight as he continually warns Magomedsharipov he will be stood up if he doesn't work. The Dagestani is working, landing the occasional short punch to the head or body, although none of it is hard. With a minute left, Blake Grice stands them up, which I believe is premature. Magomedsharipov bounces on his feet well, and lands a side-kick. He is fighting calmly, and when Quiroz goes for a leg kick, Magomedsharipov counters him with an overhand right that puts Quiroz on his butt, more from a lack of balance. Quiroz stays on the ground, butt-scooting forward, as they reach a stalemate. Quiroz goes for another Imanari roll as the round ends, and Magomedsharipov blasts him with punches until the bell rings a few seconds later. 10-9 Magomedsharipov.
Round 2Magomedsharipov continues to show a nice sense of distance, not allowing Quiroz to touch him with his attempts at kicks and punches early. Magomedsharipov catches Quiroz with a short right hand coming forward, and they clinch again, with Magomedsharipov pushing Quiroz against the cage. He has double underhooks now, looking for the takedown. Eventually he gets to the side and lifts, slamming Quiroz hard to the canvas. This time, he spins around to get a wrestling ride, landing some solid punches. He gets a hook in while simultaneously maintaining wrist control. With Quiroz tied up, Magomedsharipov starts throwing a few punches, but none are especially hard. Magomedsharipov starts going for the back, but then decides to go back for the wrestling ride, landing some more right hands, these being more significant. Eventually, Magomedsharipov takes the back, albeit without hooks, and lands short punches and a few solid hammerfists behind the ear. Quiroz is in pure defense mode, simply holding onto Magomedsharipov's wrists. That doesn't last for long, as Magomedsharipov gets out and continues inflicting ground-and-pound. Quiroz gets on his knees to the cage, but simply gets blasted with more punches, these harder yet. With a minute left, Magomedsharipov finally gets both hooks in, firmly taking the back. Quiroz has his face buried into the canvas now, and Magomedsharipov unloads with punches to the side of the head. With no attempt by Quiroz to even get out, Blake Grice steps in to stop the contest. Very impressive outing for the younger Magomedsharipov, who is only 20 years old. His older brother Zabit, wearing a Bellator shirt, hugs him to celebrate.
The Official ResultKhasan Magomedsharipov def. Jonathan Quiroz via TKO (Punches) at 4:21 of Round 2
Gadzhi Rabadanov (149) vs. Daniel Carey (149.1)
Round 1In a 150 pound catchweight affair, it's a battle of grapplers when Russia's Gadzhi Rabadonov (15-4-2) meets Daniel Carey (7-4). Rabadonov is a big favorite, but Carey is no stranger to playing spoiler, having choked out Gaston Bolanos as a +800 underdog. Working this bout will again be the venerable Frank Trigg. Interestingly, Khabib Nurmagomedov is in Rabadonov's corner, also sporting a black Bellator shirt. The two men touch gloves and start out warily. Rabadonov scores first with a leg kick. A head kick by Carey is blocked. Rabadonov goes for another leg kick, but this one is blocked. Rabadonov tries a 1-2 and Carey just barely gets out of the way. Carey is very cautious in coming forward, as Rabadonov bounces on the balls of his feet. He very nearly stuns Carey with a right cross, barely missing. Carey lands his first strike with a front kick that is partially blocked. Carey goes back to his kicks, and lands a nice, solid roundhouse body kick. He continues kicking, partially scoring with one to the legs. Rabadonov starts punching, and now touches Carey with a couple of right cross connects. An ill-advised leg kick result in Rabadonov landing a 1-2, this time more solidly. Carey goes upstairs with a head kick, but it's blocked, and Rabadonov is now countering more quickly. He lands a right cross and this one hurts Carey now. Carey is now thinking more defensively, and Rabadonov throws another 1-2, with the 2 landing well. He is finding the distance more and more now. Carey throws a few kicks, but the last one was a horrible idea, as Rabadonov uncorks a vicious left hook counter that lands beautifully on the chin completely shutting Carey's lights out. Fantastic knockout, and Rabadonov is definitely a fighter to watch.
