Bellator's third season kicked off in Hollywood, Fla., on Thursday night with action in the women's and heavyweight tournaments, as well as a non-title bout for the middleweight champ.
Arguably the world's best female fighter, Megumi Fujii won with a second-round submission. Carla Esparza took the fight on short notice and hung with Fujji for most of the first round, matching Fujii punch-for-punch. Fujii grabbed a toe hold late in the first round, but could not finish. She did not take as long in the second round, using her smooth grappling to grab an armbar out of nowhere. Esparza was forced to tap at 0:57, giving Fujii the bout.
That not only moves "Mega-Megu" onto the semifinal round of Bellator's 115-pound female tournament, but it also gives her an unprecedented 21st straight victory.
Jessica Aguilar, who still has not told her mother that she's a fighter, came away with a win and a spot in the semifinals. Aguilar used outstanding grappling to control Lynn Alvarez, finishing her off with an arm-triangle at 4:01 in the first round.
In the first fight of the Bellator heavyweight tournament, Neil Grove TKOed Eddie Sanchez in just 1:32. Grove knocked Sanchez down early and beat on his head. Twice, Sanchez fruitlessly tried for armbars, but Grove easily maneuvered out and returned to his feet to beat on Sanchez more. With his left eye swollen nearly shut, Sanchez had trouble returning to his feet. The referee asked if Sanchez could continue. When Sanchez asked for a minute, the referee stopped the fight.
Middleweight champion Hector Lombard took on Whisper Goodman, a former NFL running back, in a non-title fight. It would not have mattered if the bout was scheduled to go five rounds, as Lombard knocked out Goodman in 38 seconds. Lombard came out swinging and overwhelmed his opponent, throwing a final right that took Goodman out.
After the bout, Lombard inexplicably called out heavyweight Josh Barnett, who was at the fights to corner Fujii.
"I don't care how much weight you are," said Lombard, an Olympic judo player for Cuba. "Josh Barnett, come over."
In other Bellator news, the promotion announced that the next bout for champion Eddie Alvarez would not be taking on Pat Curran, the lightweight tourney champ, as planned. Curran sustained an injury, so Roger Huerta will be stepping in for a non-title bout in October.