Thursday night's Bellator bouts set up a welterweight final that MMA fans have been hoping for all season, and also showcased Bellator's season-one featherweight champ.
As he did through much of his wrestling career, Ben Askren backed up his smack talk. In a rematch of their quarterfinal bout, Askren beat Ryan Thomas soundly in a unanimous decision, 30-27 on all judges' cards. Askren used his wrestling skills to control the bout and fend off any of Thomas' submission attempts. The two-time NCAA champion for Missouri dominated right down to the last seconds of the fight, attempting a rear naked choke as the bout ended.
“It was a war … he definitely came to fight,” Askren said afterward. “I definitely had to dig deep. I was going for some submissions but he kept slipping out. It was a great fight.”
Dan Hornbuckle will face Askren in the Bellator welterweight finals. He punched his ticket with a first-round submission. Steve Carl made the mistake of taking Hornbuckle down, because Hornbuckle took advantage of it and locked a kimura on Carl, causing him to submit at 2:31 in the first round.
This quick win is Hornbuckle's second in Bellator. He hasn't fought an entire round in Bellator, and has won six fights in a row by stoppage.
Hornbuckle didn't take long to start the trash-talk war with Askren. Just minutes after the fight, he tweeted, "How does Ben feel bout a scalp match?"
Season-one champion Joe Soto fought in a non-title bout, beating Diego Saraiva in a doctor's stoppage. Soto controlled Saraiva for most of the round, and with less than 30 seconds left in the opening round, Soto threw a vicious elbow. It opened up a deep, long cut on Saraiva's forehead. Blood poured out of his head, and the doctor stopped the bout.
In other Bellator news, the promotion announced it signed Rosi Sexton, likely to fight in its women's 115-pound tournament that will take place in its third season. Also, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney said that he wants to co-promote with Strikeforce to make a superfight between Bellator's lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez and Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez.