Greatness comes in all shapes and sizes. In Bellator MMA, it has taken the form of a 5-foot-6, 145-pound Brazilian.
Patricio Freire retained his undisputed featherweight championship, as he choked Emmanuel Sanchez unconscious with a guillotine in the first round of their Bellator 255 headliner on Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Sanchez (20-5, 12-4 Bellator), who had never before been finished, lost his grip on reality 3:35 into Round 1.
Champion and challenger fought at a measured pace, their mutual respect evident from the start. Midway through the first round, Freire (32-4, 20-4 Bellator) stepped into punching range and knocked down the Roufusport standout with a ringing left hook. In his haste to return to his feet, Sanchez left his neck exposed. “Pitbull” bit down on the choke, jumped into full guard and let his squeeze do the rest.
In addition to serving as a successful title defense, the win advanced Freire to the final of the promotion’s featherweight grand prix. There, an undefeated A.J. McKee awaits.
Jackson Upends Gracie in Co-Main Event
Former Legacy Fighting Alliance champion Jason Jackson extended his winning streak to four fights with a unanimous decision over Neiman Gracie in the three-round co-main event at 170 pounds. All three cageside judges struck 29-28 scorecards for Jackson (14-4, 5-1 Bellator).
It was a disjointed encounter between two of the promotion’s premier welterweights. Jackson struggled through a bizarre exchange on the ground in the first round, as his face contacted the cage and scraped downward, resulting in damage to his left eye. Gracie (10-2, 8-2 Bellator) had accepted bottom position at the time of the incident but reversed into full mount and appeared to be closing in on a finish while his opponent was attempting to figure out what happened. Jackson survived his efforts and extended the fight into a second round, where he managed to gather himself. He conceded two takedowns in the middle stanza but flexed his superiority on the feet with leg kicks and crisp one-twos, slowly turning the tide in his favor. Jackson did his best work in Round 3, where he defended a takedown from the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, landed in top position and piled up control time while denying attempted sweeps.
Fortune Annihilates Replacement May
Arizona Combat Sports representative Tyrell Fortune put away Professional Fighters League and Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Jack May with punches in the first round of their heavyweight feature. A short-notice substitution for Matt Mitrione, May (11-8, 1-1 Bellator) packed his bags 3:16 into Round 1.
Fortune (10-1, 10-1 Bellator) popped the 6-foot-8 Californian with a leg kick, closed the distance and secured a takedown inside the first minute. He applied his ground-and-pound, gradually increased the intensity of his strikes, advanced to three-quarter mount and cut loose with punches and elbows to prompt the stoppage.
The 30-year-old Fortune has posted back-to-back wins and continues to distance himself from a February 2020 knockout loss to Timothy Johnson.
Nurmagomedov Subdues Hamel, Moves to 12-0
American Kickboxing Academy prospect Usman Nurmagomedov climbed another rung on the lightweight ladder, as he laid claim to a unanimous decision over Mike Hamel in a three-round scrap at 155 pounds. Nurmagomedov (12-0, 1-0 Bellator) swept the scorecards with 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 marks from the judges.
Hamel (7-5, 0-2 Bellator) played the bull to the promotional newcomer’s matador, only to walk away bloody and empty-handed. Nurmagomedov, 22, cracked the MMA Lab product with kicks to the legs, arms, body and head, pairing those efforts with a punishing jab and efficient movement. Hamel spent the majority of his time in a frustrating pursuit, his wild overhands finding nothing but air. Nurmagomedov had him reeling with a front kick to the body late in the third round and gave chase with punches before pumping the brakes once it became clear a finish was not in the cards.
Unbeaten Watanabe Edges Lara
Takedowns, positional control and ground-and-pound spurred Rizin Fighting Federation veteran Kana Watanabe to a split decision over Alejandra Lara in a three-round women’s flyweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28, two of them siding with Watanabe.
Lara (9-4, 3-3 Bellator) managed to stay upright for much of the first round and enjoyed success with sharp punching combinations and kicks to the body and legs. She even countered a takedown from the Japanese judoka and briefly climbed to full mount. However, prosperity was short-lived for the Colombian. Watanabe (10-0-1, 2-0 Bellator) neutralized her with takedowns in the second and third rounds, progressed to dominant positions and stayed busy enough with her ground-and-pound to avoid restarts.
Watanabe will enter her next assignment on the strength of eight straight wins.
Surging Magomedov Throttles Hamilton
Former Absolute Championship Berkut titleholder Magomed Magomedov submitted C.J. Hamilton with a rear-naked choke in the second round of their featured bantamweight prelim. The game but overmatched Hamilton (15-8, 0-1 Bellator) tapped 1:22 into Round 2.
