The third time was indeed the charm for Daniel Straus.
Straus took a unanimous decision from Patricio Freire to reclaim the Bellator MMA featherweight championship in the Bellator 145 headliner on Friday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Scores were 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47, all for Straus (24-6, 11-3 Bellator), who has won nine of his past 11 bouts.
The third encounter between two of Bellator’s premier featherweights -- “Pitbull” had won the first two meetings -- was shaped by the second round. There, Straus leveled the Brazilian with a vicious straight left, leaving him concussed and disoriented. Freire somehow survived the blow and the subsequent volley of punches but retreated to his corner in a still-glazed state once the round was complete. Straus took advantage. He built on his lead in the third and fourth rounds, putting himself in position to dethrone the champion.
Freire (24-3, 12-3 Bellator) was not so easily deposed. In the fifth round, he came to life, dragged Straus to the canvas and climbed to his back, briefly threading his hooks. Freire hunted the choke between punches but failed to create the opening he needed. Straus eventually returned to his feet, having dodged a major bullet. They spent their final moments engaged in a wild exchange, neither man willing to cede ground.
Related » Bellator 145 Play-by-Play
Brooks Denies Held to Keep Lightweight Crown
In the co-main event, American Top Team’s Will Brooks retained the Bellator lightweight championship with a unanimous decision over Marcin Held. All three cageside judges scored it for Brooks (17-1, 9-1 Bellator): 50-45, 49-46 and 49-46. He is now 8-0 in fights that go to the scorecards.
Held (21-4, 10-3 Bellator) worked his way to a tight kneebar in the first round but could not draw out the desired submission, and he became less and less of a threat as time passed. Brooks struck for takedowns in all five rounds and twice achieved full mount on the Polish submission specialist. He fed Held a steady diet of short punches, elbows and forearm strikes from above, eventually opening a small cut near the leg lock savant’s right eye. To his credit, the challenger never went away. Brooks cleared his last hurdle in the fourth round, where he freed himself from a toe hold and resumed his attack from top position.
Brooks, 29, has won eight fights in a row.
Chandler Brutalizes Rickels in Rematch
Former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler smashed through David Rickels with second-round punches in their rematch at 155 pounds. Rickels (16-4, 10-4 Bellator) met his end 3:05 into round two, having been badly bloodied by the onslaught he absorbed.
Chandler (14-3, 11-3 Bellator) -- who knocked out the Janjira Muay Thai export in 44 seconds during their first encounter two years ago -- executed a pair of first-round takedowns and never looked back. Rickels clipped him with a couple of left hooks in the second but ate a savage right hook across the nose in response. Bloodshed was immediate and extensive. Rickels fell to his knees in retreat but found no refuge on the canvas. Chandler battered him with ground-and-pound, forcing “The Caveman” to cover up after an extended beating.
The 29-year-old Chandler has followed a three-fight losing streak with back-to-back finishes.
Lashley Wrecks Thompson in 54 Seconds
Former World Wrestling Entertainment star Bobby Lashley avenged a 2012 defeat to James Thompson and disposed of the Pride Fighting Championships veteran with first-round ground-and-pound in a featured heavyweight contest. Thompson (20-15, 1-1 Bellator) succumbed to punches 54 seconds into round one, as “The Colossus” lost for the first time since September 2010.
Lashley (14-2, 4-0 Bellator) got right to work and appeared to injure the Englishman’s knee with a successful single-leg takedown inside the first minute. He then wheeled to the back and unleashed clubbing punches to the head that prompted referee Mike England to act on the defenseless Thompson’s behalf.
The 39-year-old Lashley has rattled off seven consecutive victories.
Surging Sanchez Edges Lawrence
Roufusport representative Emmanuel Sanchez won for the eighth time in nine appearances, as he eked out a split decision over former Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion Justin Lawrence in a three-round featherweight showcase. All three judges scored it 29-28, two of them siding with Sanchez (12-2, 4-1 Bellator).
Lawrence (8-3, 1-1 Bellator) was effective in spots, especially early. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 15 graduate countered beautifully throughout the first round, mixing a variety of kicks with clean punching combinations to the body and head. Sanchez switched gears in the second, where he stalled the Pacific, Mo., native in the clinch and wobbled him with a last-second head kick; the blow seemed to alter the trajectory of the fight.
The 25-year-old Lawrence landed in top position on a failed Sanchez takedown in round three but failed to capitalize on the opportunity. Sanchez was aggressive off his back, landing elbows to the head, neck and shoulder while threatening with various submissions, including a kneebar. He was rewarded for his efforts.
Prelims: Undefeated Sakai Outpoints Huddleston
In preliminary action, Augusto Sakai (9-0, 4-0 Bellator) remained unbeaten with a unanimous decision over Titan Fighting Championship veteran Alex Huddleston (6-2, 2-1 Bellator) in their three-round heavyweight encounter, drawing 29-28 marks from all three judges; Fazlo Mulabitinovic (3-1, 1-0 Bellator) took care of Scott Ettling (2-1, 0-1 Bellator) with an armbar 1:52 into round one of their catchweight affair at 140 pounds; Kain Royer (2-2, 1-1 Bellator) submitted Clay Mitchell (1-1, 0-1 Bellator) with a kneebar 3:41 into the first round of their middleweight duel; Adam Meredith (4-1, 1-0 Bellator) tapped Jordan Dowdy (2-1, 0-1 Bellator) with a rear-naked choke 1:54 into round one of their confrontation at 170 pounds; Kyle Kurtz (4-1, 2-0 Bellator) submitted Steven Mann (10-4, 0-2 Bellator) with a triangle choke 2:59 into the first round of their welterweight tilt; American Top Team’s Garrett Gross (7-4, 1-1 Bellator) took a unanimous decision from Jeff Crotty (0-1, 0-1 Bellator) in their three-round catchweight clash at 160 pounds, sweeping the scorecards with 30-27 marks from the judges; Cage Fury Fighting Championships alum Chel Erwin-Davis (3-1, 1-0 Bellator) put away Adam Cella (6-5, 0-2 Bellator) with punches 35 seconds into the third round of their welterweight battle; and Rashard Lovelace (2-0, 2-0 Bellator) wiped out Brandon Lowe (0-1, 0-1 Bellator) with punches 2:07 into round one of their duel at 145 pounds.