Bellator MMA crowned a new light heavyweight champion on Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut after unbeaten Liam McGeary defeated Emanuel Newton by unanimous decision in “The British Invasion” fight card main event.
Newton had trouble dealing with McGeary’s reach advantage in the opening moments but was able to catch a kick and secure a takedown. McGeary quickly applied a triangle choke. Newton tried to slam his way out of it but was unsuccessful. McGeary transitioned to an arm bar and then back to the triangle choke. Newton escaped but soon found himself back in the clutches of another triangle attempt. Newton defended, but McGeary locked on an inverted triangle choke. He then switched to a key lock while maintaining the inverted triangle position. Newton freed himself and finished the round on top. Newton was in a bad position for most of the frame and headed into the second round behind on the scorecards.
Newton used his kicks to better control the range in the second round. He caught another kick and put McGeary on his back. He produced little offense inside McGeary’s guard while McGeary delivered a consistent dose of elbows and punches from the bottom. He locked Newton in another triangle in the closing moments of the frame and delivered a series of elbows and punches.
In the third, McGeary’s counter strikes began to find their mark. Newton lost his footing, but gained top position after a brief scramble. He moved to side control, but quickly found himself in another bad position. McGeary applied a triangle choke and ended the round in the mounted-triangle position hammering away with punches.
Newton had his best round in the fourth frame. He opened up with his strikes, employing side kicks and spinning back fists. He slammed McGeary to the canvas late in the round. He worked ground and pound from the half guard position before stepping over for an arm-triangle choke. McGeary escaped, but Newton took the round.
Newton quickly secured a takedown to start the final frame. McGeary worked for an arm bar, but Newton elevated him and slammed his way out of the submission attempt. He stood up out of McGeary’s guard and delivered kicks to the downed fighter’s legs before diving back in with a right hand. He maintained top position but offered up little offense. After five rounds of fighting, the judges scored the fight for McGeary by unanimous decision. He set the record for submission attempts in a Bellator MMA bout on his way to becoming the new light heavyweight champion.
“It was definitely a very close fight. I kept attacking when I was on the ground. I remember saying in an interview about when they take you down and hold you there, never stop attacking. Never stop moving,” said the newly crowned titleholder.
“That dude is a slippery (expletive). He’d slip out of one triangle. I’d get another one. He’d slip out of that. I had his arm. I’m sure I heard his arm creak. He’s a very tough dude,” added McGeary.
Former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion “King Mo” Lawal moved up to the heavyweight division to take on former UFC contender Cheick Kongo in the co-main event. It was the classic wrestler against striker stylistic matchup with the wrestler winning.
Kongo had success with leg kicks, but didn’t have an answer for Lawal’s takedowns and top control. Lawal was able to close the distance and impose his will on the larger man throughout the contest. After three rounds of fighting, the judges scored the bout a split decision for Lawal. They got the winner right, but the scorecards should have been unanimous.
“I’m going to tell you something. We’ve got a problem here now because I’m the top dog at 205 in this house. Now I just beat one of the top dogs at heavyweight,” said Lawal as the fans booed him inside the Mohegan Sun Arena. “I want like two title shots.”
Welterweight striker Paul Daley returned to the Bellator cage for the first time in three years and snapped Brazilian Andre Santos’ six-fight winning streak.
Santos utilized his jab in the early going while Daley delivered body shots. Santos was the aggressor through the first half of the opening frame, but Daley finished the round strong. He scored a knockdown as well as a late takedown.
Daley scored another knockdown in the second round, but Santos secured three takedowns. The final frame was all Daley. He dropped Santos with a left hand in the opening moments of the round. He opened up a cut on Santos’ forehead and knocked him down a second time with a knee. Incredibly, Santos fought back and secured takedowns. He had Daley mounted at one point, but it was too little too late. Daley was on the verge of finishing the fight on a few occasions, but the finish eluded him.
“I was a little bit rusty. I haven’t fought MMA in a long time. I’ve been spending most of my time last year doing kickboxing. The range and everything is different. I’ve got to take into account the takedowns, the way I throw my punches because it’s smaller gloves. This guy was so tough,” said Daley following the win.
“I caught him. I was throwing some heavy, wild shots. Normally, I would have taken the guy out of there. I would have took the guy out in the second, maybe the third round. He wasn’t quitting. The guy has a lot of heart. It was a very, very tough fight to come back to,” added Daley. “I just couldn’t put him away. He was a very, very tough guy.”
In light heavyweight action, former title challenger Linton Vassell rebounded from a loss to Emanuel Newton in his last outing by finishing Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou with punches in the second round. He was able to repeatedly ground “The African Assassin” and wear him down. After securing a takedown midway through the second frame, Vassell took Sokoudjou’s back, flattened him out and hammered away with punches until the referee stopped the fight.
“It feels great. It feels great representing my country. And to come in and fight in front of all you American fans, it’s a great honor,” said the London native.
Brennan Ward made short work of Curtis Millender in the main card opener. He pressured Millender and landed right hands. After knocking down Millender with a punch, Ward quickly took Millender’s back and locked in a rear-naked choke. It was Ward’s welterweight debut.
Bellator 134 Results:
Liam McGeary def. Emanuel Newton by unanimous decision (48-46, 48-47, 48-47)
Muhammed Lawal def, Cheick Kongo by split decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28)
Paul Daley def. Andre Santos by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Linton Vassell def. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou by TKO (punches) at 3:18, R2
Brennan Ward def. Curtis Millender by submission (rear-naked choke) at 1:39, R1
Dean Hancock def. Mike Mangan by submission (rear-naked choke) at 1:33, R1
Matt Bessette def. Josh LaBerge by TKO (doctor stoppage) at 5:00, R2
Raphael Butler def. Josh Diekmann by submission (guillotine choke) at 1:04, R1
Tamdan McCrory def. Jason Butcher by submission (armbar) at 1:06, R!
Neiman Gracie def. Bobby Flynn by submission (neck crank) at 2:36, R1
Blair Tugman def. Marvin Maldonado by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)