Bellator Fighting Championships kicked off its seventh season last night (Sept 22, 2012) with Bellator 74 from Caesars Atlantic City in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and some serious talent was on display.
The show featured the quarterfinals of the Bellator season seven welterweight tournament and the main event of the evening was headlined by former Bellator welterweight champion Lyman Good taking on scrappy UK fighter "Judo" Jim Wallhead.
While neither fighter seriously threatened a finish, the bout was controlled from start to end by Good. When the bout was up close and personal, Good landed repeated uppercuts and knees. When both men were at a distance, Good scored with a jab, leg kicks and then closed the distance with combinations.
Wallhead took a large amount of punishment but never seemed like he could respond in kind and other than a stupid point deduction with three seconds left in the fight, the end was never in doubt.
Good was easily awarded the unanimous decision victory and in his post-fight speech with Bellator commentator Jimmy Smith he declared, "This is the first step towards getting back what used to be mine," and by that, he means the welterweight title he lost to Ben Askren in 2010.
The rest of the night's action featured some stellar European and Russian talent scoring impressive wins as well.
Former Dream welterweight champion Marius Zaromskis went to work against French Canadian Nordine Taleb in a hotly contested bout. This fight was all about the big moments as Taleb got the better of most striking exchanges in each round utilizing his range while on his bicycle but in each and every round, Zaromskis would drop him or hurt him badly.
Zaromskis dropped Taleb in the first with a nasty spinning back fist to negate Taleb's offensive advantage, then a picture perfect straight left dropped Taleb in the second. The third round was capped near the end by a head kick which again hurt Taleb.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was seeing the kickboxer repeatedly close the distance and work for takedowns against Taleb, pressing him into the fence on the regular and occasionally putting him on the canvas. The tactic paid off as Zaromskis was awarded a unanimous decision victory when it was all said and done.
"The Lonely Wolf" scored multiple takedowns with trips and attacked repeatedly with guillotines to try and finish the fight. Welch gutted through several of the submission holds early and Tsarev was nearly disqualified after throwing a pair of upkicks at Welch while he was on the ground in top position.
In the second round, just when it seemed that Tsarev might be slowing down, he scored another takedown and aggressively passed guard. When Welch left his neck exposed during a scramble, Tsarev dove on the submission and had his forearm immediately underneath the chin, eventually forcing the tap via rear naked choke.
Lastly, in the opening bout of the main card, undefeated Russian phenom Andrey Koreshkov received his toughest test to date from talented American Jordan Smith. Smith was looking to redeem himself after a quick knockout loss in the last welterweight tournament, which he had entered as a late replacement, and he endeared himself very well, taking some of Koreshkov's best shots and firing back with some of his own.
Koreshkov controlled much of the striking exchanges, but Smith utilized his grappling in several key moments, nearly catching the Russian with a Peruvian necktie and a guillotine in the first round. He went back to what worked in the second, quickly taking Koreshkov's back and nearly submitted him with a one-armed rear naked choke but Koreshkov endured and eventually reversed the position.
In the final deciding round, Koreshkov dug deep and outstruck Smith, scoring with combinations, knees and straight punches as Smith's chin held up all the way until the end. "The Spartan" put a stamp on the victory with a takedown in the final 25 seconds to seal the unanimous decision win and advance to the semifinals.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Were you impressed by any of the welterweight talent that was on display last night in the tournament quarterfinals? Who's your pick to walk away with the tournament title and become number one contender?
For complete Bellator 74 results and detailed round-by-round commentary of all the televised fights as well as the main event click here.