The Bellator MMA middleweight throne did not sit vacant for long.
Rafael Carvalho took out the previously unbeaten Brandon Halsey with a second-round liver kick and follow-up punches, as he claimed 185-pound gold in the Bellator 144 headliner on Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Carvalho (12-1, 3-0 Bellator) brought it to a close 1:42 into round two, as he became the fourth middleweight champion in Bellator history.
Halsey (9-1, 7-1 Bellator) -- who was stripped of the championship after failing to make weight for a May 15 title defense against Kendall Grove -- dominated all but a few seconds of the fight. The HB Ultimate export secured multiple takedowns, achieved full mount twice and nearly submitted Carvalho with an arm-triangle choke in the first round. The Brazilian never panicked and survived to see a second frame. There, Carvalho doubled over Halsey with a body kick and ended it with a few punches on the paralyzed Californian.
Carvalho, 29, has won 12 fights in a row.
Related » Bellator 144 Round-by-Round Scoring
Surging Ward Bludgeons Olson
In the welterweight co-main event, Bellator Season 9 tournament winner Brennan Ward disposed of Dennis Olson with first-round punches. Olson (14-10, 0-4 Bellator) met his end 4:37 into round one, as he lost for the seventh time in 10 outings.
Ward did much of his damage on the ground, where he battered Olson with strikes from full guard, half guard, side control and full mount. The 27-year-old received a pair of nasty cuts -- one below his left eyebrow, the other just above his chin -- for his troubles but had no other issues and put away Olson when they returned to their feet. An overhand right cut down the Team Triumph rep, and Ward forced referee John McCarthy with a speed-bag flurry of kneeling lefts and rights.
Ward (12-3, 8-3 Bellator) has rattled off three straight wins since losing back-to-back bouts to Alexander Shlemenko and Tamdan McCrory in 2014.
Yamauchi Choke Submits Kobayashi
Goiti Yamauchi submitted former Pancrase champion Isao Kobayashi with a third-round rear-naked choke in their featured featherweight pairing. Yamauchi (19-2, 5-1 Bellator) finished it 3:50 into round three. The 22-year-old could not have been more impressive.
Kobayashi (18-3-4, 0-1 Bellator), who had never before been finished, was outclassed in every phase. Yamauchi ran circles around him on the ground throughout the first two rounds -- their exchanges included several near finishes -- and then dropped him with a counter left hand in the third. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt swooped into top position and eventually advanced to the back. Once there, Yamauchi patiently hunted for the rear-naked choke, closing the deal with a palm-to-palm grip.
Yamauchi has won 14 of his last 15 fights.
Unbeaten Page Annihilates Ontiveros
London Shootfighters standout Michael Page stayed undefeated, as he carved up Charlie Ontiveros with first-round elbows in their welterweight showcase. Ontiveros (6-4, 0-1 Bellator) succumbed to the blows 3:20 into round one, having suffered an apparent jaw injury.
Following a brief feeling-out process, Page (9-0, 5-0 Bellator) went to work. He punched into the clinch, executed a takedown and slid to half guard. From there, he moved to Ontiveros’ back and eventually settled in side control. The volley of elbows came next, prompting referee Dan Miragliotta to act with Ontiveros in visible distress.
The 28-year-old Page has finished eight of his nine opponents inside one round.
Prelims: Bessette Heel Hook Taps Roddy
In preliminary action, childhood leukemia survivor Matt Bessette (16-7, 6-2 Bellator) submitted Kevin Roddy (15-16-1, 2-2 Bellator) with a heel hook 3:47 into the first round of their featherweight encounter; Kin Moy (8-2, 2-1 Bellator) tapped Walter Smith-Cotito (3-4, 0-1 Bellator) with a rear-naked choke 3:53 into round three of their showdown at 135 pounds; Billy Giovanella (9-4, 1-1 Bellator) submitted Brandon Polcare (1-1, 1-1 Bellator) with a triangle choke 2:19 into the first round of their 130-pound catchweight contest; Kevin Haley (4-3, 1-0 Bellator) captured a unanimous verdict over Mike Zichelle (7-4, 0-1 Bellator) in their three-round light heavyweight scrap, securing 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 nods on the scorecards; Matt Secor (7-2, 1-1 Bellator) tapped Jeremie Holloway (7-1, 0-1 Bellator) with an Achilles lock 4:54 into round two of their welterweight clash; Marius Enache (3-3, 1-0 Bellator) submitted Pete Rogers Jr. (2-3, 1-2 Bellator) with a scarf hold armlock 2:37 into the second round of their 150-pound catchweight affair; and Sam Watford (1-0, 1-0 Bellator) took a unanimous decision from T.J. Hepburn (4-2, 0-1 Bellator) and their three-round lightweight tilt, earning 30-27 marks from all three judges.