by MMAWeekly.com Staff
Bellator Fighting Championships produced its latest edition on Thursday night, as local fan-favorite Pat Curran provided a spectacular knockout of Mike Ricci during Bellator 14 at the historic Chicago Theatre.
The fight got the event off to roaring start and the momentum continued throughout the night with three other compelling nationally televised tournament fights. Also emerging victorious were former NCAA wrestling champion and U.S. Olympian Ben Askren, Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Wilson Reis, and “Submission of the Year” titleholder Toby Imada.
The Curran-Ricci fight, though, provided the most fireworks of the night.
At 3:01 into the first round, Curran (10-3) socked Ricci with a brutal overhand right, dropping him to the mat and rendering him unconscious. It was the first loss in six pro fights for Ricci, the protégé and longtime training partner of Georges St-Pierre.
“I saw the opening, threw a big right hand and it landed and he crumpled,” Curran said during the post-fight press conference. “This is definitely the biggest win I’ve ever had. I’m just proud to be a part of Bellator and to move on in the tournament.”
The knockout victory advanced Curran, the cousin and student of MMA pioneer Jeff Curran, into the semifinals of Bellator’s Season 2 lightweight tournament along with Imada and Belaltor 13 winners Roger Huerta and Carey Vanier.
Semifinal pairings will be announced next week.
Later in the night, Askren made an impressive (and somewhat controversial) Bellator debut, using a high-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu Anaconda choke to finish former UFC contender Ryan Thomas (10-4) via technical submission at 2:40 into round one.
Controversy erupted almost immediately after the stoppage, though, as Thomas, his corner, and a vocal fan contingent in the theatre’s balcony protested that he gave no indication that he wanted the fight to be stopped.
“It’s a bad call by the referee,” Thomas said afterwards. “It’s just a shame that the fans got cheated and Ben got cheated out of some more cage time. I was fine; it wasn’t like the world was closing in on me. I was totally fine.”
Askren, for his part, called on Thomas to “accept the result of the fight graciously.”
“When I was in the cage, I didn’t know what happened,” said Askren, who improved his pro record to 4-0 and advanced to the semifinals of Bellator’s Season 2 welterweight tournament. “But after watching it, it sure looked like it was over.”
Thomas said his camp plans to lodge a formal complaint in order to have the result overturned.
In the second fight of the night, Reis, a crafty Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, was able to overcome an aggressive challenge from former New York University wrestling standout Shad Lierley (5-3).
The fight got off to an explosive start during round one, with each fighter landing a variety of kicks and blows to the head. It went to the ground during the second and third rounds with Reis eventually gaining the upper hand and locking Lierley in a rear naked choke 3:33 into round three.
“I knew I was going to fight Shad and I knew that I had to work on my wrestling,” said Reis, who improved his pro record to 10-1. “It was a good fight and I was very happy to win.”
Reis joins Bellator 13 winners Georgi Karakhanyan and Joe Warren in the semifinal round of Bellator’s Season 2 featherweight tournament.
In the final tournament fight of the evening, Imada (25-14) easily handled WEC veteran James Krause (11-3), submitting him via arm bar at 2:44 into round one.
LIGHTWEIGHT TOURNAMENT BOUTS:
-Toby Imada def. James Krause by Submission (Armbar) at 2:44, R2
-Pat Curran def. Mike Ricci by KO (Punch) at 3:01, R1
WELTERWEIGHT TOURNAMENT BOUT:
-Ben Askren def. Ryan Thomas by Submission (Anaconda Choke) at 2:40, R1
FEATHERWEIGHT TOURNAMENT BOUT:
-Wilson Reis def. Shad Lierley by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 3:33, R3
PRELIMINARY CARD (NON-TELEVISED):
-Bryan Goldsby def. Jeff Curran by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28), R3
-Felice Herrig def. Jessica Rakoczy by Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28), R3
-Louis Taylor def. Ryan Sturdy by TKO (Strikes) at 1:08, R1