The Bellator welterweight and featherweight semfinals took shape in Connecticut on Thursday night, with three fighters walking away with first round wins and the fourth picking up a razor-close split decision.
Dan Hornbuckle, who made headlines with a highlight-reel head-kick knockout of Akihiro Gono in in Sengoku, showed that he knows more than one way to win when he ended his bout with Tyler Stinson by submission. Hornbuckle secured a triangle choke at 2:03 in the first round and will move onto the semifinals in the welterweight tourney.
Patricio "Pitbull" Freire defended himself from William Romero's upkicks by grabbing a leg and locking in a heel hook. He barely broke a sweat in securing the submission at 2:01 in the first. Next, Freire will face Georgi Karakhanyan in the semifinals of the featherweight tourney.
Steve Carl, an Army veteran, eked out a win over Brett Cooper. The two engaged in a back and forth battle that featured Carl's wrestling skills and both fighters' standup skills. Cooper got full mount in the final round, but Carl lasted and the judges gave him the edge in the 29-28, 28-29, 29-28 victory. The crowd booed the decision loudly, but the bout was so close that it was tough to call.
Ryan Thomas, who made his way back into the welterweight tournament after a controversial loss to Ben Askren, took advantage of the opportunity and TKOed the previously undefeated Jacob McClintock. The Arizona Combat Sports-trained McClintock came out furiously and tried for a rear naked choke, but Thomas stayed calm in fighting off the choke. He gained control and landed huge shots to finish off McClintock at 4:11 in the first round. After the bout, Thomas called out Askren.
"Ben, you know you didn't beat me, everybody knows you didn't beat me, you're running your mouth, let's do it," Thomas said.
Welterweight matchups have not yet been decided, so Askren vs. Thomas in the second round is a possibility. The other two semifinalists are Hornbuckle and Carl.
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