The Official ResultGadzhi Rabadonov def. Daniel Carey via KO (Punch) at 3:57 of Round 1
Vanessa Porto (125.6) vs. Ilara Joanne (125.2)
Round 1Finishing the prelims, we have an important match in Bellator women's flyweight division, as Vanessa Porto (22-9), who had left Invicta as its flyweight champion before losing a close match to Liz Carmouche in her Bellator debut, takes on fellow Brazilian, the highly eccentric Ilara "Arya Stark" Joanne. Reffing this one will again be Jason Herzog. Joanne starts actively, partially landing with a 1-2, and then following it up with another right hand that slightly stumbles Porto. Joanne is being aggressive as they exchange punches and kicks, and is getting the best of these. Joanne goes for a series of punches that barely miss but she gets the Thai plum, and lands several hard knees. Joanne follows it up with an overhand right that lands. Joanne keeps going into the pocket, exchanging heavy leather, and she is simply faster than Porto. She then lands a flush 1-2. Joanne is now beating Porto to the punch consistently, with a nice straight right to the body. The pace slows a little 2 minutes into the stanza, but not for long, as Joanne goes forward with kicks, and later lands another 1-2. Porto finally gets some revenge with a straight left that snaps Joanne's head back. They exchange more punches and Porto gets another solid straight punch through. Joanne is undetterred, and throws a hard head kick that partially gets through. Porto is clearly hoping that Joanne's pace will slow, as Joanne lands a leg kick and continues energetically circling out of the power. Joanne lands a question mark kick to the head, and giving her fellow Brazilian no chance to rest, throws a series of 2-3s, a right cross followed by a left hook, with the left hooks consistently finding the mark. Porto goes forward, but gets hit with a leg kick as she steps forward, while Joanne circles away. As the round ends, Joanne throws another 3 punch combination. Porto clinches, but it's Joanne who ends up on top. "Arya Stark" is looking incredible, vastly improved since her last fight in Bellator in 2019. 10-9 Joanne.
Round 2Porto goes for a tentative leg kick, and Joanne instantly fires off a 2-punch combination that Porto barely blocks. Porto lands another leg kick, not discouraged. She barely blocks another overhand right. Joanne now goes to the 3-2 and then lands a jab. However, Porto is game and connects on a clean right cross that snaps Joanne's head back, her best connect of the round. Porto continues, with a nice leg kick. Joanne looks a little tired, although she continues to throw energetically, though most of it only connects with Porto's gloves. Joanne does hit a 1-2 that partially gets through. A while later she lands a front kick and then a leg kick. Porto clinches, however, and she manages to get a takedown. Joanne tries for a guillotine, but is in a poor position to attempt it. Nevertheless, she holds on to it, which will only serve to gas out her right arm. Sure enough, Porto gets out soon after. Porto has Joanne pushed up against the fence, with Joanne inexplicably holding on to a closed full guard. Porto takes the opportunity to land a few short punches to the head and then the body. Porto postures up for a few more blows, but then goes back to the clinch, lifting Joanne up for a slam. This time, however, Joanne has a much tighter guillotine. She cranks on it for all she's worth even as she is put down. Porto is in trouble, but she grits it out, and Joanne is likely tired. Porto connects on a few forearms as time expires. A nice comeback round for the former Invicta champion. It's anyone's fight going into the final round. 10-9 Porto.
