On Friday, June 22, Bellator kicked off its Summer Series with its inaugural visit to West Virginia. Here is a look at the night's preliminary fights:
Neil Johnson (7-4) defeated Brylan Van Artsdalen (7-4) via submission
The opening fight of the event had a tentative beginning. Johnson had a hard time getting started against Van Artsdalen, who kept him at a distance by utilizing his leg kicks. When the second round got underway, Johnson pushed the pace a bit more and started landing some punches. Van Artsdalen responded with some kicks of his own, one of which Johnson caught. Holding on to Van Artsdalen's leg, Johnson forced him to the ground. Van Artsdalen eventually freed himself and got back to his feet, but that didn't last long. Johnson took him back down and locked in the rear naked choke to earn the submission victory at 4:29 of the second round.
Jason Butcher (4-0) defeated Duane Bastress (5-2) via submission
This fight ended quickly. Butcher kicked it off by landing a couple of shots that hurt Bastress. Probably relying on his instincts, Bastress took Butcher down. Once on the ground, Butcher caught Bastress in a triangle choke and forced the submission at 1:03 of the first round. Fans should keep an eye on Jason Butcher. He gave the most impressive performance on the entire card.
Josh Stansbury (4-2) defeated Dan Spohn (6-3) via submission
Both fighters came out aggressive to start the match. Spohn landed a nice combo while pushing forward, and Stansbury responded with some kicks. However, one of his kicks hit Spohn below the belt, which caused a brief stoppage.
Once the match restarted, Spohn wasn't the same fighter. He didn't have the same aggression that he had in the fight's first minute. Meanwhile, Stansbury pushed the action and eventually clinched with Spohn against the fence. The two fighters were eventually separated, but Stansbury continued to press Spohn, who appeared to be struggling with a cut above his eye.
Moments later, Stansbury landed an overhand right which knocked Spohn down. With Spohn trying to recover, Stansbury cinched the guillotine choke and forced the tapout at 2:36 of the first round. Stansbury earned the NAAFS light heavyweight title with the much-deserved victory.
Kevin Zalac (4-2) defeated Chris Goldbaugh (3-2) via unanimous decision
In one of the night's sloppier fights, Zalac used his wrestling to grind out a unanimous 29-28 decision victory over Goldbaugh. Both men started the match by working their standup until Goldbaugh clinched Zalac against the fence. They eventually broke away from the cage, and after some ineffective striking from Goldbaugh, Zalac took him down.
The rest of the fight was determined by Zalac outwrestling Goldbaugh. While he struggled to advance his position, Zalac had no problems taking Goldbaugh down and keeping him there. Goldbaugh did succeed in taking as little damage as possible, but he was unable to get the fight back to his feet. He simply had no answer for Zalac's wrestling.
Derek Ciapala has been following MMA since the days when Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie fought in the octagon. He was in attendance at Mountainer Race Track and Gaming Resort for Bellator 71. You can follow him on Twitter @dciapala.