Lorenz Larkin had just enough answers.
“The Monsoon” posted his third win in as many appearances and took a major step forward in the Bellator MMA welterweight division, as he eked out a split decision over former champion Andrey Koreshkov in the Bellator 229 headliner on Friday at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California. All three judges scored it 29-28, two of them siding with Larkin (21-7, 3-2 Bellator).
Koreshkov (22-4, 13-4 Bellator) had his chances. He floored Larkin with wheel kick in the first round, but the Strikeforce and Ultimate Fighting Championship vet managed to survive the onslaught that followed, owing to his stout chin and high-level experience. Round 2 was a different story. Larkin pushed the Russian backward and uncorked a flying knee that altered the direction of the fight. Koreshkov hit the deck, and though he regained his footing, he was knocked down a second time with another knee strike. Larkin poured on the punishment with elbow-laced ground-and-pound in a bid to finish, but referee Mike Beltran kept his finger off the button.
The third round was largely uneventful outside of an attempted guillotine from Larkin. Koreshkov escaped the choke, but his desire to wrestle and an unwillingness to trade in caution for aggression proved costly.
In the lightweight co-main event, Goiti Yamauchi submitted former Gladiator Challenge champion Saad Awad with a first-round armbar. Awad (23-12, 11-9 Bellator) offered a verbal tapout 1:40 into Round 1, submitting for the first time since April 2011.
Yamauchi (24-4, 10-3 Bellator) remained calm under duress. After eating a right hand from the heavy-handed Awad, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt snatched a single-leg, pulled guard and drew the Millennia MMA rep further into his web. From there, he isolated an arm and closed the deal on the 17th first-round finish of his career.
The 26-year-old Yamauchi has won five of his last six fights.
American Kickboxing Academy export Tony Johnson flipped the switch on former muay Thai world champion Joe Schilling in the third round of their featured middleweight showcase. Johnson (9-2, 2-0 Bellator) drew the curtain 2:07 into Round 3.
Schilling (4-6, 3-3 Bellator) withstood an early knockdown and controlled a majority of the encounter with powerful leg kicks, straight punching combinations and the occasional jab. However, the well ran dry midway through the third round, where Johnson countered a standing elbow strike with a sweeping left hook that blindsided his opponent. The impact instantly froze Schilling, who collapsed downward in an unconscious heap before being met with a standing-to-ground right for good measure.
Johnson has rattled off five consecutive victories.
Finally, Skrap Pack standout Keri Melendez kept her perfect professional record intact, as she took a unanimous decision from Legacy Fighting Alliance veteran Mandy Polk in a three-round catchweight feature at 118 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 30-27 for the unbeaten Melendez (4-0, 4-0 Bellator).
Polk (6-5, 0-1 Bellator) executed a few takedowns but failed to consolidate them with damage, submission attempts or meaningful control. Melendez threatened with a triangle choke on more than one occasion and was effective off her back, as she controlled her opponent’s posture and piled up points with short elbows and punches. On the feet, Polk was out of her depth. Melendez peppered her with clean punches and repeated knee strikes, some to the head and others to the body.
The defeat snapped Polk’s three-fight winning streak.