Magomedov (18-1, 2-0 Bellator) completed his first takedown with roughly two minutes to go in the first round and proceeded to systematically dismantle the Dana White’s Contender Series alum. He achieved full mount, advanced to the back and flattened out Hamilton, then assaulted him with punches and hammerfists until the bell sounded. Early in the middle stanza, Magomedov corralled his counterpart along the fence, jumped onto his back and cinched a standing rear-naked choke. Hamilton collapsed soon after and surrendered.
The 29-year-old Magomedov has pieced together five consecutive victories since his April 2017 decision defeat to Petr Yan.
Tristar’s Nallo Wrecks Seixas
Tristar Gym representative Mandel Nallo cut down Ricardo Seixas in the first round of their lightweight affair. Seixas (9-3, 1-1 Bellator) met his end 3:23 into Round 1, as he lost for the third time in four outings.
Nallo (8-1-1, 3-1 Bellator) stung the Kings MMA-based Brazilian with punishing jabs and kicks to the upper and lower lead leg. As he settled into a rhythm, he delivered a spinning back kick to the body and forced Seixas into a state of repeat with a chopping right hand that opened a cut across the bridge of the nose. Nallo pressed forward with punches and mixed in a front kick to the face before sitting down his adversary with a Superman punch. By then, referee Dan Miragliotta had seen enough.
Relentless Murtazaliev Outpoints Aguiar
Effective counters and timely takedowns carried Jackson-Wink MMA rep Khalid Murtazaliev to a unanimous decision over Fabio Aguiar in a three-round middleweight battle. All three cageside judges scored it for Murtazaliev (15-2, 1-0 Bellator): 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27.
Aguiar (17-2, 0-1 Bellator) derailed after a competitive first round. In his first appearance since Sept. 15, 2018, Murtazaliev answered his looping punches with tighter shots of his own, then turned his attention to the ground. He secured takedowns in the second and third rounds, dictating the terms of the engagement on the mat. Aguiar had his chances. The Brazilian tried to advance to the back in Round 3 but failed to secure position and left himself open for a reversal.
The defeat snapped Aguiar’s nine-fight winning streak.
Undefeated Gonzalez Dismisses Huerta
Team Alpha Male export Christopher Gonzalez struck Roger Huerta into submission in the third round of their catchweight confrontation at 160 pounds. Huerta (24-13-1, 1-6 Bellator) raised the white flag 3:01 into Round 3, as he suffered his fourth straight defeat.
Gonzalez (6-0, 5-0 Bellator) manhandled the Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran with explosive takedowns, suffocating control and effective ground-and-pound. He executed takedowns in all three rounds, methodically drawing out Huerta’s will to compete. Gonzalez struck for a takedown midway through the third round, climbed to the back and dropped punches to prompt the tapout.
Huerta, 37, has not posted a win since Dec. 22, 2017.
Barros Choke Submits Wilson
Pitbull Brothers standout Jose Augusto Azevedo Barros submitted Jonathan Wilson with an arm-triangle choke in the first round of their light heavyweight encounter. Wilson (9-4, 0-1 Bellator) conceded defeat 4:58 into Round 1, closing the book on his modest two-fight winning streak.
The 29-year-old Barros (7-2, 1-0 Bellator) surrendered a takedown but sprang a reversal into top position under threat of an armbar. From there, he moved to side control and climbed to the mounted crucifix, at which point he uncorked punches and elbows. The Brazilian then drew Wilson away from the cage, framed the arm-triangle and forced the tapout.
Barros has won five fights in a row.
Faraldo Buries Overmatched Gudde
American Top Team’s Roman Faraldo remained undefeated and did so in spectacular fashion, as he wiped out Trevor Gudde with punches in the first round of their welterweight clash. The 6-foot-7 Gudde (2-2, 1-1 Bellator) bowed out 90 seconds into Round 1.
Faraldo (5-0, 2-0 Bellator) touched off his offensive onslaught with a leg kick and multi-punch volley that set his counterpart on his heels. He then knocked down Gudde twice with left hooks, inviting him back to his feet each time. After Faraldo floored his counterpart a third time with yet another left hook, the stoppage was called.
The 27-year-old Faraldo has finished all five of his opponents, three of them inside one round.
Unbeaten Newman Batters Busick
Roufusport prospect Jordan Newman kept his perfect professional record intact, as he put away Branko Busick with ground-and-pound in the second round of their middleweight pairing. Busick (2-2, 0-2 Bellator) succumbed to blows 2:30 into Round 2.
Newman (3-0, 3-0 Bellator) controlled virtually every second of the fight. He scrambled into top position in the first round, drew blood with a series of elbows and ultimately threatened with a rear-naked choke. Busick denied his initial advances, but he was living on borrowed time. Newman struck for a takedown in the second round, progressed to the mounted crucifix and unleashed a sustained burst of punches and elbows until the job was done.