McGeary was on his back, taking in damage from ground and pound, but locked in an inverted triangle to win the bout at 4:41 of the opening round.
“He’s got mad respect for me,” McGeary said, revealing what Ortiz told him moments after the submission.
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Ortiz shot in early for the takedown and put the champion on the ground, where McGeary attempted a guillotine choke. Ortiz escaped and started hammering down the ground and pound.
“The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” was forced to tap out, looking visibly frustrated with himself for having been put in the hold.
As a show of sportsmanship, Ortiz placed the light heavyweight championship belt around McGeary’s waist after the bout.
McGeary’s next challenge will come in the form of UFC veteran Phil Davis, who won the Bellator one-night tournament in the evening’s co-main event.
Davis fought Francis Carmont, who won the alternate bout and stepped in for an injured Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal. What was expected to be a grappling match ended with a quick knockout when Davis clipped Carmont with a looping left hook.
As Carmont fell to the ground, Davis pursued him and was pulled off his fallen foe to earn the knockout at 2:15 of the opening round.
Davis made his way to the tournament final by submitting Emanuel Newton in the quarterfinal round, while Lawal won a unanimous decision over Linton Vassell. Lawal was unable to continue due to a rib injury.
Earlier in the evening, Josh Thomson made his Bellator debut by submitting Mike Bronzoulis with an arm triangle. Thomson showed he was the superior fighter for two rounds before finishing Bronzoulis with the submission at 0:39 in the third round.
Other notable winners in the evening were Paul Daley earning a unanimous decision in a kickboxing match, as well as Keri Anne Taylor-Melendez, wife to UFC star Gilbert Melendez, who also earned a unanimous decision in a kickboxing match.