Casino Rama and the Canadian fans of Ontario welcomed Bellator and its warriors with open arms for Bellator 67 Friday, May 4 and in return the fighters gave them a show. The main event featured the Bellator Lightweight Champion Michael Chandler (10-0), fresh off his fourth-round submission win against former champion and top lightweight Eddie Alvarez (22-3), taking on the most experienced opponent of his career in Japanese superstar Akihiro Gono (32-18-7). Two welterweight semi-finalists faced off in an all-out war as “Killa B” Ben Saunders (13-5) and former middleweight finalist “The Beast” Bryan Baker (18-3) tangled. Heavyweight finishers from two different worlds clashed as submission specialist “Polish Pitbull” Damian Grabowski (16-1) took on knockout artist “Bad Man” David Huckaba (17-5) and Canada’s own finishing machine, “The Real Deal” Ryan Ford (18-4), made his Bellator debut against Brazilian prestige fighter “Sapo” Luis Santos (50-8) in a welterweight match-up that started of the main card for MTV2.
Ryan Ford vs. Luis Santos: The fight began with Ford coming out light on his feet and moving in-and-out while Santos stalked heavily towards his Canadian opponent. Ford connected first, almost a minute into the fight, when he timed a kick from Santos and countered with one of his own and dropping him to his back, but Santos got back to his feet quickly. Ford and Santos clashed several times with both men showing they had studied each other carefully as each man negated the other’s attacks. Santos’ experience finally won out and he sent Ford to the mat with a solid left head kick and pounced to finish the fight. “The Real Deal” survived though and got back to his feet but was on rubber legs and with Santos in pursuit. In a heavy exchange from the clinch, Ford went to the ground again and Santos took his back. However, the Brazilian elected to attack with knees to the body rather than set his hooks. The Brazilian dropped vicious elbows and controlled Ford on the mat for the remainder of the opening frame. Ford came back in the second round more aggressive. “Sapo” clinched Ford against the cage and Ford blasted Santos’ bread basket with knees until he folded. “The Real Deal” followed up with some ground-and-pound before the referee saved Santos from further damage. Ford via TKO (Knee and Punches), Round 2, 1:24
Damian Grabowski vs. David Huckaba: It was obvious from the first bell that Huckaba wanted to stay on the feet and trade while Grabowski wanted to be on the ground. Grabowski used little striking to set up his takedowns against Huckaba who defended solidly throughout the fight. However, Grabowski wouldn’t be denied and used the tricks of his trade to get Huckaba down repeatedly throughout the three-round bout. Once on the canvas, the action was over and a combination of Grabowski’s timid striking and Huckaba’s limited ground game resulted in several stand-ups by the referee and a chorus of boos from the Casino Rama crowd. Huckaba had limited success with heavy punches that clipped Grabowski in the second and third rounds but he couldn’t fire off combos to further hurt the Polish heavyweight without being driven back to the mat. Huckaba opened a cut on Grabowski’s head at the end of the second round with some hard elbows but Grabowski wouldn’t let it bother him as he dragged Huckaba to the mat again and again. By the third round the action was limited to short bursts of combat and several more stand-ups. The fight went the full 15 minutes and the judges gave their decision, 29-28 for Grabowski. Grabowski via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28), Round 3, 5:00
Ben Saunders vs. Bryan Baker: The welterweight tourney combatants didn’t waste any time and started to pick their shots before Baker went for a takedown, but the experienced Saunders returned to his feet quickly. ”The Beast” took the fight back to the mat where Saunders unleashed his bread and butter of submission chaining against the strong man Baker. Saunders locked on a Triangle Choke which Baker escaped, then an Armbar that Baker also survived before turning the tables on his foe. The vast majority of the first frame was comprised of a grappling and wrestling clinic between the two Bellator veterans. Round 2, however, showed the effects of the break-neck speed of its predecessor as Baker slowed but continued to throw heavy leather and Saunders walked down Baker and counter-striked. The men battled for position in the clinch for a stretch though it was “Killa B” who locked onto his opponent’s head and brought out the lethal knees. Baker took Saunders back to the mat but landed in the American Top Team fighter’s rubber guard. “The Beast” wound up his punches while Saunders taunted him with smiles from the bottom. Baker improved to side control and finished the round with a series of hammerfists. The final stanza began with an increasingly fatigued Baker staying active and keeping Saunders on the outside, but that didn’t last long as the former middleweight Baker used his size advantage to press Saunders against the cage. He took “Killa B” to the canvas again, and Saunders responded in kind by chaining together another set of submission attempts. Baker seemed determined to play it safe though and backed away to go to work on his ground-and-pound. The fight returned to the feet momentarily before a heavy slam put Saunders on his back on the mat again, where Baker remained in control until the final bell. Baker via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27), Round 3, 5:00
(Video courtesy of Bellator)
Michael Chandler vs. Akihiro Gono: There was none of his trademark dancing or flamboyant shorts, but nonetheless Akihiro Gono was ready for his Bellator debut against 155lbs. champion Chandler in the main event’s non-title fight. Chandler pressed the action from the start, charging forward and staying light on his feet to avoid Gono’s counter-punching. The champion chased Gono against the cage and unloaded a straight right that floored the JMMA star. He pounced and rained down machine gun-like punches to finish off Gono in less than a minute and improve his perfect record to 10-0. Chandler via TKO (Punches), Round 1, 0:56
The full list of Bellator 67 results can be found here.