Bellator 39: Eddie Alvarez Cruises to Victory; Hawn Remains Undefeated

Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez made the first successful defense of his title on Saturday night with a unanimous decision win over Pat Curran at Bellator 39.

Prior to the fight, Alvarez made a lot of noise about his impression of being compared to the top lightweights in the world, the majority of which are in the UFC and Strikeforce, both under the same ownership now.

What Alvarez was able to do in his fight with Curran was win, and win convincingly, but not put on a performance that would make people wonder if he truly was the top 155-pound fighter in the world.

It was Alvarez who time and time again belted Curran to the midsection with body shots, and keeping his footwork moving to get in quick and fire off shots. For his first full 25-minute fight, Alvarez also showed off his cardio looking as fresh as ever in each round.

The downside of the fight, if you can call it that, would be the lack of a killer instinct from either fighter on Saturday night. Curran was a game opponent, but was content to play counter fighter for the majority of the bout. Meanwhile, Alvarez peppered his opponent with rib crunching punches, but didn’t put together the combinations that could finish off Curran.

Alvarez admitted after the fight that Curran was as tough as they come, and proclaimed the young fighter a future champion.

“Guy’s got a hard, hard head. He can take a shot. He just stuck in there through thick and thin,” Alvarez said about his opponent.

Now begins the problem for Alvarez advancing in the lightweight division. He will be facing the winner of the ongoing 155-pound tournament, but while there are some tremendous prospects in Bellator at lightweight, none of them would be considered top ranked fighters just yet. Alvarez will, however, continue to be ranked among the best at 155 because he truly is that good, but to maintain that position or advance, he’ll have to face stiffer competition down the road.

Former Olympian Rick Hawn had his toughest test to date when he faced former Bellator welterweight champion Lyman Good, but he was able to squeak out a split decision victory to move to the finals of this year’s tournament and keep his record unblemished.

The powerful Good looked strong early with his strikes and counters that kept Hawn on the defensive, unable to take the fight to the ground. The second round, however, showed Good’s kryptonite, as he was taken down and controlled on the mat for almost the entire five-minute session.

The third round was a back-and-forth affair that looked like Good was getting a little bit better of the stand-up, but an aggressive Hawn kept pushing the pace and landed a late takedown that may have sealed the deal. The decision went Hawn’s way, and now, with added confidence, he’ll wait to see who he’ll face between Jay Hieron and Brent Weedman.

“He’s won the tournament before; he’s been where I want to go. Now it’s just wait for the next fight and keep training,” Hawn said after the win. “Whoever it is, I’m ready for them.”

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. That could be the motto for Bellator lightweight Toby Imada, who in his third straight tournament with the promotion. He’s been knocked out the competition this time by rising star Patricky “Pitbull” Freire.

After putting away former WEC champion “Razor” Rob McCullough in his last fight, Freire was ready to display his dominance this time against the Bellator mainstay and he wasted no time in doing so.

Freire opened up on the feet, and mixed things up by throwing a beautiful jumping knee that rattled Imada. It was all downhill from there. Noticing his opponent literally stopping in his tracks, Freire rushed in with a flurry of strikes, putting Imada away with a huge left hand.

The win now moves Freire into the Bellator lightweight tournament finals, where he waits to face the winner between Michael Chandler and Lloyd Woodard.

Matt Lee may have been too tough for his own good because he took an absolute beating courtesy of former UFC welterweight Ben Saunders, who was making his Bellator debut on Saturday night.

Saunders, who picked up a win last November in his first post-UFC bout, signed with Bellator recently, but didn’t end up in the welterweight tournament. He made the most of his first appearance in the promotion, destroying the journeyman fighter.

The American Top Team fighter crushed Lee with strikes at virtually every moment of the fight, landing nasty knees from the Muay Thai clinch, and short elbows that left his opponent wearing a crimson mask.

The fight was almost stopped between rounds two and three due to cuts, but Lee continued, if only for a moment. After the fighters engaged in strikes again in the final session, Saunders cracked Lee with another short elbow that opened yet another gushing cut. That was enough for the referee to call a stop to the mauling.

Bellator 39 Main Card Results:
-Eddie Alvarez def. Pat Curran by unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 49-46)
-Rick Hawn def. Lyman Good by split decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29)
-Patricky “Pitbull” Freire def. Toby Imada by TKO at 2:53, R1
-Ben Saunders def. Matt Lee by TKO (doctor’s stoppage due to cuts) at 1:24, R1