The eleventh season of Bellator MMA kicked off on Friday with the featherweight belt changing hands.
It’ took nearly two years to get another crack at the Bellator MMA featherweight title for Patricio Freire after losing to Pat Curran via split decision at Bellator85 in January 2013. The 27-year old Brazilian avenged the previous loss on Friday at Bellator 123 in Uncasville, Conn., taking the title from Curran by unanimous decision.
Both fighters were careful in the early going, respecting the other’s abilities. Freire landed leg kicks and remained patient on the outside. He secured a takedown in the round, but Curran immediately bounced back to his feet. The first round was closely contested.
Freire knocked Curran down with a left hook in the second frame and had Curran looking to get the fight to the ground. As the round wore on, Curran began landing strikes, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the knockdown.
The champion moved forward throughout the bout while Freire worked from the outside. Freire landed a left hook in the third round that put Curran on his back, but Curran quickly recovered and got to his feet. The third frame was Freire’s most dominant round.
The fourth stanza was like the opening round, extremely competitive. Freire dropped Curran for the third time in the fifth round, ensuring himself a unanimous decision and the featherweight championship.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Freire after capturing the title. “I”ve been waiting a long time for this.”
In the co-main event, Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal bounced back from his loss to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson with a second round finish of Dustin Jacoby.
Lawal secured an early takedown in the opening round. Jacoby fought hard to get back to his feet and eventually did. After separating, Jacoby landed the more effective strikes while Lawal utilized his jab.
The two came out unloading big shots in the second frame. Lawal clipped Jacoby with a right hand that stunned his 26-year-old opponent. Jacoby fired back, but was caught with a right hand that knocked him down. Lawal delivered rapid-fire right hands to the downed Jacoby until the referee intervened.
Tamdan McCrory made quick work of hometown favorite Brennan Ward in middleweight action. Ward pressed the pace from the opening bell. As he moved in, McCrory landed a right hand that stunned Ward. He followed up a combination that sent Ward’s body crashing to the canvas. McCrory walked away as the referee stepped in to stop the fight.
Former WWE and TNA professional wrestling standout Bobby Lashley dominated Josh Burns in his Bellator MMA debut.
Lashley wasted little time before taking Burns to the ground. The 38-year-old spent the majority of the opening round in side control, landing shots and looking for a submission.
Lashely established his jab in the second stanza, but eventually opted to take Burns down. He advanced to the mount position and pounded away with punches. Burns rolled and gave up his back. Lashely seized the opportunity to lock in a rear-naked choke that forced Burns to tap.
In the opening bout of the main card, former UFC heavyweight contender Cheick Kongo submitted Lavar Johnson.
Johnson came out swinging and pressured Kongo in the opening moments of the first round. Kongo ducked, dodged and eventually got Johnson to the ground. From there, the French kickboxer advanced to the mount position. He forced Johnson to give up his back after delivering punches to the body and head. As Johnson tried to get back to his feet, Kongo applied a rear-naked choke that made Johnson tap out.
Bellator 123 Results:
Patricio Freire def. Pat Curran by unanimous decision (48-47, 49-46, 49-46)
Muhammed Lawal def. Dustin Jacoby by TKO (punches) at 1:13, R2
Tamdan McCrory def. Brennan Ward by KO (punches) at 0:21, R1
Bobby Lashley def. Josh Burns by submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:54, R2
Cheick Kongo def. Laval Johnson by submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:27, R1
Dan Cramer def. Perry Fikins by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Scott Cleve def. Matt Bessette by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Josh Diekmann def. Mike Wessel by KO (punches) at 0:47, R1
Steve Garcia def. Kin Moy by split decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29)
Rico Disciullo def. Marvin Maldonado by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Mike Mucitelli def. Mark Griffin by submission (armbar) at 0:37, R1
Pete Rogers Jr. def. Phillipe Martins by KO at 0:11, R1
Blair Tugman def. Brandon Fleming by unanimous decision