Bellator 92 took place tonight with a double-dose of tournament semifinal bouts in the featherweight division -- Magomedrasul Khasbulaev vs. Marlon Sandro and Alexandre Bezerra vs. Mike Richman -- and in the middleweight division with Brett Cooper vs. Dan Cramer and Doug Marshall vs. Sultan Aliev.
There has been some speculation as to whether Sandro has lost his fire, and getting out-willed and finished by "Frodo" might support that. Khasbulaev marched through Sandro's punches, a crippling low blow that left him rolling on the canvas in agony, and pretty much everything else Sandro threw at him en route to a dominant 3rd-round stoppage.
Khasbulaev fearlessly engaged Sandro in the clinch and on the mat, finding success with powerful trips from the body lock, frenetic guard passing and striking, and tenacious submission attempts. Having won the first two rounds handily, Sandro had trouble getting off the stool to start the 3rd and wilted under Khasbulaev relentless assault halfway through the frame.
While willpower put Khasbulaev in the driver's seat throughout, it was also what brought Cooper from the cusp of a decision loss to pulling off a dramatic comeback KO. Cramer was quicker to the punch and brilliantly neutralizing Cooper's takedown attempts with rugged knees from the Thai plum to snare the first two rounds, and Cooper adjusted accordingly by head-hunting in the last stanza. He cracked the momentarily over-aggressive Cramer with a retreating uppercut and stayed on the trigger until the referee waved it off.
I was the only media guy to score this for Marshall and don't feel too bad about it. Aliev was intent on forcing a ground fight and pursuing takedowns incessantly; an outlook that served him well in the 1st round as Marshall spent most of the frame on his back. In the 2nd and 3rd, though sparingly and betwixt prolonged periods of inactive top control from Aliev, Marshall was able to put his hands on him and mount the more damaging, effective and meaningful offense.
"Rhino" stuffed 3 takedowns in the 2nd and got the better of the striking exchanges. After starting the frame with a glove tap and left hook combo, Aliev did spend the bulk of the 3rd on top and even took Marshall's back momentarily, but it was comprised of a battle for control that led to no semblance of threatening offense, whereas Marshall's sporadic outbursts on the feet were more momentous than Aliev's ground suffocation.
"Popo" Bezerra owned the 1st with takedowns, guard passing and back control, but Richman evened things out on the feet with a strong showing in the 2nd. The 3rd round was a compact replay of the previous rounds, with Bezerra running things on the mat for the opening half and Richman regaining ground with superior striking after escaping.
Richman edged out the split decision and will advance to face Khasbulaev in the finals of the Featherweight Tournament, while Cooper will square off with Doug Marshall in the Middleweight Tournament finals.
Preliminary Card Results
Keith Berry defeats Richard Rigmaden by submission (kimura), Round 1