Six days after its first event of 2018, Bellator MMA went 90 miles southeast to Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, California for Bellator 193 on Friday.
In the evening’s main event, a UFC welterweight veteran scored his first Bellator victory, and in the co-main event, a Bellator lightweight veteran picked up a decisive decision win.
Lorenz Larkin def. Fernando Gonzalez via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Lorenz Larkin got back into the winning column in his first Bellator main event at Bellator 193. His speed was the difference against opponent Fernando Gonzalez, who missed weight ahead of the 180-pound catchweight bout.
In the opening round, “The Monsoon” dished out more effective offense than Gonzalez — including several kicks. Though Gonzalez pressured Larkin for the majority of the 15-minute contest, Larkin used his impressive movement to stay off the fence and out of trouble.
In the second and third rounds, Larkin appears a bit more flat-footed than in the first frame, but that ultimately did not affect the result. He still outpointed Gonzalez on the feet with strikes.
Gonzalez, however, stayed tough during the entire fight. He kept moving forward, trying to make something work; he showed that he certainly isn’t a quitter. In the third round, he started winging shots — likely because he knew he needed a stoppage to win — but Larkin used his footwork once again to avoid most of his opponent’s shots.
Late in the third round, Larkin had a huge onslaught, landing multiple combinations on Gonzalez. With half a minute more in the final round, Larkin might have finished Gonzalez, but time ultimately ran out.
Saad Awad def. J.J. Ambrose via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
In the co-main event, lightweight veteran Saad Awad picked up his 10th victory under the Bellator banner. He faced J.J. Ambrose, who returned to the promotion for the first time in four years, and picked up a clear decision win.
In the first round, both fighters showed off their heavy hands, but Awad had more tools in the tool bag. The more active fighter, Awad chewed up his opponent’s legs with kicks and connected with more offense throughout the first five minutes.
In the second frame, the bout turned into a grappling affair for the remainder of the fight. Both Awad and Ambrose scored their fair share of takedowns, but Awad did more with top control. He landed some ground-and-pound — particularly knees to Ambrose’s body — and moved into full mount more than once.
Awad also had more submission attempts. He was the more effective fighter in the bout, and that led to a third straight victory for “Assassin.”
A.J. Matthews def. Kendall Grove via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)
Friends and former training partners Kendall Grove and A.J. Matthews squared off in the middleweight division. Matthews picked up the biggest win of his career in his first Bellator main-card bout, defeating the Hawaiian veteran by split decision.
Matthews, who had a six-inch height and three-inch reach disadvantage, found range in the entire three-round affair pretty well. The shorter fighter pressured Grove all 15 minutes and attacked with several leg kicks. The key to the matchup was that Matthews controlled the pace; he did what he want when he wanted to.
Grove showed signs of his physical advantages once or twice in the clinch, landing a couple knees, but his offense was, in general, very limited. It was mostly one-way traffic for Matthews in the relatively slow contest. Though Grove landed the harder shots in the first round, Matthew’s power seemed to increase in the later rounds; he hurt Grove with a combination in the third round, only lessening the TUF vet’s offense.
Matthews snapped a four-fight skid, while Grove dropped his third fight in a row.
Jake Smith def. Steve Kozola via knockout (punches) at :57 of round 1
In the first main-card bout of the evening, Jake Smith stepped into the Bellator cage for the first time, passing his debut test with flying colors. The newcomer stopped Steve Kozola, who has now fought five times in the promotion, by knockout early in the first round. Kozola started the round well, landing some strikes while pressuring his opponent. But Smith found an opening when his back was up against the fence; he landed a vicious right punch that stunned Kozola. He followed it up with two more right hands — one of which connected on the ground — and that was all she wrote.