Patricio “Pitbull” Freire smoked Diego Nunes at Bellator 99. | Photo: Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
Patricio Freire sent a message to the rest of the field in the Bellator MMA Season 9 featherweight tournament, and he barely broke a sweat in doing so.
Freire (19-2, 7-2 Bellator) knocked out Ultimate Fighting Championship and World Extreme Cagefighting alum Diego Nunes with a crippling left hook and follow-up ground strikes at Bellator 99 on Friday at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif. Nunes (18-5, 0-1 Bellator) met his surprising end 79 seconds into round one, as he was finished for the first time in 23 professional appearances.
“The Gun” moved forward from the start, but his pursuit proved ill-advised. Freire landed a short left hook on his oncoming countryman, followed him to the mat and polished off the victory, launching himself in the tournament semifinals and putting himself one step closer to his desired rematch with reigning Bellator featherweight champion Pat Curran.
“I trained hard,” he said. “I’m going to run after this belt with all of my power.”
Matyushenko Outpoints Alexander, Takes Decision
Takedowns, a suffocating top game, mild ground-and-pound and sporadic power punches carried former International Fight League champion Vladimir Matyushenko to a unanimous decision over Houston Alexander in an utterly forgettable light heavyweight showcase. Matyushenko (27-7, 1-0 Bellator) swept the scorecards by 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 marks.
Alexander (15-10, 0-1 Bellator) -- who served as a replacement for the injured Christian M'Pumbu -- offered little in the way of resistance, his offensive output dwindling after the first five minutes.
Matyushenko struck for takedowns in the first and third rounds, as the 42-year-old Belarusian turned to his wrestling in a bout marked by long periods of inactivity. The defeat halted Alexander’s modest two-fight winning streak.
Wilcox Choke Completes Comeback
Strikeforce veteran Justin Wilcox left Akop Stepanyan unconscious with a second-round rear-naked choke, as he authored a remarkable comeback in the Season 9 featherweight tournament quarterfinals. Stepanyan (13-6, 1-3 Bellator) blacked out 2:20 into round two.
A short-notice replacement for Shahbulat Shamhalaev, Wilcox (12-5, 1-0 Bellator) did virtually nothing from an offensive standpoint prior to the choke. Stepanyan punished him with a series of kicks, raising a grotesque swelling on the front of his lower leg. In the second round, the 27-year-old Russian opened a gnarly cut on the back of Wilcox’s head with an exquisite spinning back kick.
Hobbled, rattled and bloodied, “The Silverback” committed to a takedown and secured it. After a brief ground exchange, he transitioned to Stepanyan’s back, cinched the choke and put him to sleep in a shocking turn of events.
Aggressive Taimanglo Outduels Fisher
Guam export Joe Taimanglo extended his career-best winning streak to 10 fights with a unanimous decision over Andrew Fisher in the Season 9 featherweight tournament quarterfinals. All three cageside judges scored it for Taimanglo (19-4-1, 2-0 Bellator): 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27.
The jab was an effective weapon for Fisher (12-5-1, 0-1 Bellator), but the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts veteran did not utilize it nearly enough to curb his opponent’s aggression.
Taimanglo waded inside with committed power punches in all three rounds, mixing hooks, overhands and uppercuts with the occasional close-quarters knee and a few backfists.
The loss was Fisher’s first in more than two years.
Prelims: Ivanov Guillotine Submits Lara
In preliminary action, Blagoi Ivanov coaxed a tapout from Manny Lara with a guillotine choke 1:17 into round one of their heavyweight clash; Virgil Zwicker took out Nick Moghaddam with punches and elbows 3:22 into the first round of their light heavyweight bout; Goiti Yamauchi submitted Musa Toliver with a rear-naked choke 61 seconds into the first round of their featherweight tilt; Gavin Sterritt eked out a split verdict (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) over Andy Murad at 170 pounds; and Hector Ramirez captured a unanimous decision over Savo Kosic in a light heavyweight scrap, sweeping the scorecards by identical 30-27 marks.