Photo via Bellator.com
Saturday night's Bellator 39 fight card at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut was a rare occurrence for the small promotion that has become the #2 mixed martial arts organization in North America. Competing week after week with the UFC, Bellator hasn't enjoyed huge success in taking loyal viewers away from their competitor. But that all changed this weekend as the UFC was nowhere to be found while Bellator put together one of their best cards of the year.
In the main event of the evening, current Bellator light champion Eddie Alvarez squared off against 2010 Bellator lightweight tournament champion Pat Curran in a title showdown that would mark Alvarez's first attempt to defend his crown since defeating Toby Imada at Bellator 12 in June of 2009. Alvarez worked aggressively over the course of five rounds, battering Curran in the latter rounds with speedy footwork, rib-crushing body shots, and sizzling straight punches. Curran managed to impress many fans in the early rounds, showing exceptional takedown defense and stifling Alvarez on multiple occasions. Unfortunately, Curran's offensive output on the feet was limited by Alvarez's footwork and elusiveness. As the fight wore on, Curran became visibly less effective, succumbing to the forceful body blows and relentless takedown attempts of the champion. Curran's storybook run came to an end as the judges scored the bout 49-46, 50-45, and 50-45 in favor of Eddie Alvarez.
Alvarez may not need to wait long before a worthy challenger emerges from this season's lightweight brackets as Patricky Freire scored a highlight reel knockout of former Bellator lightweight contender Toby Imada in the card's lone lightweight tournament semi-final. After some brief exchanges in the opening minutes of the first round, Freire landed a stunning flying knee to Imada's chin, nearly knocking him out standing. A visibly shaken Imada stumbled where he stood, eying an incoming Freire just in time to block the initial blast. Unfortunately, Freire landed the rest of his shots, downing Imada with a heavy left hand to end the fight. Imada was assisted out of the cage on a stretcher, but he was cleared at the hospital and returned for the post-fight press conference.
The victory in combination with Alvarez's dominant performance against Pat Curran has already produced some hype around an eventual showdown between Freire and Alvarez. Freire must defeat the winner of the Bellator 40 lightweight semi-final match-up between Michael Chandler and Lloyd Woodward, two fighters who possess powerful wrestling backgrounds. Despite the premature excitement over such a fight, it's difficult to dismiss Freire as a worthy challenger to Alvarez's strap.
Former Olympic Judo player Rick Hawn narrowly edged out former Bellator welterweight champion Lyman Good in welterweight tournament action. After Good looked to have out scored Hawn in the opening round of action, Hawn was able to control Good from top control for the entire second round, leading most fans to believe the fight was tied going into the third and final round. For the majority of the third, Good landed cleaner shots from range, battering an overaggressive, desperate Hawn as he tried to do anything to sway the fight in his favor. With roughly fifteen seconds left in the fight, Hawn threw Good to the canvas from the clinch, gaining a key point on the judges' scorecards and earning himself a controversial split decision victory (29-28, 28-29, 30-27). He advances to the final, taking on the winner of the Bellator 40 match-up between Jay Hieron and Brent Weedman.
Former UFC fighter Ben Saunders opened the evening's main card with an one-sided beatdown of epic proportions in a TKO victory over Matt Lee. Saunders used his immense size and brutal Muay Thai-inspired clinch tactics to destroy Lee along the fence for the entire fight, bloodying him up to a point in which it was almost too gruesome to watch. Lee looked as if he'd walked out of a crime scene by the third round, cut up from elbows and knees in the first two rounds of action. After a glancing elbow and knee to the face, Lee began leaking profusely early in the third, causing the doctor to stop the fight.
Bellator 39 Main Card Results:
Eddie Alvarez def. Pat Curran via unanimous decision (49-46, 50-45, 50-45)
Rick Hawn def. Lyman Good via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)
Patricky Freire def. Toby Imada via KO (2:53) of Round 1.
Ben Saunders def. Matt Lee via TKO (Doctor's Stoppage) at 1:24 of Round 3.