Bellator 67 took place tonight from the Casino Rama in Ontario, Canada. Though his title was not at stake, lightweight champion Michael Chandler took on crafty Japanese veteran Akihiro Gono in the main event and fan-favorite Ben Saunders battled Bryan Baker in a welterweight tournament semifinal.
Gono stressed the need to stay relaxed in his pre-fight interview and may have over-committed. Chandler came out vivacious and bouncing on his toes while picking away with his jab and faking level drops -- Gono shuffled backwards lazily and with his hands down while resetting. Chandler launched forward with a combination that sent Gono into retreat mode and then blurred a stiff one-two that dropped him.
The champion pounced mercilessly with a series of punches to elicit the referee intervention. The 1st-round TKO extends Chandler's flawless record to 12-0 while Gono drops to 32-18 at the tail end of an admirable 18-year career against reputable competition.
Leukemia survivor and former middleweight Bryan Baker showed up big against potent technician Ben Saunders. Imposing his bulk as a hefty welterweight, Baker was able to follow behind his punches to tie up in the clinch and stifle the striking of Saunders. There, he stayed busy with dirty boxing, short knees and relentless takedown attempts. In the first, Saunders courageously threw on a flying triangle while Baker had his head buried in his waist. Baker defended that as well as an eye-pleasing transition to an omoplata by Saunders in an exciting start.
Meet me after the jump for the full Bellator 67 results.
Baker endured another outburst of offense from Saunders in the second, this time in the form of the deadly knees he's heralded for. Baker nailed a demonstrative takedown and finished out with flurry of heavy hammer-fists to secure the round. The last frame was all Baker, who came out winging a huge combination and powered Saunders to the canvas, this time negating his submission attempts by smashing him against the fence wall. Baker picked up a hard-earned unanimous decision, advances to the tournament finals and moves to 18-3 overall. The tough loss for Saunders (now 13-5) is the second in his last three.
Heavyweights Damian Grabowski and Dave Huckaba riled up the crowd with a forgettable display. Grabowski threw a punch on the glove-touch and pursued takedowns throughout the first two rounds, though his inactivity inspired a few stand ups from referee "Big" Dan Miragliotta. Grabowski ran out of gas in the third but Huckaba was unwilling to capitalilze despite finding a home for his left hook when he threw it. All three judges gave Grabowski the first two rounds and the third to Huckaba, resulting in a unanimous decision win. The win was Grabowski's third in a row since losing to Bellator heavyweight champion Cole Konrad and he goes to 16-1 overall, while the loss snaps a 6-fight roll for Huckaba (17-5) in his promotional debut.
The evening started with sparks in the Luis "Sapo" Santos vs. Ryan Ford affair. Santos took the first round by connecting with a cracking high kick after having a few blocked, which put Ford on roller-skates and into retreat mode. Santos kept the pressure on and had the opportunity to take a turtled Ford's back, but opted to attack with strikes instead. Ford was fully recovered in the second and aggressive with a leaping knee, then peeled Santos' arm away from his midsection in a clinch tangle and planted a hard knee on his chin. Santos didn't defend the flurry of punches that followed and Ford notched a dramatic come-from-behind TKO in the second. Ford (18-4) has won six of his last seven -- a streak that includes former UFCers Karo Parisyan and Pete Spratt -- while Santos stands at 50-8 overall.
Complete Bellator results below.