Round 3Joanne starts out actively to begin the stanza, though her blows much slower. Still, she lands a jab, followed by a a nice overhand right, and then a couple of leg kicks, as Porto looks even more tired and slow. They have been fighting at a breakneck pace thus far, so it's no surprise that both are feeling winded at this point. Joanne fights through, however, firing off body and head kicks, though they're all blocked by the cagey Porto. Porto finally goes for a leg kick of her own, but it misses by a good foot, as Joanne circles away. Joanne tries for a spinning backfist, and it's not the best idea, giving Porto a chance to clinch and push Joanne against the cage. Porto goes for a single-leg, lifts it up, and pushes Joanne down. However, Joanne isn't done, scrambling back up. Porto continues grappling, however, and eventually gets the trip. Suddenly, from losing the round, Porto is now in a prime position to win. Joanne keeps a closed full guard on, not even attempting to get up. She eventually angles for an armbar, but Porto is too good and experienced, and sniffs it out, giving her no space for the technique. Joanne is forced to bail and Porto remains on top. With 80 seconds left, Herzog stands them up. I can't argue with that, as Porto had done absolutely nothing from the top. Joanne throws a series of 3-2s, but they're just out of range. Porto can do nothing except put her arms up and block. Joanne lands a few leg kicks, and then partially lands a left hook. Suddenly, Porto summons her remaining energy and gets a double-leg lift and slam against Joanne. Joanne tries to spin out, but Porto uses the opportunity to take her back and lock in a deep rear-naked choke. She doesn't quite have it, though, and with only 8 seconds remaining, Joanne survives. A close round overall, but I have to give it to Porto because of the very, very end. 10-9 Porto (29-28 Porto)
The Official ResultVanessa Porto def. Ilara Joanne via Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Goiti Yamauchi (155.5) vs. Christopher Gonzalez (155)
Round 1Kicking off the main card, tremendously skilled grappler Goiti Yamauchi (25-5) faces undefeated prospect Chris Gonzalez (6-0) in a 160 pound catchweight bout. To my surprise, Yamauchi is only a small favorite, but it's undeniable Gonzalez has looked stellar in his Bellator career so far. Referee Michael Beltran will keep a close eye on the proceedings. Yamauchi takes the fight slow, backing Gonzalez close to the cage. Gonzalez scores first with, what else? A leg kick. Gonzalez is throwing punches, none of which land, but gain him some distance, and he scores again on a leg kick. Another left cross by Gonzalez forces Yamauchi to retreat backwards. Gonzalez is circling well along the cage, and he partially connects on another left cross. Yamauchi throws a head kick, but Gonzalez blocks it well. The two begin exchanging leg kicks, with Yamauchi getting slightly the better of it. Yamauchi goes for a wild jumping knee that misses, and Gonzalez partially lands with a nice overhand right. Gonzalez continues moving well and lands a thudding body kick. Yamauchi tries a clinch but the wrestler Gonzalez gets off. Yamauchi starts punching in the clinch, with clean, crisp shots, but Gonzalez covers up well and gains respect with a solid overhand right connect. Yamauchi comes forward, and agian Gonzalez forces him back with another overhand right. However, Yamauchi isn't deterred, and he comes forward, and begins scoring with solid punches in the pocket. Gonzalez is a little out of sorts, now stumbling backwards a little, as Yamauchi comes forward undeterred, like a Terminator. Yamauchi unfurls another crisp, textbook combination and Gonzalez is now going backwards. Suddenly, Yamauchi stuns Gonzalez with a neat right cross, clips him with a left hook, and then floors him with another heavy right cross. After some follow-up strikes to the downed Gonzalez, referee Michael Beltran has no choice but to stop it. Very, very impressive performance by a fighter best known for his outstanding submissions, showing good striking.
The Official ResultGoiti Yamauchi def. Christopher Gonzalez via KO (Punches) at 3:53 of Round 1
Brent Primus (155.2) vs. Islam Mamedov (154.9)
Round 1Next up, former Bellator lightweight champion Brent Primus (10-1), who owns a victory over Michael Chandler and whose only loss was to Chandler in the rematch, faces another top Dagestani mixed martial artist in Islam Mamedov (19-1-1), who compiled a perfect 8-0-1 record across WSOF and PFL, and hasn't lost since his second pro fight back in 2009. This promises to be a hell of a fight, and referee Blake Grice will have the best vantage point. They start cautiously, but Mamedov gets the first connect with the same blow as almost every other first connect tonight, a leg kick. Primus cautiously throws out a jab, but it's out of range. Mamedov goes for one of his own, but Primus is just out of range. Primus suddenly comes forward and partially stuns Mamedov with a punch, causing the Dagestani to stumble away. They continue being patient, and soon trade body kicks that are largely blocked. Mamedov throws a 1-2 and the right cross partially gets through. Primus is aggressive, scoring with an overhand right that gets Mamedov's attention. Mamedov decides that he's had enough of the striking, and he clinches with Primus. Primus is up to the challenge, however, and turns Mamedov around. Despite this, Mamedov suddenly gets tremendous torque and gets Primus down on a twisting takedown. Primus immediately attacks with a omoplata that draws excitement from the audience, but Mamedov flings him off. Primus soon attacks with the move again, but Mamedov defends well and lands a solid right punch to the head for good measure. They continue furiously grappling against the fence, with Primus getting his left foot around the neck, looking for the same technique. Mamedov has trained for this, though, and keeps getting his arm out. Mamedov's offense from the top, however, is limited, as he is too concerned with defending Primus' attempts. The round ends with Primus continuing to hold on to a rubber guard. Very close round, but Primus inflicted more damage overall. 10-9 Primus.
