(Like I said, betting money on Petruzelli would be a *terrible* idea. / Photo via Facebook.com/BellatorMMA)
Bellator’s 2013 Summer Series kicked off last night in Thackerville, Oklahoma — population: 404 — with the semifinals of the promotion’s latest light-heavyweight and heavyweight tournaments. The televised card was an overall success, featuring fast action, brutal stoppages, and much-needed wins for a pair of marquee names. But it didn’t go well for everybody. Here are the important points…
War Machine Is Back in General Population
In a non-tournament bout that opened the broadcast, charmingly outspoken welterweight War Machine returned to competition for the first time since his latest stint in jail, facing journeyman Blas Avena. Machine appeared to be in fine form, putting Avena on his back in the second half of the opening round, trapping his arm, and slugging Avena with left hands until the match was stopped at the 3:55 mark. Random thought: War really needs to be a coach on season 2 of Fight Master. You want drama? There’s your drama.
Heavyweights Gonna Heavyweight
Both of the heavyweight tournament semi-finals resulted in gnarly first-round knockouts. During the prelims, Ryan Martinez — who came in as a short-notice replacement for the injured Vinicius Queiroz — slugged out Richard Hale with punches from the top. And on the main card, undefeated Russian prospect Vitaly Minakov needed just 32 seconds to beat the crap out of Ron Sparks. Minakov is now 11-0, with six of those wins coming in the first minute of the fight. He and Martinez will now face each other at Bellator 97, July 31st in Albuquerque.
Farewell, Sweet Babalu
Renato “Babalu” Sobral vs. Jacob Noe was certainly the most competitive fight on the main card, with both light-heavyweights landing well through the first two rounds. The third round could have been the deciding frame, but Noe didn’t let it go to the judges. After stunning Sobral with punches and opening up a cut near his left eye, Noe threw the kitchen sink at Babalu, who stumbled around and ate punches until the ref called a standing TKO at the 3:32 mark of the final round. Despite his wooziness, Sobral didn’t appear too pleased with the call.
If you’re a well-traveled MMA veteran who has fought for the biggest organizations in the world, but you’re now being stopped by a virtual unknown in the opening round of a Bellator tournament, it might be a good sign to hang up the gloves — and that’s exactly what Babalu did after the fight, announcing his retirement in the cage. It’s hard to say if Sobral’s retirement will be permanent, or one of those temporary retirements that fighters seem to love so much. But for now, the BJJ black-belt leaves behind a 37-11 career record, and can claim victories over Chael Sonnen, Mauricio Rua, Robbie Lawler, Jeremy Horn, and Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou.
(Skip to the 1:11 mark for the brain-damage.)
Look, I still think making Muhammad Lawal a 15-1 favorite in this fight was ludicrous. This wasn’t exactly Cro Cop vs. Dos Caras Jr. — it was a halfway legitimate matchup. But King Mo won, and he made it look easy. As soon as Lawal completed his first takedown, it was the beginning of the end. With Petruzelli on his back, Lawal grabbed his feet, swung them out of the way, and dived in with one of the most savage haymakers-from-above in MMA history. Nobody could have survived that shot, and Petruzelli was no exception. And so, Lawal bounces back from his surprise upset against Emanuel Newton at Bellator 90, and will now face Jacob Noe in the finals of the light-heavyweight summer tourney at Bellator 97. Meanwhile, Petruzelli’s Bellator record drops to 1-2.
And now, full results from Bellator 96…
Muhammed Lawal def. Seth Petruzelli via KO, 1:35 of round 1
Jacob Noe def. Renato Sobral via TKO, 3:32 of round 3
Vitaly Minakov def. Ron Sparks via TKO, 0:32 of round 1
War Machine def. Blas Avena via TKO, 3:55 of round 1
Damon Jackson def. Keith Miner via TKO, 2:00 of round 1
Raphael Butler def. Jeremiah O’Neal via TKO, 2:57 of round 1
Ryan Martinez def. Richard Hale via KO, 2:19 of round 1
Brandon Halsey def. Joe Yager via split decision (30-28 x 2, 28-30)*
Derek Campos def. Brandon Girtz via unanimous decision (29-28 x 3)
Justin McNally def. Steven Artoff via verbal submission (triangle choke), 2:44 of round 1
UNAIRED MATCHES (FOLLOWING THE MAIN CARD BROADCAST)
Chas Skelly def. Jarrod Card via unanimous decision (29-28 x 3)
Keith Berry def. Cortez Coleman via split decision (29-28 x 2, 28-29)
Mike Maldonado def. Chavous Smith via submission (rear-naked choke), 2:27 of round 1
* That 28-30 has to be a scoring error by the judge. Yager had a point deducted for groin-strikes, so even if he won every round, the highest score he could have received would be 29.