One half of the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix is set.
On Friday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., Ryan Bader punched his ticket to the heavyweight tournament final, beating Matt Mitrione via unanimous decision in the main event of Bellator 207.
Bader came out like a house on fire, taking Mitrione down early and dominating Mitrione for five minutes with vicious ground and pound. At one point, it looked like Bader could get an early stoppage when Mitrione covered up prone but the true heavyweight was able to weather the storm and make it to the end of the round. The second round was much like the first with Bader once again taking Mitrione down and unloading serious damage on the ground. At one point, Bader locked in a kimura that had Mitrione grunt in pain and prepare to tap but once again Mitrione was able to gut through it and survive the round. The third round was more of the same, and at the end of the evening, Bader got his hand raised, winning a unanimous decision 30-25, 30-25, and 30-24 on the judges’ scorecards. Bader will face the winner of Saturday night’s main event bout between Fedor Emelianenko and Chael Sonnen in the Heavyweight Grand Prix Final early next year.
In the co-main event, Sergei Kharitonov and Roy Nelson faced off in a heavyweight tilt that saw Kharitonov dissect the durable veteran en route to a first-round KO. From the opening bell, Kharitonov had his jab tethered to the face of Nelson who jabbed back and shot for a number of takedowns that were all stuffed. In one such instance, Kharitonov dropped Nelson with an illegal knee that warranted a point deduction from Dan Miragliotta. The deduction didn’t end up mattering though as once the bout was restarted, Kharitonov hurt “Big Country” with a left hook to the liver and then got surgical on the suddenly retreating Nelson, picking the UFC veteran apart with jabs and uppercuts before closing the deal with knees with one second left in the opening stanza. The win is Kharitonov’s second in Bellator and keeps the veteran fighter relevant as the promotion’s heavyweight division continues to sort itself out.
In a pivotal match-up on the main card, Lorenz Larkin took on Ion Pascu for the right to serve as an alternate in the Welterweight Grand Prix, with Larkin securing his spot as the official alternate for Bellator’s big tournament. In the first and second rounds, the Romanian national wrestling champion was unable to implement his grappling game effectively, spending the majority of the rounds getting picked apart by Larkin’s superior striking. The third round started out as more of the same, but midway through the round, Pascu was able to catch a kick and score a takedown, controlling most of the rest of the round. It was too little too late though and Larkin won a unanimous decision, 29-28 on all three cards.
Elsewhere on the card, Kevin Ferguson Jr. and Corey Browning put on a sloppy but entertaining bout that saw Browning stop “Baby Slice” in the second round. In the first round, Ferguson controlled the bout early with his wrestling but Browning staged a comeback late, getting to the back crucifix position and raining elbows on Ferguson. In the second round, Browning nearly knocked out Ferguson early, dropping “Baby Slice” with a huge right hand but Ferguson was able to reverse the position and lock on an arm-triangle choke. That attempt failed but Ferguson moved to mount and began working on a rear-naked choke. Browning proved too tough though, surviving the rally from the now gassed Ferguson, reversing the position and then pounding Baby Slice out in the second round.
In the main card opener, Mandel Nallo kept his winning streak alive in impressive fashion, delivering a KO of the Year contender against Carrington Banks. Nallo spent much of the opening round threatening Banks with his submission game, nearly sinking in an anaconda choke that he was ultimately unable to finish. In the second round though, it was the striking game that Nall showcased, landing a knee that flatlined Banks and moved Nallo to 7-0 in his professional career.