PHOENIX, AZ-The Grand Canyon University Arena was host to the fourth event of Bellator's eleventh season, and the Bellator 126 line up delivered excitement up and down the card.
The main event saw Alexander Shlemenko put his middleweight title on the line against undefeated challenger Brandon Halsey. "Storm" was ready for the challenge and looking to rebound from a loss at Bellator 120 to the "Huntington Beach Bad Boy" Tito Ortiz. Something had to give though, as "Bull" was looking to put the exclamation point on an impressive run, streaking all the way through the season 10 middleweight tournament to earn his title shot.
In the end, no one gave. Shlemenko was caught very early in a rear-naked choke and refused to tap out, preferring to let "Big" John McCarthy wave off the fight just 35 seconds into the first round. It was as fast as it was impressive, and Halsey claimed his middleweight title prize while improving to 8-0 as a pro.
"I feel like a monster baby," Halsey told Jimmy Smith. "I wouldn't be here without God, I wanna give all the thanks to him. I put in the work, I put in the training, feeling this belt around my waist feels great."
See the GIF of the surprise finish right here.
The co-main event put Patricky Freire against Polish phenom Marcin Held to crown the winner of the season 10 lightweight tournament. The older brother of Patricio Freire was a man on a mission after having come up short in two previous Bellator tournaments, but his submission wizard opponent from Tychy, Poland, wasn't going to just let himself be chewed up like dog kibble.
Unfortunately for Freire, it seems to be his lot in life to be Bellator's answer to Michael Bisping -- never able to get over the hump when he's one fight away from a title shot. Held lived up to his last name with his wrestling by grabbing the legs of "Pitbull" and neutering his offense by pounding away after each takedown. That didn't stop Held from looking for his trademark leg submissions, but when they didn't open up, he took his time opening up Freire's face.
Held improves to 20-3 after getting a clean sweep from the judges -- 29-28, 30-27, and 30-26 -- claiming the season 10 lightweight tournament title along with a shot at the champion down the line.
Held spoke to Jimmy Smith after the fight.
"Last time I was really close, I was also in the final but I lose. Now I did a really good camp in my gym in Poland and also with Duke Roufus. It was a really good fight, everything like I planned. I knew he would have good defense (on submissions) so I tried to win in other ways."
The second televised fight of the night saw promotional newcomer Thiago Meller square off against rising featherweight star Bubba Jenkins. Unlike last week's newcomer Rafael Carvalho, Jenkins gave no quarter and showed no weakness to the debuting Brazilian fighter. He made a mess of Meller's face round after round, leaving him puffy and swollen after the bout, showing trademark raccoon eyes as Jenkins got his hand raised 29-28 and 30-27 times two. Superior wrestling technique led to a superior beating on the ground from the featherweight phenom.
Jenkins: "I feel like I'm more of a MMA fighter. I know my ASU friends and fans are in the crowd right now, but I'm definitely now a more well-rounded fighter. You can call me a fighter, you cannot call me a wrestler who fights now."
The opening contest pitted two Bellator bantamweights with career resurrection on their minds against each other. Michael Richman and Ed West had both lost three of their last four before tonight's contest. For Richman, it was a 135-pound debut that worked out well. "The Marine" stunned West with a right hook and then CRUSHED him a split second later with an ideally-placed left. "Wild" West was out cold and referee Jason Herzog stepped between them at 2:44 of round one, though Richman knew it was over and turned to walk away.
From Zombie Prophet:
He spoke to Jimmy Smith after the fight:
"Miles, if you're watching daddy loves you, I'll see you in a couple of days. Happy birthday! The game plan was to smother him, smother his kicks, get in his face. I'm confident in my power at bantamweight, and I'm confident I can take most shots from anybody."
The televised bouts left no time for the exciting preliminary action that aired exclusively on Spike.com. Check out our live streaming results RIGHT HERE to see who else made a name for themselves inside the cage at Bellator 126!