Light heavyweight champion Emanuel Newton kept gold around his waist on Friday night at Bellator 124 at the Michigan Compuware Arena in Plymouth, Mich.
The first couple rounds of the fight between Newton and Joey Beltran, who stepped up to challenge the champ when almost no one else would, left everyone contemplating who was winning the fight.
Both men had their moments in the opening round, although neither did much damage.
Beltran started strong in the second round, using his aggressive striking to put Newton on the backfoot for the first half of the round. But as the seconds ticked away, Beltran slowed a bit, and Newton started to follow-up off of his counters, making it another close round.
The third frame saw both men settle into a rhythm, Beltran plodding forward, while Newton hung back and countered.
Beltran continued to lose speed, however, and just past the midway point of the scheduled five rounds, he stepped toward the champ, looking to land with his hands, but found himself on the receiving end of an Emanuel Newton spinning backfist.
The blow landed flush to Beltran’s jaw and sent him to the canvas, his lights instantly gone dim.
“He kept coming, but I knew with my awkward style, I’d catch him eventually,” said Newton after the fight.
The victory was the Newton’s first defense of the belt since unifying his interim title with former champion Attila Vegh at Bellator 113 earlier this year.
In the night’s co-main event, Liam McGeary remained undefeated by submitting Kelly Anundson.
McGeary used his reach advantage, striking well early, but eventually got taken down by Anundson. The takedown hardly played to Anundson’s favor, though.
While the wrestler managed a few good elbow shots, McGeary nearly secured an Americana from his back, and remained extremely aggressive, continually searching for submissions.
Anundson appeared to put himself in a safer position in side control, but McGeary snaked his lanky legs up around his neck. A few moments later, Anundson was tapping out to the inverted triangle choke.
The victory secured the light heavyweight tournament final in McGeary’s favor, likely setting him up for a shot at Newton in the next bout for both men.
“It would be an honor to fight (Newton),” McGeary stated on earning a shot at the belt.
L.C. Davis dominated Zeilton Rodrigues en route to a unanimous decision victory, while Ryan Couture made the most of his Bellator debut by submitting late replacement Tom Bagnasco.
Bellator 124 Results
Emanuel Newton def. Joey Beltran by KO (Spinning Backfist) at 3:07, R3
Liam McGeary def. Kelly Anundson by Sub (Inverted Triangle) at 4:47, R1
L.C. Davis def. Zeilton Rodrigues by Unan Dec (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Ryan Couture def. Tom Bagnasco by Sub (Rear Naked Choke) at 3:01, R1
Adrian Hadribeaj def. Michael Hamida by Split Dec (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Sabah Homasi def. Eric Moon by Sub (Guillotine) at 1:07, R2
Mike Hernandez def. Thomas Vasquez by Unan Dec (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
LeRoy Johnson def. Adrian Henderson by Split Dec (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Jason Fischer def. Tony Hervey by Unan Dec (30-26, 30-26, 30-26)
Eric Ramirez def. Cortez Phelia by Sub (Guillotine) at 0:38, R3
Justin Jaynes def. Ruben Baraiac by TKO, R1
Ben Reiter def. Shamir Garcia by Unan Dec