LAKE CHARLES, La. — It was an action-packed start to the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament as eight heavy hitters lined up inside the L’Auberge Casino Resort in Lake Charles for Bellator 52 to kickoff the quarterfinals of the Season 5 tournament. Ron “The Monster” Sparks will take on Eric Prindle and Mike “300” Hayes faces Blagoi Ivanov in the semifinals after big wins in Louisiana this weekend.
“It was another great night in another full house at L’Auberge Casino Resort in Lake Charles,” Bellator Chairman & CEO Bjorn Rebney said. “Our heavyweights put on some explosive performances tonight, and I can’t wait for the semifinals later this month at Bellator 56 from Memorial Hall in Kansas City.”
In a stunning upset, Mike “300” Hayes eliminated Neil Grove from the tournament with a split-decision victory in the night’s main event. Grove had a slight reach advantage and outweighed his opponent by more than 30 pounds, but Hayes executed an excellent game plan. He moved in and out of Grove’s striking distance and racked up points on the judges’ scorecards with lots of leg kicks and straight punches to the body.
Ron Sparks remained undefeated and advanced to the semifinals with a knockout win over Mark Holata in the first fight of the evening. Holata didn’t shy away from the fight, trading punches with Sparks right away, but “The Monster” was able to stun him with a right hook early and on a later exchange dropped him to the canvas with a pair of left hooks to the jaw line. It was a big win for Sparks who is eager to show Bellator and the fans what he’s capable of.
His corner instructed him before the final round to continue pushing the pace and to force a takedown when the time was right. He did just that and took Grove to the mat midway through Round 3, losing top position for a moment, but finishing strong on top with a submission attempt followed by some heavy punches.
“Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness,” said Sparks after the victory. “These guys are monsters but I’m ‘The Monster.’ I think I can be one of the best heavyweights out there. You guys will see.”
Zak Jensen stepped up to fight Blagoi Ivanov last minute as Thiago Santos was scratched from the fight card. He walked through all of Ivanov’s best punches, but couldn’t avoid his takedowns and despite taking quite a beating, was the victim of a technical submission not a knockout. Jensen escaped full mount, a keylock and some ground-and-pound by Ivanov in the second round, but was caught in a five-finger guillotine choke as he attempted to fight the submission attempt. Jensen was briefly put to sleep by the fight-ending submission as Ivanov advanced to the semifinals.
Eric Prindle would also advance to the semifinals with a hard fought win over Abe Wagner. Both these men fought for three hard rounds and looked to be hitting just as hard in the final round as they had in the first. The fighters split the first two rounds and Prindle stole the third when he stuffed a takedown attempt by Wagner and kept him grounded for the remainder of the fight.