Bellator Fighting Championships returned for round 10 on Spike TV last night (March 28, 2013) with a the season eight lightweight and light heavyweight finals in Tampa, Florida.
With a pair of bouts featuring two very determined finalists vying for a title shot, it came as no surprise that both fights would come down to the wire.
The main event of the evening featured a light heavyweight final between Emanuel Newton and Mikhail Zayats. Both men had a tremendous amount of respect for each other, landing accurate strikes in a very even bout which saw Newton take control in the first round with his wrestling, Zayats win the second with a late flurry and then Newton dig deep in the third to drop Zayats and ride out to a decision victory with a late takedown.
Both men were scratching and clawing for every inch in this battle and it came as no surprise that the third round would decide it. Newton looked a step slow for much of the fight on the feet, but he did what he needed to do with a perfect 1-2 combination that hurt the Russian and put him in control of the final frame.
In the end, Newton's big right hand in the third was enough to sway the judges into giving him the unanimous decision victory 29-28 on every scorecard. He'll now get an opportunity to avenge his last loss against Attila Vegh, this time with a title at stake.
The lightweight finals featured a surprising knockout artist against one of the promotion's scrappiest fighters as Saad Awad took on David Rickels. Despite Awad finishing both his tournament bouts in less than a minute via knockout, he couldn't gain an early edge on "The Caveman" standing and instead relied on takedowns and top position to steal the first round.
The second looked like it was going to be more of the same as Awad consistently took Rickels down, dropped some elbows and right hands and was seconds away from being up 20-18 when Rickels popped to his feet right at the end of the frame.
With a sense of urgency, Rickels unloaded a huge flurry of strikes against Awad along the fence, cracking him with some left hands and then landing a huge right just miliseconds before the bell that sent Awad to the cage floor. When Awad did not get up to get back to his corner, the referee called a stop to the bout, granting Rickels the incredible come-from-behind victory.
Rickels won't be as lucky as Newton as he'll have to first wait for last week's winner Dave Jansen to fight Michael Chandler later this year and he'll be looking to take on the winner whenever they're ready.