Round 2They continue cautiously. Mamedov throws a few very tentative kicks, but they barely land. He suddenly goes for a jumping knee, but it's off the mark, and Primus decides to clinch. Mamedov hits a beautiful harai goshi, but Primus rolls through and gets back up to his feet. It's now Primus pushing Mamedov into the cage, with double underhooks. Mamedov has a good whizzer though, and the position has stalled with almost 2 minutes having gone by in the stanza. Both men throw a few half-hearted knees in the clinch, but nothing significant. Primus lands a nice forearm. Suddenly, Mamedov notices an opportunity, and he connects on a gorgeous uchi mata. Great judo on display here! Primus attacks soon after being taken down, again going for that omoplata. Mamedov is a little more active, throwing punches from the top, although none have much heft to them. Primus keeps going for that omoplatta, showing great flexibility, but Mamedov is just too good of a grappler to be subbed from the guard. Primus continues attacking it though, and Mamedov stands up with Primus draped around his arm. It's all for naught though, as Mamedov returns him to the canvas. Primus is now holding on to a kimura, and while that exposes his body, Mamedov doesn't take advantage to throw strikes. The final seconds of the round tick away. Very difficult round to score, as Mamedov again did so little with top position, but Primus didn't do much either, and none of his submission attempts were close. 10-9 Mamedov.
Round 3Primus throws a head kick and Mamedov simultaneously throws a leg kick, knocking him off his feet. Mamedov instantly jumps on top and we're right back where we started. Primus immediately goes for the omoplata and Mamedov lifts him up, carrying him to the fence. Mamedov is a little more active now, landing a few punches to the body. Primus goes for another omoplata, but Mamedov easily wrenches his arm out. Primus now looks for the kimura, possibly looking for the sweep, but Mamedov smartly stands up to counter it. Mamedov throws a few punches from the top, but they're half-hearted and weak, as referee Blake Grice warns them for inactivity. Primus is a little tired, as he is no longer attacking with submissions, either. With about two minutes left, Mamedov advances to half-guard, which is a nice change of pace. He hand-fights with Primus, but there is little of consequence being landed by either man, and Mamedov stays in half-guard. Eventually, Mamedov goes back to full-guard, and Primus again attacks with an omoplata. This one is a little better, as he is able to switch to an armbar. Mamedov has ice water in his veins, though, carefully and patiently getting his arm out and then going back to top position. Mamedov lands a few strikes from the top as the round ends. Another dreadfully difficult round to score, and there is even an argument for 10-10. Ultimately though, I do think Mamedov did a little damage with the kick at the beginning and some GNP, which outweights one good sub attempt by Primus. 10-9 Mamedov (29-28 Mamedov)
The Official ResultIslam Mamedov def. Brent Primus via Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Usman Nurmagomedov (155.3) vs. Luis Muro (156)
