Bellator Fighting Championships rolled into Connecticut for the first time last night, taking Uncasville’s Mohegan Sun by storm and marking Eddie Alvarez’s (19-2) first title defense against number one contender Pat Curran (12-3). Also two semi-final match ups took place in the Bellator Season 4 Tournaments. In the Welterweight Tournament, “Cyborg” Lyman Good (11-2) faced of against former Judo Olympian Rick Hawn (11-0) and in the Lightweight Tournament “Pitbull” Patricky Freire (3-0) and Toby Imada (28-16) went head-to-head for a spot in the finals. Starting off the night was a catchweight bout between UFC veteran “Killa B” Ben Saunders (10-3) and MMA journeyman Matt Lee (12-10) to mark the debut of the TUF star with the Bellator organization. The card was an overall solid offering as has come to be expected from Bellator, with a night of local feature fights packing the house for the main card that was televised nationwide on MTV2.
Ben Saunders vs. Matt Lee: Saunders and Lee kicked off Bellator 39 with a fast paced fight that had the fans cheering their names. “Killa B” came in with his trademark aggressive style of striking and his killer clinch game while Lee played the counter striking strategy throughout the beginning of the first round. Saunders’ reach advantage and in-your-face style began taking its toll on Lee as the fight wore on and Saunders had Lee bloodied and beaten by the end of the opening frame. The second stanza began the same way as the first as Saunders’ right jab found its home on the left side of Lee’s face time after time. Lee’s nose was bloody and a mouse formed under his left eye by the mid-point of the round, but Lee showed great tenacity by firing off hooks every time the clinch broke. “Killa B” took advantage of the clinch and threw several knees to the body and it was obvious the fight was all Saunders’. By the closing bell of round two his elbows had opened a cut on Lee’s right eye, but Lee has a big heart and kept fighting on. For the third and final round, a wave of cheers from the crowd supported the ringside doctor for letting the fight continue on. The clinch game of Saunders took control of the fight again and more elbows came from the American Top Team stand-out, causing a large cut on Lee’s left eye and the blood came pouring out. The referee stopped the bout at 1:24 in the third round, declaring Saunders the winner by TKO (Doctor Stoppage). The bout was an explosive and dominant debut for the former UFC fighter and an excellent showing of grit from his opponent as well as the best way to kick off the televised card.
Toby Imada vs. Patricky Freire: In the Season 4 Lightweight Tournament’s first semi-final match, the submission wizard Imada was pitted against heavy handed Brazilian rising star Freire who was looking to build off his knockout over “Razor” Rob McCullough (19-7) at Bellator 36. Imada was coming off a first round victory with a submission over Josh Shockley (6-1) and was looking to make a third run at the finals. Both men met in the center of the cage and showed respect for each other, and Freire opened with a couple of leg kicks and a high kick. Imada kept moving, staying out of the way of Freire’s right hand, and was looking to set up the takedown. Freire seemed tight and jerky with his strikes, while Imada was quick and throwing from angles and it was beginning to look like the pressure was getting to the young Brazilian. “Pitbull” was staying out of the range of Imada then launched a flying knee that landed flush with Imada’s chin. Imada stumbled, visibly hurt by the massive knee, and Freire pounced, landing several punches that dropped Imada onto his back and left him out cold at 2:53 of the first round. Freire has earned his place in the finals, while Imada has come up short in the semi-finals for the first time.
Lyman Good vs. Rick Hawn: Following Freire’s second upset KO in a row, former Bellator Welterweight Champion Lyman Good met Judo black belt Rick Hawn in the second of the night’s semi-final match-ups. It was obvious at the beginning of the fight that Good was the bigger man both in height and muscle mass and was clearly the aggressor as well. Both Good and Hawn kept their hands up in traditional boxing forms with Good pressing the action, pushing forward until Hawn shot for a takedown. Good stuffed it but ended up with his back pressed against the cage. Good used his strength to keep Hawn from advancing and the two separated and met back in the center of the cage. Good did well mixing up his strikes and landed a solid uppercut that force Hawn to shoot for a second time, but neither man seemed able to mount much offense against the fence with Hawn’s Judo negated by Good’s strength. The end of the round came without much action from either fighter and the scoring could have easily swung either way.
