MONROE, La. (May 13, 2010) - World Champion wrestler Joe Warren and undefeated jiu-jitsu black belt Patricio Pitbull punched their tickets to the Bellator Featherweight Tournament Finals on Thursday while reigning Bellator Middleweight Champion Hector Lombard made yet another statement that he is one of the world's top 185-pounders during a thrilling night of fights at Bellator 18.
Lombard used a vicious right-left combo to the chin to KO former UFC fighter Jay Silva just 6.1 seconds into their fight, bringing the capacity crowd at the Monroe Civic Center in Monroe, La. - and Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney - to their feet.
"That's the Hector Lombard I expected to see tonight," Rebney said afterward. "He is a tremendously talented middleweight who I believe is one of the best in the world and now American MMA fans are getting to see what some of us already know."
Lombard, who improved his stellar pro record to 25-2-1 with the win, summed up his performance in three words: "That was beautiful," he said.
But while Lombard's knockout will undoubtedly be the most-talked-about moment from Bellator 18, the victories by Warren and Pitbull had more immediate implications, setting up an intriguing final-round fight between one of America's top wrestlers and an incredibly well-rounded and pedigreed jiu-jitsu and muay thai specialist.
In his fight, Warren used sheer strength and determination to slip out of no less than five submission attempts - two armbars, a heel hook and two guillotines - to win a hard-fought unanimous decision victory over up-and-comer and former pro soccer player Georgi Karakhanyan (13-2).
Warren (4-1), the 2006 Greco-Roman Wrestling World Champion and a former NCAA all-American at the University of Michigan, used a series of powerful wrestling takedowns to control the cage for all three rounds, wearing Karakhanyan down with a relentless ground-and-pound.
"I knew that he was good with the knees, so I thought I'd take him down," an amped-up Warren told Bellator color commentator Jimmy Smith after the fight. "I'm one step closer to that belt now and that's what I'm here for."
Later, in a battle of two Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts, Pitbull used his superior standup game to score points with leg kicks, jabs and knees to the head to withstand a strong challenge from Bellator Season 1 runner up Wilson Reis (10-2).
With the win, Pitbull improved his overall pro record to a perfect 14-0 and booked passage into the Season 2 finals along with Warren, who said of Pitbull afterward: "He's a great fighter ... he's going to be a great win on my record."
Pitbull, wearing the Brazilian flag as a cape, disagreed.
"Everyone wants to talk, talk, talk," he said through his translator. "I want to see what happens in the cage. I'm looking forward to the next round."
Rebney, for his part, sang Pitbull's praises, calling him "a true phenom."
"He's done some amazing things in Brazil that nobody's gotten to see, and now we're all getting a chance to see it," Rebney said. "And Joe Warren proved yet again what a great, determined fighter he is with another gutsy performance. It's gonna be a great final round."
In the final televised fight of the night - a match-up between two former all-state wrestlers from Louisiana - New Orleans-area native Charlie Rader (11-4) scored the sixth KO of his career with a first round knockout (3:20) of former TUF competitor Christian Fulgium.
"From beginning to end, it was a spectacular night of fights," Rebney said. "It was great being back in the city of Monroe and putting on a great show. We'll be back again soon."
Fans who missed Thursday night's action can watch all the best moments this weekend during special highlight shows on NBC, Telemundo and the cable network mun2. Check your local listings for exact dates and times.
Bellator returns to action next week from the Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie, Texas, with two semifinal fights in the Season 2 Welterweight Tournament: former two-time NCAA wrestling champion and U.S. Olympian Ben Askren vs. UFC veteran Ryan Thomas and fast-rising MMA star Dan Hornbuckle vs. Iraq war veteran Steve Carl. The evening also features another Bellator "Super Fight," with reigning Bellator Featherweight Champion Joe Soto taking on UFC veteran Diego Saraiva..
For more information, visit www.Bellator.com follow us on Twitter @BellatorMMA or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/BellatorMMA.