At the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, Englishman Liam McGeary (10-0) kept his professional record unblemished, capping off a successful “British Invasion” and claiming the Bellator MMA Light Heavyweight title with a five-round decision victory over the former champion Emanuel Newton (25-8-1).
From the start, McGeary used his height advantage and incredible grappling skills to move from submission attempt to submission attempt in entertaining fashion. While his submission attempts were relentless, from triangle choke to kimura to armbar and constantly on the move, Newton was also amazing showing capable defense to pull free of each. Despite the obvious danger on the ground, Newton continued to take the fight to the floor in the second round, working from his opponent’s active guard.
The remainder of the fight played out in similar fashion with Newton able to take the fight to the floor with ease but forced to defend the constant grappling attacks from McGeary. Both fighters could make arguments for the win, as both enjoyed extended stretches in the dominant position. However, it was McGeary’s constant offense that impressed the judges, awarding him the win with scores of 48-46, 48-47 and 48-47.
In the night’s co-feature, light heavyweight contender Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal (15-4) moved up to the heavyweight to earn an impressive decision win over Cheick Kongo (22-10-2).
Facing the massive size differential, Lawal turned to his wrestling base rather than try and trade blows with the bigger man. The plan worked, as Lawal controlled the action in the clinch and racked up points with takedowns. While the crowd tried to entice Lawal to take a more risky approach, “King Mo” remained disciplined and cruised to what looked like a clear-cut win, albeit a split decision win, 30-27, 28-29 and 29-28.
“I don’t agree with the split decision at all,” said Lawal later. “I won all three rounds. He knows he lost the fight. I got the victory and that’s all that matters. Wrestling works and it showed tonight. I have a great coaching staff at American Top Team. I could’ve gone another two rounds. At the end of the third round, I knew he was gassed, so I just walked him off. Next time, I hope to fight for the title.”
In welterweight action, Brazilian veteran Andre “Chatuba” Santos (37-10) proved himself a game opponent against Paul “Semtex” Daley (36-13-2), but the British slugger ultimately got the decision win. In typical Daley fashion, he threw heavy punches on the feet, looking for the knockout. However, Santos proved resilient, answering with strikes of his own while also looking to work from the clinch. The action went back and forth for the opening two rounds before Daley took over in the third.
An early Daley knockdown set the tone for the final frame, and Daley worked hard for the finish. Santos, however, simply wouldn’t quit, and despite being dominated in the final round, he survive until the final bell.
“This guy was so tough” admitted Daley. “I caught him with heavy, wild shots, and normally I would’ve taken my opponent out in the second or third round, but he didn’t quit; he has a ton of heart. It was a great fight.”
Fighting for the first time since a failed bid for the Bellator MMA Light Heavyweight World Title, Linton “The Swarm” Vassell (15-4) scored a second-round TKO over Rameau “The African Assassin” Sokoudjou (16-13) who hails from Team Quest in Encinitas, CA. Vassell controlled the action from the start, taking Sokoudjou to the floor and scoring with ground-and-pound blows while hunting out opportunities to end the fight with a submission. That opening came in the second round. Refusing to give Sokoudjou any room to work, Vassell scoring top position and utilizing superior grappling skills. Sokoudjou was unable to get back to his feet, and Vassell eventually unleashed a flurry of strikes that earned the stoppage at the 3:18 mark of the second.
In the first main-card contest, welterweight Brennan “The Irish Bad Boy” Ward (10-3) made quick work of “Courteous” Curtis Millender (7-1), needing just 64 seconds to score a submission win.
The two went toe-to-toe to open, and it appeared Millender was getting the best of the initial exchanges. But after coming up short on a takedown, Ward scored a crisp two-punch combination that sent his opponent to the floor. Ward took advantage of the opening, hopped on his opponent’s back and sunk in a rear-naked choke to end the fight at the 1:37 mark of the first round.
Preliminary Card Results
Dean Hancock defeated Mike Mangan by submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 1:33
Matt Bessette defeated Josh LaBerge by TKO (doctor’s stoppage) – Round 2, 5:00
Raphael Butler defeated Josh Diekmann by submission (guillotine choke) – Round 1, 1:04
Tamdan McCrory defeated Jason Butcher by submission (armbar) – Round 1, 1:06
Neiman Gracie defeated Bobby Flynn by submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 2:36
Blair Tugman defeated Marvin Maldonado by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)