Bellator Fighting Championships' second season kicked off Thursday night at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla., and the upstart organization once again delivered on some exciting in-cage action.
Bellator's biggest new star, Roger Huerta, advanced in the evening's co-feature, while Carey Vanier stopped Joe Duarte in the night's main event.
The action was featured on Bellator Fighting Championships 13, which aired live on FSN.
Duarte, a tournament standby who took the fight on short notice, found himself in trouble from the opening bell. Vanier opened with a series of low kicks that found their mark, and a pair of takedowns secured the fighter the opening frame.
Duarte appeared to tire in the second frame, though he did continue forward and scored a few shots on the feet as well as a takedown and a threatening kimura attempt. But Vanier had an answer for each move and appeared to remain in control of the fight.
Duarte continued to fade in the third, and Vanier unleashed a ferocious assault. Strikes landed frequently and soundly, and Duarte eventually found himself under an assault he couldn't defend. The referee halted the contest with 46 seconds left in the final frame securing a result for Vanier that he appeared to have locked up either way.
After opening his career just 1-2, Vanier (8-2 MMA, 1-0 BFC) now holds a seven-fight win streak. Meanwhile, Duarte (5-2 MMA, 0-1 BFC) falls to just 1-2 in his past three contests.
In his first fight since leaving the UFC, lightweight Roger Huerta established himself as an early favorite in the 155-pound bracket.
Huerta engaged in a high-paced first round with the previously undefeated Chad Hinton, but after some initial back-and-forth action, "El Matador" took over in the final two frames. Working from top position for the majority of the second round, Huerta scored big points while evading Hinton's attempts to sweep or submit.
In the final frame, Huerta landed a few early punches before a slick transition into a knee-bar attempt that left Hinton with no choice but to tap at 0:56 of the third round.
Huerta (21-3-1 MMA, 1-0 BFC) snaps a two-fight losing streak withe the result, while Hinton (6-1 MMA, 0-1 BFC) loses for the first time in his seven-fight career.
In featherweight tournament action, Joe Warren survived a first-round scare from opponent Eric Marriott and grinded out a unanimous-decision win.
Using his wrestling prowess, Warren put Marriott in his back early and often. But Marriott remained calm and threatened with both an arm-bar and triangle choke attempt from the bottom. Warren slipped the moves and returned to his gameplan in the second and third frames.
Marriott fought valiantly until the end, but Warren's constant pressure from top position proved too much as he took the fight 30-27 on all three cards.
Warren (3-1 MMA, 1-0 BFC) proves victorious in his U.S. debut after three fights under the DREAM banner. Meanwhile, Marriott (17-4 MMA, 0-1 BFC) falls short in his first shot on the big stage.
The opening tournament bout of Bellator's second season ended in dramatic fashion as explosive featherweight Georgi Karakhanyan delivered the season's first highlight-reel finish.
Opponent Bao Quach began the fight in fine fashion, dropping Karakhanyan with a right hand early and earning two takedowns in later action. But Karakhanyan remained a game competitor and answered each attack with some of his own.
As the first round entered its final minute, Karakhanyan delivered a brutal knee to his foe's chin, and Quach collapsed on the floor. Karakhanyan sealed his spot in the featherweight tournament semifinals with a few extra punches on the floor.
Karakhanyan (13-1-1 MMA, 0-1 BFC) now has a nine-fight win streak, and 11 of his 13 career wins have come by stoppage. Meanwhile, Quach (17-10-1 MMA, 0-1 BFC) loses for just the second time in his past 13 trips to the cage.
The night's second non-tournament bout saw Gracie Barra Orlando's Mikey Gomez and Moyses Gabin battle back and forth for 15 minutes. Each fighter took turns working from top position, but the two proved evenly matched throughout the action.
In the end, it was Gomez who controlled more of the action, and he was rewarded with a unanimous-decision win, 29-28 on all three cards.
Gomez (10-8 MMA, 1-2 BFC) snaps a four-fight win streak with the result, while Gabin (whose other two career losses came to UFC vets Jon Jones and Lucio Linhares) falls to 4-3 on his career and 1-1 under the Bellator Fighting Championships banner.
The evening's first non-televised fight saw American Top Team Fighter Chris Manuel in charge of the action from the opening bell. Floridian Ralph Acosta did well to survive the early onslaught, but he was forced to fight defensively throughout the first two rounds.
Acosta opened the third with an aggressive slam, but Manuel deftly locked in a guillotine choke on the way to the floor. Manuel squeezed the hold and forced the stoppage at the 35-second mark of the final frame.
The win snapped a four-fight winless streak for Manuel (7-3-2 MMA, 1-0 BFC), while Acosta (4-5 MMA, 0-1 BFC) falls to just 1-4 in his past five contests.
In the first of a pair of non-tournament bouts that took place after the evening's televised card, Edson Diniz (10-3 MMA, 1-0 BFC) snapped a two-fight losing streak with a first-round submission of the previously undefeated John Kelly (4-1 MMA, 0-1 BFC). Despite some early success on the feet from Kelly, Diniz turned the tables when he worked the fight to the ground and finished the contest with a joint-popping inverted heel hook with 24 seconds left in the opening round.
* Vagner Rocha def. Francisco Soares via TKO (punches) - Round 2, 2:07
* Edson Diniz def. John Kelly by heel hook submission – Round 1, 4:36
* Carey Vanier def. Joe Duarte via TKO (punches) - Round 3, 4:14
* Roger Huerta def. Chad Hinton via submission (knee-bar) - Round 3, 0:56
* Joe Warren def. Eric Marriott via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
* Georgi Karakhanyan def. Bao Quach via knockout (knee) - Round 1, 4:05
* Mikey Gomez def. Moyses Gabin via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
* Chris Manuel def. Ralph Acosta via submission (guillotine choke) - Round 3, 0:35