Round 1In another fight featuring a young, undefeated prospect with a more famous relative in MMA, 23 year-old Usman Nurmagomedov (12-0), already having impressed in his Bellator debut, is an absurd favorite, up to -1500 on some books, against Manny "The Dragon" Muro (12-6). However, Muro is no stranger to playing spoiler, having defeated Nick Newell as a +600 underdog before defeating UFC veteran Devin Powell as a +250 underdog, his last two outings. Seeing if he can pull his biggest upset yet will be Frank Trigg. Nurmagomedov goes for a front kick; Muro catches it, and tries a 1-2 in response, but Nurmagomedov gets out of range in time. Nurmagomedov scores with a solid body kick and barely gets away from the Muro punch that follows. Nurmagomedov connects on a head kick that wobbles Muro that draws appreciation from the crowd, but he isn't able to follow it up. Muro decides to clinch, but Nurmagomedov turns and gets him down. As Muro instantly tries to stand up, Nurmagomedov takes his back with both hooks in. However, Muro is tought and manages to stand up, with a kimura lock. Nurmagomedov still has a rear waistlock, however, and won't let go, despite Muro's attempts to scramble. After further wrestling, Nurmagomedov returns Muro to the mat with a neat trip. He quickly slices through the Muro guard, gets the mount, and when Muro turns, Nurmagomedov takes the back with both hooks in. Muro does a good job of hand-fighting, however, preventing a RNC. He even manages to turn into Nurmagomedov and stand back up. They now clinch along the fence, with Nurmagomedov landing the occasional knee. One such knee finds the mark, blasting Muro to the solar plexus, and he falls to the floor like a sack of potatoes. Nurmagomedov pounds away with hammerfists and then punches until Frank Trigg calls a halt to the contest. Yet another impressive victory for a Dagestani fighter, as Usman's cousin Khabib congratulates him afterwards.
The Official ResultUsman Nurmagomedov def. Luis Muro via TKO (Knee and Punches) at 3:30 of Round 1
Emmanuel Sanchez (145.3) vs. Mads Burnell (145.5)
Round 1In the co-main event, top Bellator featherweight contenders collide when Emmanuel Sanchez (20-5), who has twice challenged Patricio Pitbull for his featherweight title, finds himself a very small underdog against the surging 27 year-old Mads Burnell (15-3), a UFC veteran who decimated everyone in the Cage Warriors featherweight division en route to becoming their champion who then looked sensational in his first two Bellator bouts, including a submission triumph over Saul Rogers. Referee Jason Herzog will keep a keen eye on the furious action. Both fighters start working their jab. Sanchez soon gets his kicks involved, with a nice head kick. Sanchez is throwing straight punches, not putting much into them, many of them off-power, touching Burnell, who covers up. He then rips another head kick that Burnell barely defends. An early attempt to grapple by Burnell is defended by Sanchez. Sanchez then goes back to his tireless boxing attack, now adding hooks to the mix, several of which have full power and hurt Burnell. Burnell is covering up well, though, and has a sturdy chin. Two minutes in, and there is a brilliant exchange, with Sanchez ripping a nice right hook to the body and Burnell countering with a hard right cross that backs him up. Sanchez is throwing with reckless abandon now, going upstairs with straight punches and then punctuating it with a hook to the body. Sanchez continues throwing, and lands a nice knee to the body going forward. They are now throwing leather with reckless abandon, with Sanchez channeling the great Hank Armstrong, throwing multiple punches per second. Burnell fires back, but Sanchez is more successful. Burnell changes it up by taking Sanchez down with a double-leg. However, Sanchez works hard from the bottom, and gets to the cage, wall-walking back up. They resume right where they started, wth Sanchez throwing an endless barrage of punches and Burnell shelling up and looking for an opportunity to counter hard. Sanchez throws a nice jumping bicycle knee, and sensing Sanchez is being too aggressive, Burnell gets another double-leg takedown. Absolutely insane round! Sanchez might have thrown 200 punches in that round alone. 10-9 Sanchez.