The second round was a little different for both men. Good came out aggressive and landed several strikes but Hawn toughed it out and tripped Good to the mat in his first successful takedown attempt. Good stayed active on his back while Hawn seemed to only be concerned with keeping Good down and staying active enough to avoid a stand up. Hawn opened up with more strikes as the round progressed but he was obviously more concerned with maintaining position than doing damage. Good was in a similar situation as he attempted to fire back with little effect while trying to ensure that he maintained his tight guard. The former champ finally managed to escape to his feet in the final seconds of the uneventful round, but it was too little too late and the round clearly went to Hawn.
The third and final round began with Hawn immediately looking to take the action back to the mat, but Good kept his distance and used his jab to avoid the clinch. Good tagged Hawn with a right hand as Hawn closed, but ended up tied up against the cage. Good locked onto Hawn then pushed Hawn away and Good began to get the better in the exchanges, catching a leg kick and answering with a right hand, forcing Hawn to shoot in where Good stuffed it and then delivered a knee and a left cross on the break. Hawn’s looping strikes were missing and his takedowns were becoming easier for Good to stuff. The round was clearly favoring Good until Hawn managed to get another takedown against the cage. Good fired away with upkicks and managed to keep Hawn away until the final bell, but the damage had been done as he hadn’t done enough damage in the round to make up for Hawn’s forward motion and late takedown. Both men got up with their hands held high to await the judges’ decision. The decision came and the winner by Spilt Decision to move on to the Bellator Season 4 Welterweight Tournament is Judoka Rick Hawn.
Eddie Alvarez vs. Pat Curran: The main event of the night featured one of the top 155lbs. fighters in the world, Eddie Alvarez, taking on the underdog of the Season 2 tournament, Pat Curran, for the lightweight belt strapped around Alvarez’s waist. Alvarez came into the cage looking relaxed as always with his belt hanging over his left shoulder and Curran looked ready as well, if a bit more nervous. They touched gloves and met in the center of the cage with Alvarez moving in a low stance and chopping leg kicks at Curran’s lead leg. Curran threw several strikes strikes of his own but Alvarez has slick head movement and avoided each one. Alvarez used speed with his boxing, his footwork, and crisp head movement to maintain clear control of the stand up but Curran keeps covered and prevents the champ from landing more than a few solid blows. Alvarez shot in for a quick takedown but Curran easily rebounded to his feet where the champ slowed his offense and coasted into the second stanza.
The second round began much like the first, with Alvarez using a lot of lateral movement while Curran covered and played the cautious counter striker. Alvarez landed several shots including an uppercut as he began to negotiate Curran’s defenses, often by tying up with Curran against the cage and landing shots on the break. Alvarez landed two powerful body shots on both Curran’s left and right sides. The body shots seemed to be taking a toll on Curran as he began to slow, but he did end on a good note, landing a knee as Alvarez went for a takedown.
Round 3 starts and Alvarez came out in aggression mode. He landed several shots right off the bat and began stalking Curran around the cage, landing a left uppercut and straight right. Alvarez’s boxing and head movement were superior by far and Curran’s defenses were beginning to crumble under the pressure. Alvarez changed from orthodox to southpaw several times and landed multiple jabs. Curran landed with a right hand and bloodied the left nostril of Alvarez, but he ate more body shots in the trade then got taken down. Curran’s wrestling skills showed as he got back to his feet after several seconds but Alvarez went back to his boxing and the third round ended with Alvarez smiling and returning to his corner. Both fighters found themselves able to handle deep waters, going into in the fourth round for the first time.
Alvarez still looked fresh and tagged the body and head of Curran repeatedly. Curran seemed to be feeling the toll of the punishment Alvarez dealt to his body as he was now totally defensive and his counters came less and less frequently. Alvarez was finding the openings in Curran’s defense, and his uppercuts and straights were landing pin point. By the mid point of the fourth round, Curran’s nose was bleeding badly and his hands were held low to cover his battered ribs. The champ sealed the round with a takedown and it was clear that Curran was in a fight just to survive to the final bell.
The final round was all Alvarez, even more so than the rest of the fight. Alvarez was landing almost at will and Curran’s counters had become almost non-existent, numbering perhaps one counter thrown for every four or five blows the champion landed. Curran did manage to secure his only takedown of the night in the closing seconds of the fight, but it wasn’t enough to steal such a one-sided round nor would the round have mattered after Alvarez dominated the entire fight. All five rounds were solid performances for Alvarez giving him all three judges’ decision. The champion showed praise to Curran after the fight for his toughness. When asked for his thoughts on the bout between Freire and Imada, Alvarez said he was impressed and said Freire had a lot of weapons and that he believes Freire will win the tournament and is looking forward to fighting him in his second title defense.
For a full list of Bellator 39 fight results, click here.