Bellator Fighting Championships returned for the Summer Series on Spike TV last night (June 19, 2013) in Thackerville with a pair of tournament semifinals in the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions.
Headlining the main event of Bellator 96 was a light heavyweight tournament semifinal bout between Muhammed Lawal and Seth Petruzelli. Both men had been finished in the season eight tournament to start the year and both were looking for redemption.
But Lawal would be the only man to find his.
Petruzelli opened aggressively winging kicks to the legs and body. After absorbing a few blows, Lawal had had enough and shot in for a takedown. Petruzelli sprawled so quickly that he clashed heads with the former Strikeforce champ and the bout was reset on the feet.
Again Lawal would take Petruzelli down, this time completing the takedown and landing inside "The Silverback's" full guard. The former Oklahoma State standout wrestler worked from inside Petruzelli's guard but couldn't find the space he needed, instead, standing up briefly only to drop back down with a thunderous right hand that caught Petruzelli on the chin cleanly and knocked him out cold from a single blow.
It was a brutal return to form for Lawal, who advances to the finals of the four man Summer Series tournament.
Lawal's opponent was decided in the co-main event as former Strikeforce light heavyweight champ Renatu Sobral took on the massive Jacob Noe in the other half of the four-man tourney.
Sobral looked flat early, winging kicks but eating counters from the bigger, stronger Noe. Every attempt to close the distance or shoot in for a takedown was met with stiff resistence and the fight seemed to be a foregone conclusion at first.
Not to go out without a fight, "Babalu" put some pressure on Noe, really attacking him in the second round with aggressive hooks as the big man began to fade in the conditioning department.
Sobral's effort only evened up the fight, but it was short lived as Noe blasted the Brazilian veteran with a huge right hand and some follow-up hooks which opened up a bad cut underneath his right eye. Sobral hung tough, but after a flurry along the fence, he staggered into the cage center and the referee had seen enough, handing Noe a third round TKO victory.
After the fight, Sobral removed his gloves and laid them in the center of the cage, formally announcing his retirement from mixed martial arts.
In heavyweight tournament action, Vitaly Minakov made quick work of Ron Sparks, blasting the 37 year old with a huge right hand and putting him away with a few ground strikes to easily advance to the final round.
Late injury replacement Ryan Martinez had similar ease against Richard Hale, taking "Rare Breed" down and then proceeding to absolutely crush him with some heavy right and left hands on the ground from top position.
Minakov and Martinez will duke it out next month for the right to challenge champion Alexander Volkov.
Last but not least, War Machine made his promotional debut and he survived an early scare to not only take opponent Blas Avena down, but also absolutely destroy him with a crucifix and about 30 or more unanswered right hand blows to the head. They weren't the most powerful shots, but they got the job done and the referee was forced to intervene.
For complete Bellator 96 results and detailed round-by-round commentary of all the televised fights click here.