Round 2Sanchez immediately goes back to his straight punches, but Burnell is ready, covering up. Sanchez picks a good spot though, landing a solid 1-2. Sanchez goes back and rips a left hook to the body, although Burnell gets a right cross in. Burnell is getting more aggressive, with a 1-2 that stumbles Sanchez back. As Sanchez throws more, Burnell is keen, and lands another 1-2 that hurts Sanchez. Burnell is starting to open up now, and lands several good hooks of his own to the body, as he is getting the better of these furious exchanges. As Sanchez looks to be flagging, Burnell gets another double-leg takedown. Sanchez is undeterred, and quickly posts up, and then returns fully to his feet. He immediately rushes forward with punches, and lands multiple hooks to the body. This fight is incredible! Burnell grapples with him along the fence, but Sanchez gets away with rest control. They then meet in the center of the cage and slug away at an insane rate that it's simply impossible to fully describe in words. Sanchez misses a spinning back kick as the pace finally slows. After a further exchange, Burnell rushes forward and gets yet another double-leg takedown. He works with punches from the top and passes to half-guard. There is less starch to the strikes of both men, having already thrown more blows than most fighters do in 6 rounds. Burnell briefly thinks about an arm triangle but bails to land some solid punches with a renewed energy. What a tremendous fight. 10-9 Burnell.
Round 3Sanchez throws a 1-2 to start the round, partially countering a Burnell leg kick. Sanchez is a little more judicious with his punches, throwing a few straights. It's not long, of course, before Burnell shoots another double-leg to get him down. He then gets a beautiful mat return on him. As Sanchez tries to get up, he gives up his back, and Burnell gets both hooks in, threatening with a RNC. Sanchez has great jits of his own, managing to turn his head and then even sit up. Burnell is persistent though, and gets him down. Sanchez again scrambles, and gets back to his feet, although with Burnell draped along his back. Burnell pushes, and in the ensuing tumble, it's Sanchez who is on top. This fight is something straight out of a movie! They continue grappling, and it's Burnell who sweeps and gets on top. Sanchez then works his way back up, and gets to the cage. We're only halfway through round 3; where do Sanchez and Burnell find the energy? Burnell eventually completes yet another takedown, but his head is below Sanchez's hips, allowing him to fire off some elbows while on his butt. Eventually Burnell lifts his head and gets to a better position, landing punches of his own. Burnell is now in half-guard, as even these guys slow their pace a little. Sanchez works to find a hip, and with 30 seconds left, he is about to stand and goes for the same sweep he hit earlier. This time, however, Burnell is wise to it and stays on top, throwing punches on top to end the fight. Simply an incredible fight. Hats off to both men. 10-9 Burnell (29-28 Burnell)
The Official ResultMads Burnell def. Emmanuel Sanchez via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Bellator Featherweight Title Fight:
Freire (144.5) vs. A.J. McKee
Round 1Finally it's time for the main event, one of the biggest fights in Bellator history and easily one of the biggest fights in 2021 in any promotion, as the Bellator featherweight and lightweight double champion, the supremely skilled Patricio "Pitbull" Freire (32-4), takes on a young fighter many are alread talking about in hushed tones due to his limitless potential, the undefeated AJ McKee (17-0). The oddsmakers are stumped too, having this are a pure pick em'. Appropriately, calling this titanic clash will be referee Michael Beltran, a true disciple of Big John McCarthy in authority and approach. McKee begins the fight with a sidekick to Pitbull's lead leg. They are respectful of one another, standing at range and gaining a sense for the distance. McKee goes for another sidekick to the legs, which Freire avoids. McKee scores with a nice, fast leg kick, the first connect of the fight. McKee throws out a body kick which almost gets grabbed, and Pitbull lands a nice leg kick of his own. Pitbull is circling away from the power, occasionally mixing up directions, as he looks for an opportunity to explode. Suddenly, out of nowhere, AJ McKee catches Patricio Pitbull leaning over and lands a head kick that has him badly hurt, who falls back to the cage. McKee unloads a gorgeous, lightning-fast, hard punch combination punctuated by a left uppercut that drops the champion. McKee raises his hand in victory, but referee Michael Beltran has yet to stop the contest! McKee goes right back on offense, and then locks in a vicious guillotine choke. He cranks it to an insane degree. Pitbull refuses to tap, so it's up to McKee to point out to Beltran that the champion is out. Beltran confirms it, and AJ McKee has just won the Bellator featherweight world championship and the million dollar Grand Prix. Simply incredible; some people were laughing when I called AJ McKee a possible future GOAT in a column this week. After a sensational, superlative performance like that, I doubt they're laughing now.
The Official ResultAJ McKee def. Patricio Freire via Technical Submission (Guillotine Choke) at 1:57 of Round 1
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