It was an evening that most fans felt would lack the excitement to entertain. After all, Bellator 48's main card lineup didn't look very intriguing at a cursory glance. The featherweight tournament final featuring Pat Curran vs. Marlon Sandro was the most enticing match-up on the card, but a supporting cast of Cole Konrad vs. Paul Buentello, Seth Petruzelli vs. Ricco Rodriguez, and relatively unknown lightweights Rene Nazare and Juan Barrantes weren't leading to a stampede of fans rushing to their televisions. Unfortunately for those who passed on Saturday night's action from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, the assumption that this card couldn't deliver was blown out of the water by solid performances and highlight reel finishes.
In the main event of the evening, former Bellator lightweight contender Pat Curran battled former Sengoku featherweight champion Marlon Sandro in the Bellator 2011 Summer Series Featherweight Tournament Final. Curran had impressively submitted Luis Palomino at Bellator 46, and he edged British veteran Ronnie Mann on the scorecards at Bellator 47 to earn his shot against Sandro, who narrowly edged Genair da Silva and defeated Nazareno Malegarie at the same events respectively.
Many fans were under the assumption that Curran wouldn't be able to hang with the heralded striking skills of Marlon Sandro. Sandro had made quite a name for himself by crushing the opposition in Japan, knocking out multiple opponents during his reign under the Sengoku banner. The hype was certainly overwhelming for Sandro, but Curran's technically sound striking game and ability to adjust in the middle of the fight helped him cap off an impressive tournament win on Saturday night.
Curran knocked out Sandro at the 4:00 mark of the second round with a shocking head kick that left the former Sengoku champion limp on the canvas. For the first nine minutes of the fight, Sandro was controlling the tempo, landing the better punches, and proving that his power, even when blocked by Curran's defenses, was enough to steal rounds. He aggressively lunged in at Curran, throwing a straight punch-overhand combination that Curran seemed hesitant to counter. When Curran was on the defensive, his lacking head movement and inability to pull the trigger left him beaten and battered as the fight progressed. In a nutshell, Pat Curran wasn't well on his way to victory before crushing the dreams of Marlon Sandro.
That's mixed martial arts, fight fans. The unpredictability of the sport is one of the many reasons why fans love this sport, and Pat Curran showed that on Saturday night. Sandro, who got more comfortable as the fight progressed, bobbed and weaved away from Curran before being zapped by the kick, allowing Curran's patience to finally pay off. Curran now moves on to face the winner of a Bellator featherweight title match between Patricio Freire and Joe Warren, a match-up that has yet to be announced.
In the evening's other match-ups, two-time NCAA Division I wrestling champion and current Bellator heavyweight kingpin Cole Konrad kept his unblemished record intact by defeating UFC and Strikeforce veteran Paul Buentello via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28). The bout was booed by the fans in attendance loudly for the first two rounds of action, mainly due to Buentello's hesitance to engage and Konrad's lacking technical skills standing. Surprisingly, Konrad was able to out strike Buentello on the feet, and he secured the victory in the third round after glancing a blow off Buentello's chin and following him to the ground. Buentello was able to get one last chance in the final minute of the fight after the referee stood the fighters back to their feet, but it was too little, too late for the UFC veteran.
The man who many consider to be the reason for EliteXC's eventual demise, Seth Petruzelli, shocked oddsmakers as he crushed former UFC champion Ricco Rodriguez in catchweight action. Rodriguez was unable to mount any sort of offense against Petruzelli in the opening round, lumbering around the cage and attempting to find holes in Petruzelli's defenses. Petruzelli answered with spinning kicks and front kicks to keep Rodriguez at bay, nearly digging a heel into the jawline of Rodriguez on multiple occasions. An attempt to clinch was met by a short right hand that dropped Rodriguez a little over four minutes into the round, and Petruzelli finished up the assault with hammerfists from the top that caused the stoppage.
In the opening bout of the Bellator 48 main card, highly-credentialed Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Rene Nazare defeated Juan Barrantes in lightweight action. The grappling whiz, who is the head BJJ instructor at Team Bombsquad in Ithaca, New York, came out strong, going toe-to-toe and landing the better shots on the feet in the opening round. The second round was more of the same early, but Nazare transitioned to the ground, cutting up Barrantes from half guard with sharp elbows and ground n' pound from top control. An eye injury that Barrantes received in the first round became worse as the fight progressed, and the doctor stepped in to stop the fight between the second and third rounds as Barrantes was unable to see.
Bellator 48: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut
Pat Curran def. Marlon Sandro via KO (head kick) - Round 2, 4:00
Cole Konrad def. Paul Buentello via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Seth Petruzelli def. Ricco Rodriguez via TKO (punches) - Round 1, 4:21
Rene Nazare def. Juan Barrantes via TKO (doctor stoppage) - Round 2, 5:00
Jeff Nader def. Dan Cramer via TKO (punches) - Round 3, 1:04
Nik Fekete def. Mark Griffin via TKO (strikes) - Round 2, 3:12
Andrew Calandrelli def. Matt Nice via submission (keylock) - Round 1, 3:55
Ryan Quinn def. Brett Oteri via technical submission (rear-naked choke) - Round 1, 1:48
Saul Almeida def. Tateki Matsuda via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)