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David Rickels vs Saad Awad: ‘Caveman’ clubs his way to title shot

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The Caveman
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Bellator MMA

It may be a cliche that a picture is worth a thousand words, but the sight of “Caveman” David Rickels walking away from a fallen opponent with his unkempt beard and curly hair flowing in the breeze truly says it all. If you like having fun, watching a man who seemingly stepped out of a block of glacial ice to be our modern day Neanderthal warrior is about as good of a time as you can get in combat sports.

Rickels’ decade-long journey in Bellator MMA came to an end with his first-ever submission at Bellator 225, but in that time he left behind a series of fantastic brawls and over-the-top ring entrances. He also had some runs that made him a serious Lightweight contender in the division, one of which was in 2013 with the Season 8 Lightweight tournament. Back-to-back decision wins over Lloyd Woodard and Jason Fischer carried him to the finals with an impressive 13-1 record to face Saad Awad at Bellator 94 on March 28.

If the hype was on anybody going into the bout though it was definitely Awad. In the semifinal bout he scored his second straight knockout win and handed “Ill” Will Brooks the first loss of his career. While his previous win came in only 31 seconds, that didn’t make it any less impressive that it took him 12 seconds longer to put Brooks down.

Awad stepped into the cage against Rickels at 14-4, standing 5’11” with a 73.5-inch reach. Rickels has always been a lanky Lightweight at 6’0,” but on paper he gave up 1.5-inch in reach to his foe. What he didn’t give up to Awad was his “Caveman” grit. Despite being largely dominated in the first round, where Awad surprised everyone by doing most of his work on the ground, Rickels is not a fighter to let off the hook in any contest. Unless you drop him or retire him, Rickels will just keep coming and coming and coming like a relentless zombie.

The second round seemed as though it was going to play out like the first. Rickels stuffed an early takedown, but Awad got him on the second try and started fishing for submissions. When Rickels got back to his feet, Awad unintentionally let him on top trying to get the fight to the canvas, but made up for that mistake by sweeping him and getting the dominant position. Rickels stayed busy throwing elbows from the bottom but this wasn’t going to be his path to victory. As time dwindled in the round both men got back to their feet and started exchanging power shots, and in the waning moments Rickels CRUSHED Awad with a big right hand. Awad was seemingly out cold at the bell.

Referee Troy Waugh stood and waited for Awad to get back to his feet and return to his corner, and when he didn’t respond the fight was waved off, which caused Awad to immediately start protesting. It was called “controversial” at the time, but if you watch the clip and see Awad face plant off the crunch of “Caveman” and his right hand, it’s not like Waugh didn’t already have a reason to stop it. The only difference was whether it would be ruled a (technical) knockout because Awad couldn’t continue — it was the latter. 5:00, R2.

“Caveman” David Rickels faced the only man to drop Will Brooks and turned the tables by dropping him to win the tournament and the oversized novelty check. More important, he’d get crack at “Iron” Michael Chandler for the Lightweight title in just a few months.

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