In the race to the tournament finals, it was the welterweights to reach the mountain top first, as four men entered the Bellator cage to fight for their claim towards the $100,000 payday and title shot against the winner of the upcoming bout between welterweight champion Ben Askren (8-0) and “The Thoroughbred” Jay Hieron (19-4). “Killa B” Ben Saunders (12-3) met Brazilian bomber Luiz Santos (48-7) in a Muay Thai slug fest that ended in an unforeseen fashion and MMA Gospel Young Gun “The Cleveland Assassin” Chris Lozano (9-2) stood across the cage from former MFC Welterweight Champion “The Phenom” Douglas Lima (18-4) to determine the final two 170-pounders of the season. Featherweights “The Tooth Fairy” Kenny Foster (9-4) and “Kid Ninja” Ronne Mann (21-3) battled it out in a bout to determine who would take the first spot in the Bellator Season 6 145lbs. tournament and late addition heavyweight bout Josh Burns (5-3) and “Big Monster” Thiago Santos (5-1) started off the night with hopes of being a fill in for the heavyweight tournament on the line.
Thiago Santos vs. Josh Burns: If “300″ Mike Hayes (14-4) cannot be cleared from his 60-day suspension in due time for his semi-final fight against Blagoi Ivanvo (7-0), then the winner of Santos and Burns will take his place. The winner was clear from the get go; Thiago Santos stormed out and used his striking to buckle Burns on the feet then with ease took Burns to the canvas. Burns fought hard to get back to his feet and defend himself but Santos’ ground game was far beyond anything the Detroit native could fathom. Santos started with some punches to open up the guard around Burns’ neck and as soon as Burns reacted, Santos sunk in the choke hold without the hooks and Burns tapped not even half-way into the first round. With a win Santos is now the reserve fighter for this season’s heavyweight tournament. Santos via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 1
Ronnie Mann vs. Kenny Foster: With the first slot in the Bellator Season 6 Featherweight Tournament on the line, both Mann and Foster had a lot of motivation as they stepped in the cage. Both men came out for war in their respected styles – Foster the aggressive and fast paced wrestler and Mann the striker with well balanced hands. It looked to be a long night in store for Foster as Mann’s striking seemed too much for him but the steady leg kicks allowed Foster to set up his takedowns and get the fight to the ground. Mann, however, did not panic and began working his submission game to set up a finish and to slow down the offense of Foster. After several submission attempts that failed, the action returned to the feet and Mann resumed his striking attack. Foster once again caught the kick and took Mann to his back, but this time it was a different ending. Mann locked on the Triangle Choke and squeezed for dear life, leaving Foster no choice but to tap in the late opening round. Mann is now the first man in the next featherweight tournament and he dedicated this victory to his late friend and coach Shawn Tompkins. Mann via Submission (Triangle Choke), Round 1
Chris Lozano vs. Douglas Lima: From the opening bell Lozano and Lima came at one another with guns blazing. It looked like a repeat of Lima’s promotional debut as he was rocked early and sent to his butt by Lozano. Lima, however, recovered quickly and got back to his feet after a quick battle on the mat with Lozano. That punch proved just the wake up call Lima needed as he used a stiff jab and a lead left hook to get the better of the exchanges against the heavy-handed Lozano from there out. By the end of the first round Lozano’s face was bloodied and beaten and his fans’ hearts sank further and further, but Lozano refused to give up. Lima secured a takedown at the end of the first round to seal the action packed round against Lozano on the cards. The second round added a little bit more brute force with the leg kicks becoming more frequent in the arsenal of both men, but it was Lima that was getting the better of the exchanges again. Lima’s quick and accurate strikes were taking a heavy toll on Lozano, the slapping leg kicks taking away the speed in Lozano’s steps and the left hand closing up Lozano’s left eye. It wasn’t until a missed left hook that Lima was given the perfect set up for his victory. Lima countered Lozano’s off-target hook with a textbook right cross that sent “The Cleveland Assassin” tumbling to the mat out cold in the middle of the second round. Lima is now in the finals and awaits his opponent at Bellator 56 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Lima via KO (Punch), Round 2
Ben Saunders vs. Luis Santos: The battle between two equally talented strikers is usually determined by who has the better overall game and Saunders and Santos proved just that. The pair squared off in their tournament semi-final bout and Santos took Saunders to the ground thinking he would dominate the fearsome striker. “Killa B” showed no signs of breaking as he fired off strikes and submission attempts from his back to cancel out Santos’ offense. For the first and second rounds it was all Saunders, who worked off his back in an impressive fashion against the Jiu-Jitsu black belt. The third round played out much like the previous two, but this time Santos went for a leg lock and Saunders used his long limbs to counter the attack. Saunders torqued his hips and Santos went to escape but “Killa B” locked onto a shoulder lock to control Santos long enough to gain top position then secure the fight-ending Americana that caused the Brazilian to tap under two minutes into the final round. Saunders now faces former MFC 170lbs. champ Douglas Lima in Lima’s old stomping grounds of Canada. Saunders via Submission (Americana), Round 3
Ben Saunders and Douglas Lima will face each other in the tournament finale at Bellator 56 in Toronto, Canada on November 12 at Casino Rama.
Click here for a full list of Bellator 53 results.