Nonstop fireworks went off at Bellator 90 from The Maverik Center in Utah tonight. 2 hours on Spike TV cultivated 6 fights with 6 raucous finishes, with only one match surpassing the opening stanza. The Featherweight Tournament finals between Rad Martinez and Shahbulat Shamhalaev formed the headliner, while semifinal bouts in the Light-Heavyweight and Middleweight Tournaments filled up the rest of the main card. The results are posted below with visual assistance courtesy of Zombie Prophet.
Even though it wasn't the main event, the story of the night was Emanuel Newton vs. "King Mo" Lawal. Lawal was a big fish in the Bellator pond and the clear favorite to win the tournament, having won his debut in impressive fashion with a boxing-based knockout in the 1st round. Newton, aka "The Hardcore Kid," entered the cage with just 2 wins by TKO in his 19 career outings and a rep for an awkward striking style and grinding Greco Roman clinch game.
Lawal oozed confidence from the onset, hanging his lead left hand dangerously low and looking to counter Newton's blistering punches with his left hook. Newton was shockingly fast with his hands and sliced his right cross through in early exchanges. After whiffing badly on an overhand right, Newton planted his feet and whirred around with a left-handed spinning back-fist that clipped Lawal's chin and robbed him of his senses. A Newton win in any shape would've been earth-shattering, but getting it done by knockout and also via a weak-hand spinning back-fist was monumental.
Shabulat Shamhalaev defeats Rad Martinez by KO, Round 2
The main event was the only to see the 2nd frame. Shamhalaev handily controlled the first 3:30 of the round on the feet with crisp low kicks and counter-strikes, but Martinez changed levels nicely and nailed a double leg with 1:30 left and closed out the round with top control. Shamhalaev went right back to work in the 2nd, getting the better of the striking exchanges and wobbling Martinez with a high kick. Martinez got back to his feet but took a seat again soon after when the Russian seared an overhand right through that turned his lights out.
Shahbulat Shamhalaev wins the Featherweight Tournament and advances to a crack at champion Pat Curran's belt.
Douglas Lima was calm, cool and collected in taking Baker apart. Baker started a little tentative and endeavored to keep Lima outside and use his range, but the Brazilian "Phenom" patiently awaited his spots and exploded into range with low kicks and right hands. It was just a matter of timing from there, as Lima coordinated a brutal overhand right that penetrated through Baker's defense for a commanding 1st-round stoppage.
Ben Saunders defeats Raul Amaya by KO, Round 1
On the other side of the Welterweight Tournament bracket, Amaya was seeking redemption for Saunders handing him his only loss and "Killa B" was upset he didn't finish Amaya in their first go. Amaya was active with his movement, popping in and out of range with looping punches to compensate for Saunders' tremendous range advantage. Saunders stayed tight and technical, plunging long 1-2's and left body kicks to disrupt Amaya's aggression. Wisely adjusting his target level after a handful of liver kicks, Saunders went high with the kick and his shin kissed the temple for a clean knockout.
Ben Saunders will meet fellow ATT rep Douglas Lima in the Welterweight Tournament finals, which is a rematch of the Season 5 finals in 2011.
Fresh off upsets in the opening round -- Zayats over Renato Sobral and Noe over Seth Petruzelli -- Zayats and Noe battled for a spot in the finals of the Light-Heavyweight Tournament. Noe was a little lax with his defense while throwing a low kick and Zayats slammed a right hand through with perfect timing. The blow stunned Noe but he recovered well, controlling the posture of Zayats while the Russian worked from a high half guard. Noe tried to stay chest to chest with the body-lock off his back and Zayats cleverly passed to full mount, then trapped an arm when Noe tried to buck him off and scoot out, securing the tap with a deeply sunk armbar.
Mikhail Zayats will meet Emanuel Newton in the finals of the Light-Heavyweight Tournament.
Preliminary Card results
The referee in this bout is thrilled that the main card delivered so much excitement, because it ultimately took some of the focus on what was literally one of the worst stand-ups in MMA history. Juarez had a dominant back-mount with both hooks in while Smith was in the 4-point position and the referee inexplicably separated them. The folly now ranks just behind the head-scratching intervention in the Roy Nelson vs. Andrei Arlovski fight.
Sean Powers defeats David Allred by submission, Round 3
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