Cagewriter - Mixed Martial Arts

The little guys are taking over! Warren knocked stiff by Vila and Kawajiri dominates in featherweight debut

Can anyone deny that the bantamweight and featherweight divisions have a chance to lead the way for MMA in the very near future?

The best bantamweight in the world is fighting this weekend on free television when Dominick Cruz defends his UFC title against Demetrious Johnson at UFC on Versus 6. Plus "The Ultimate Fighter" debuted last week featuring the smaller fighters for the first time. It looks like Season 14 may produce more legitimate UFC fighters than any previous season.

But it's not just the UFC that's loaded with intriguing guys at 135 and 145 pounds. This weekend produced several exciting results, including one of the nastiest knockouts of the year.

Bellator's 145-pound champion, Joe Warren is a natural bantamweight and was planning on crushing the field in Bellator's latest 135-pound tournament. Nothing went to plan, as that journey to a second title hit a stone wall in just 64 seconds. Make that some stone fists. Amazingly, the guy who did it is 40 years old.

Alexis Vila, a 1996 Olympic wrestling bronze medalist for Cuba, rocked Warren with a right and then finished him with a left hook that had the American in snooze-mode on his way down. Check out Warren (7-2) as his body is completely locked up on the ground.

Because of his age, who knows what Vila's future holds, but it'll be an interesting story to track. He's made a better life for himself since defecting from Cuba, now living in the Miami area.

At Bellator 51, Vila (10-0) advanced to the Bellator 135-pound semifinals along with Vila, Marcus Galvao, Eduardo Dantas and Ed West. The winner of the tourney gets a shot at Bellator champ Zach Makovsky.

Meanwhile across the Pacific, DREAM kicked off its own bantamweight tourney. Rodolfo Marques, Antonio Banuelos, Bibiano Fernandes and Masakazu Imanari all won in the first round.

The stars of the show were the dominant Japanese lightweights Tatsuya Kawajiri and Shinya Aoki. Both have been just about unbeatable in their home country, but struggled when they came over to the U.S. to take on Gilbert Melendez.

After his loss to Melendez, Aoki's bounced back with six straight wins, but Kawajiri decided it was time to drop a weight class.

The thickly muscled 33-year-old shed some bulk to face Joachim Hansen. There were no negative signs of the weight cut and "The Crusher" looked incredibly strong at featherweight rolling to a third round submission win via arm-triangle choke. Hansen's a smallish 145 pounder, so we won't go crazy over the victory, but the potential is there for Kawajiri to be a real player at featherweight.

Aoki took on former WEC champion Rob McCullough. The outcome was predictable with the submission master catching the American in a neck crank at the end of the first round (11:15 mark).

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