Bellator's motto is "Where title shots are earned, not given" and one featherweight fighter in particular put that theory into practice yet again. On Saturday night, live on MTV2, Bellator 48 capped off the Summer Series with a highlight reel leading up to the 145-pound tourney at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut, a night of furious action, devastating knockouts, the return of a champion and the crowning of another tournament king with a very familiar name. Click for a recap of these rousing rumbles.
Juan Barrantes vs. Rene Nazare
The event began in the lightweight division. The Brazilian Rene Nazare entered the bout undefeated and riding a two-fight win streak in the BFC cage since joining the organization in April. Nazare's opponent Juan "Juanito" Barrantes is a young Costa Rican fighter making his Bellator debut.
The first round got off to a fast start, with Nazare and Barrantes exchanging wildly on the feet. The two showed no fear and swung for the fences, Nazare scoring with better and more frequent punches. After a few minutes of trading leather, Nazare hit a beautiful double-leg takedown and took the fight to his strength: the ground. The Brazilian jiujitsu black belt busted up Barrantes with effective ground and pound from the top. At the end of round 1, Barrantes was bleeding and fighting off a guillotine choke from Nazare.
Nazare dominated the entire second round, taking the fight to the floor early. Just as in the first round finished, Nazare maintained total control, refusing to relent until the bell rang. Barrantes headed back to his corner with a noticeable swollen right eye from the one-sided beating--the ringside doctor called a stop to the fight due to Barrantes not being able to see out of it. Barrantes was disappointed, but Nazare was clearly winning with no change in sight.
Rene Nazare wins by TKO (doctor stoppage) at 5:00 in round 2.
Seth Petruzelli vs. Ricco Rodriguez
Both of these fighters' names are familiar to almost any MMA fan. Ricco Rodriguez is famous for his extensive fight career, 47-12, including and especially his win over Randy Couture at UFC 39 to win the vacant heavyweight title. Seth Petruzelli is most well known for his 14-second knockout of internet superstar Kimbo Slice. Rodriguez looked to prove that he's still got the talent to be a champ, and Petruzelli looked to prove he's more than just the "Kimbo Killer."
In the first round of this 230-pound catchweight fight, Petruzelli got his wish and displayed a heavy array of strikes, due in no small part to his background in karate. As Rodriguez's specialty lies in his ground game, Petruzelli easily took control of the stand-up action, mixing up punches with low kicks and landing almost all of them. The inevitable came at the tail end of the round when Petruzelli landed a spinning back-kick to his opponent's face, prompting Rodriguez to give Petruzelli a high five to show his approval. Petruzelli immediately landed a hook-kick that stunned Rodriguez, then followed up with a right hook that dropped his opponent to the mat. Petruzelli swarmed the fallen Rodriguez with Donkey Kong-style double hammer fists that finished the fight.
Seth Petruzelli wins by TKO (punches) at 4:21 in round 1.
Cole Konrad vs. Paul Buentello
It had been nearly a year since Bellator fans had seen their heavyweight champion, Cole Konrad, in the cage. Apparently, "The Polar Bear" has been working on his stand-up. In what many expected to be a clash of styles, the wrestling phenom, Konrad, decided to show off what he's learned in the past 10 months and traded strikes with the heavy-handed veteran Paul Buentello. In theory, that's exactly what Buentello should have wanted, but "The Headhunter" had trouble dealing with The Polar Bear's size and strength.
The heavyweight nontitle fight couldn't have gone more differently than anticipated. Konrad willfully stood and jabbed with Buentello for the entirety of the first round without even a hint of a takedown. Konrad has been working extensively on his striking with his DeathClutch teammate, former K-1 kickboxer and current UFC heavyweight, Pat Barry. The second round looked much like the first, as the two behemoths stalked each other and pawed at each other but rarely committed on their strikes. Both fighters landed shots, but not many were noteworthy. More than anything it simply showed an emerging confidence the BFC heavyweight champ has in his stand-up.
Finally, in the third round, The Polar Bear did what he does best and took the fight to ground. Konrad ground and pounded Buentello from half-guard and, at one moment, had the The Headhunter on his back where The Polar Bear almost sunk in a rear naked choke. After a couple minutes of top control by Konrad, the ref stood the two up for the final 60 seconds, where the fight came to its conclusion. It wasn't the champ's most exciting performance, but it was another lopsided victory for the undefeated Konrad.
The judges scored this 29-28, 30-27, 30-27 in favor of Cole Konrad by unanimous decision.
Pat Curran vs. Marlon Sandro
In the main event, the finals of the featherweight tournament came to a concussive conclusion. In one corner stood "The Monster from Rio" Marlon Sandro, who had sprawled and brawled his way to this bout in wins over Nazareno Malegerie and Genair da Silva. In the other corner stood last year's lightweight tournament champion, Pat Curran, a full 10 pounds lighter and looking for another $100,000 check, plus a title shot at current 145-pound belt owner, Joe Warren.
The opening round saw these two big featherweights with bullying styles exchange fists and feet for the full five minutes. Although he is a BJJ blackbelt, Sandro is a striker--an experienced striker at that. Early on, Sandro punched with better accuracy than his opponent. Nevertheless, Curran is a rock and continued to come forward, for good or for bad, pushing Sandro to continue with his onslaught. In the second, Curran's grinding pace seemed to take its effect on Sandro, who began to lose the bounce in his step.
With blood running down his cheek--and a little more than a minute left in the second--Curran hadn't landed any truly significant blows. But all that changed when Curran threw a few probing jabs that Sandro predictably ducked to avoid, his face connecting with Curran's right shin in the process. One good kick to the head was all she wrote, and Sandro crashed to the floor. Curran even threw in a couple quick punches for good measure. Another tournament won by Curran, another $100,000 payday and another title shot looming in the future.
Pat Curran wins by KO (head kick) at 4:00 in round 2.
Coming up: The opening round of the new tournament in the welterweight division begins at Bellator 49 on Sept. 10 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.