LinkIn the promotion's first season-two visit to Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., Bellator Fighting Championships on Thursday night once again provided a handful of exciting contests and impressive performances.
And while three fighters booked their trips to tournament semifinals on the back of one-sided wins, welterweight Steve Carl took a more controversial approach.
Carl edged out fellow welterweight Brett Cooper via hotly contested decision in the final FOX Sports Net-televised bout of Bellator 15.
The action remained tight throughout the 15-minute affair, and a scrambling grappling fest in the opening round gave way to an impressive striking exchange in the second.
The bout appeared up for grabs in the final frame, and a few successful takedowns in the frame for Cooper coupled with some solid work from top position appeared to secure him the frame. But after the back-and-forth nature of the first two frames, anything was possible.
In the end, two of the three judges scored the fight for Carl, and though the vocal objections of the crowd seemed to suggest they disagreed, Cooper was force to accept a split-decision loss.
The unheralded Carl (10-1 MMA, 1-0 BFC) has now won eight-straight fights, while Cooper (11-6 MMA, 0-1 BFC) begrudgingly falls to 1-2 in his past three contests.
Bellator open tryout winner Tyler Stinson found himself as a surprise entrant to the season-two welterweight tournament, but his luck quickly ran out when Dan Hornbuckle stepped into the cage.
After some early traded punches, Hornbuckle looked to work the fight to the canvas. Stinson scrambled to top position in the transition, but the position provided only false hope.
Hornbuckle looked first for an arm-bar, then a trinagle choke, and the second effort proved effective. Stinson remained calm as he looked for an escape route, but Hornbuckle squeezed tight and was forced to relent just 2:03 into the fight to advance to the tournament's second round.
Hornbuckle (20-2 MMA, 1-0 BFC) ran his win streak to five bouts, and "The Handler" has now earned 18 victories in 19 trips to the cage. Meanwhile, Stinson (16-6 MMA, 0-1 BFC) loses for just the second time in nine outings.
One week after suffering a controversial loss to Ben Askren, fate interrupted in the form of a volcano to allow Ryan Thomas another chance in Bellator's welterweight tournament. With travel restrictions forcing Jim Wallhead forced to withdraw from the event, "The Tank Engine" made good on his opportunity.
Opponent Jacob McClintock threatened to spoil Thomas' return early in the contest, and a few successful strikes saw "Tick Tock" move into a clinch and to his foe's back. But Thomas defended well and eventually took top position.
Working a ground-and-pound attack, Thomas avoided a McClintock triangle-choke attempt while continuing his assault from the top. Trapped against the cage, McClintock couldn't escape, and the bout was halted with 49 seconds left in the first round.
With the win, Thomas (11-4 MMA, 1-1 BFC) could potentially find himself in a rematch with Askren in the semifinals, though Hornbuckle and Carl are also in the mix. Meanwhile, the 22-year-old McClintock (6-1 MMA, 0-1 BFC) suffers his first-ever defeat.
In the evening's first televised fight, undefeated Brazilian featherweight Patricio "Pitbull" Freire kept his unblemished mark intact in impressive fashion.
After a few early range-finding strikes, Freire shot in on opponent William Romero and drug him immediately to the floor. Freire postured up and landed a few punches from the top before transitioning to a toe hold. Romero audibly shrieked in agony as he tapped out from the painful hold.
Friere (13-0 MMA, 1-0 BFC) books his place in the season-two semifinals alongside Georgi Karakhanyan, Wilson Reis and Joe Warren. Romero (5-1 MMA, 0-1 BFC) loses for the first time in his young career.
* Steve Carl def. Brett Cooper via split-decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) (welterweight tourney first round)
* Dan Hornbuckle def. Tyler Stinson via submission (triangle choke) - Round 1, 2:03 (welterweight tourney first round)
* Ryan Thomas def. Jacob McClintock via TKO (punches) - Round 1, 4:11 (welterweight tourney first round)
* Patricio "Pitbull" Freire def. William Romero via submission (heel hook) - Round 1, 2:01 (featherweight tourney first round)
* Dave Branch def. Derrick Mehman via submission (rear-naked choke) - Round 2
* Ryan Quinn def. Matt Lee via unanimous decision
* Dan Cramer def. Dennis Olson by unanimous decision (30,27, 30-27, 30-27)
* Rich de los Reyes def. Brylan Van Artsdalen via submission (rear-naked choke) - Round 2, 2:03