Bellator middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho wiped away any doubts from his controversial split-decision win over Melvin Manhoef last May.
The Brazilian champion scored a clean head-kick knockout in the rematch against Manhoef at this Saturday’s Bellator 176, which took place at the Pala Alpitour in Torino, Italy.
The fight looked to be en route to a decision favoring the defending champ. The first round was an even contest, as Carvalho dictated much of the action, but Manhoef scored the most significant move, seizing a takedown and retaining top control with a minute left in the round. But rounds two and three were a different story, as Carvalho pushed the pace and had Manhoef backing up with knees to the body and solid jabs.
Manhoef sensed urgency to change the tune of the fight entering the fourth round, so the Dutch fighter responded with pressure of his own and increased his striking output on Carvalho. However, in that process, Carvalho landed a brutal left head-kick that sent Carvalho stiff to the canvas.
The victory marks Carvalho second title defense since defeating Brandon Halsey for the vacant middleweight title back at Bellator 144 in 2015. Carvalho also improved his professional MMA record to 14-1. On the other hand, Manhoef suffered his 14th loss in MMA and now finds himself sporting a 2-3 (1 NC) record under the Bellator banner.
In the co-main event of the card, Anastasia Yankova picked up her third Bellator win.
The Russian fighter had a dominant performance in her 130-pound catchweight bout against 18-year-old fighter Elina Kallionidou, scoring 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 on the judges scorecards. It was a fight where Yankova utilized her pressure and clinch work to control Kallionidou against the cage every round. Kallionidou had some good moments in the fight, as she looked to be the more fluid striker and landed combinations that battered Yankova. However, the damage Kallionidou caused on the feet wasn’t enough to top Yankova’s control and pressure.
With this victory, Yankova moves to 5-0 as a professional fighter and 3-0 in Bellator, while Kallionidou finds herself on a two-fight losing skid that composes the entirety of her Bellator run. Prior to signing with Bellator, the Greek fighter was 5-0.
Additionally on the card, lightweight fighter Mihail Nica submitted Samba Coulibaly in just 36 seconds to remain undefeated in his professional MMA career, while Valeriu Mircea outpointed Djamil Chan to bounce back from a loss in his Bellator debut.
Source:: mma fighting