It’s the end of the inaugural season of “Fight Master: Bellator MMA,” and only four fighters remain from the original field of 32.
Veteran Joe Riggs and former Penn State wrestling standout Eric Bradley represent coach Greg Jackson, while former Legacy FC champ Mike Bronzoulis and 5-year pro Cole Williams go to bat for Randy Couture. Coaches Frank Shamrock and Joe Warren have seen all four of their fighters eliminated.
The coaches assemble in an effort to rank the remaining four fighters. While Couture pushes for Williams to ascend to the top spot, Jackson dismisses the idea in favor of Riggs, who has held the competition’s No. 1 seed since day one. However, both of the eliminated coaches back Couture’s man, and Williams overtakes Riggs, who is demoted to the second seed. Bradley is ranked third, and underdog Bronzoulis brings up the rear.
Williams must now decide whom to fight, and he struggles with the idea of potentially choosing his teammate. After some tough deliberation, Couture’s man does not go with Bronzoulis, instead choosing to face Riggs. As Williams calls out Jackson’s fighter, the men embrace and wish each other luck.
With both men in the cage, host Jimmy Smith tells the fighters that elbows are now legal for the first time in the competition. Tonight’s winners will move on to the finals, where they will face each other live on Spike TV during Bellator’s upcoming ninth season.
Both men gauge distance to start, but Riggs takes the center of the cage, eventually pressing his foe against the fence. Williams reverses the position and separates, sticking Riggs with a straight right but eating a right hook and a jumping knee for his trouble. Williams is unfazed and fires back with a combination, but he slips while trying to close the distance. Riggs capitalizes and pops him with a short uppercut, though Couture’s fighter quickly returns to his feet. Riggs stuffs another takedown attempt, but Williams latches onto a leg and briefly drags Riggs to the mat. Riggs looks to stand with his butt against the cage and makes it to his feet before the round expires.
Riggs begins round two with a head kick, but Williams hits a double-leg on the UFC veteran and puts him on his back. Riggs lands a pair of elbows from the bottom, but Williams answers with one of his own. The ex-UFC talent keeps working from the bottom, but Jackson implores him to find his feet, presumably because the judges may have no idea what they are looking at. Riggs blocks a big punch from the top and counters with a short elbow that lacerates Couture’s charge. Williams is struggling to deal damage from the top, but Riggs’ elbows are consistently finding his foe’s face. Jackson is still nervous in the corner, hoping Riggs will stand. The round expires with Williams holding position in Riggs’ guard.
Williams moves forward to begin round three but eats a knee before briefly scoring a takedown. Riggs pops right back up, however, and rips a straight left to Williams’ mug before connecting with another knee. Riggs connects with two more left hands, but slips on a knee attempt. Williams tries to jump on him, but Jackson’s fighter counters with a guillotine attempt before Williams scrambles back to his feet. With 60 seconds remaining, Riggs shucks off yet another takedown attempt and cracks Williams with a left before sprawling out on one more takedown try to end the fight.
Riggs is awarded a split decision, advancing him to the finals.
“I squandered the first half of my career. I made a comeback, and nobody thought I would last six weeks being away from my family,” says Riggs. “I feel great. I feel like I won the whole tournament. Now all I have to do is go collect the check.”
With only two fighters left, no mystery remains. Bradley and Bronzoulis will do battle.
The men touch gloves to start the second semifinal, but the first punch is not thrown until nearly two minutes through the first frame. Bradley clinches “The Greek” and plants him with a body lock takedown. Bronzoulis recovers full guard, but Couture’s fighter ties him up nicely until Bradley passes to side control and then mount with 60 seconds remaining. Bronzoulis bucks and gives up his back, but Bradley can do little but ride him until the bell sounds.
Bronzoulis charges forward and lands a knee to start round two, but Bradley counters with a double-leg slam. Couture’s man gives up his back in an effort to stand, and the gamble pays off. Bronzoulis limp-legs out of two more single-leg tries, but Bradley once again grabs the body lock. Bradley appears to have lost a step due to fatigue, but he is relentless with his pursuit of another takedown. Bronzoulis manages to gain some separation and lets his hands fly, but Bradley drives forward with an outside trip. The move is countered, however, and Bronzoulis fires punches into Bradley’s floating ribs off a sprawl.
Bronzoulis launches a series of what appear to be illegal, 12-to-6 elbows at the same spot, causing Bradley to flop to his back. A livid Jackson cries foul from the corner, but the referee allows the fight to continue. Bronzoulis jumps on top and drops an extended series of punches and hammer fists. Bradley tries to kick him off, but he cannot escape the onslaught, and the fight is stopped.
Bronzoulis, Couture and Frank Trigg celebrate, while Jackson admonishes the referee. Bradley appears to have been injured in the fight, and Bronzoulis will now meet Riggs for the “Fight Master” title at a future Bellator event. The winner will receive a $100,000 payday and a spot in the next Bellator welterweight tournament.