The 8 Best Finishes in Bellator History
Though it may not receive the same level of recognition as the UFC, Bellator has provided MMA fans with some of the most spectacular finishes in the sport since its inception in April 2009.
As a result of some incredible performances by its fighters, Bellator has risen to become one of the premier MMA organizations in the world. In 2013, the promotion will fill a void left by the UFC on Spike, which will allow Bellator to continue growing to new heights.
Before Bellator begins its sixth season in March, let's take a look back at the amazing fight-finishing strikes and submissions that have allowed the company to get to where it is today.
Pat Curran vs. Luis Palomino
After coming up short on the scorecards in a title fight with Eddie Alvarez, 23-year-old Pat Curran made the decision to move to the featherweight division for a run at becoming the first fighter to win Bellator tournaments in two divisions.
In June 2010, Curran made his debut at 145 pounds and picked up an impressive victory over Luis Palomino in the opening round of a Bellator featherweight tournament.
Unable to secure a D'Arce choke, Curran smartly transitioned to a rare Peruvian neck tie and forced Palmoino to tap at 3:49 of the first stanza.
Pat Curran vs. Marlon Sandro
Following his submission win over Luis Palomino with a decision victory against Ronnie Mann, Pat Curran moved onto the finals of his first Bellator featherweight tournament.
In a bout that would earn him a shot at the 145-pound title, Curran met world-ranked Marlon Sandro.
After having trouble getting his offense going in the first round, Curran landed a perfectly timed head kick late in the second frame, which catapulted Sandro backwards and led to Curran's second Bellator tournament title.
Alexis Vila vs. Joe Warren
Pat Curran's next opponent will be Bellator featherweight champion Joe Warren, who recently took time away from defending his title to test the waters in the organization's bantamweight division.
In the opening round of Bellator's most recent bantamweight tournament, Warren took on promotional newcomer Alexis Vila.
Though known for having a sturdy chin, Warren had his lights put out by Vila with a looping left hook only one minute into the fight.
Patricky Freire vs. Toby Imada
Toby Imada reached the finals of his first two Bellator lightweight tournaments and was primed to do the same with a win over Patricky Friere this past April.
However, midway through the opening frame of the semifinal fight, Freire blasted Imada with a flying knee. Imada remained standing, but he was out on his feet and a few more punches from Freire forced a stop to the fight.
Freire proceeded to the tournament finals, where he was defeated by Michael Chandler, who recently became Bellator's lightweight champion with a victory over highly-ranked Eddie Alvarez.
Nick Pace vs. Collin Tebo
At Bellator 11, Nick Pace made his debut with the organization against Collin Tebo.
Just 1:37 into the first round, the eventual UFC bantamweight knocked Tebo off of his feet with a flying knee.
Though Pace wasn't successful in his first go-around with the UFC, he can always hang his hat on the fact that this knockout will go down as one of the best in Bellator history.
Yahir Reyes vs. Estevan Payan
Spinning backfists are one of the flashiest moves in MMA. However, it is rare that one connects cleanly to the chin of an opponent.
At Bellator 6, in the semifinals of a featherweight tournament, Yahir Reyes hit Estevan Payan with one of the most solid spinning backfists the sport has ever seen.
Reyes moved on to the tournament finals with this knockout, but he would lose to Joe Soto, spoiling his chances to wear Bellator gold around his waist.
Richard Hale vs. Nik Fekete
Richard Hale made his Bellator debut in the opening round of a light heavyweight tournament designed to crown the organization's first champion in the division.
Though he fell just short of capturing the belt in a loss to Christian M'Pumbu in the tournament finals, Hale made a big splash in the opening round by putting Nik Fekete to sleep with an inverted triangle choke.
The submission was so unexpected that the referee was slow to rescue an unconscious Fekete, unaware that the fighter had passed out due to the rare submission.
Toby Imada vs. Jorge Masvidal
Incredibly, Hale was not the first Bellator fighter to secure an inverted triangle—a submission that has never been completed in the UFC.
In 2009, Toby Imada earned Submission of the Year honors at the World MMA Awards for his incredible inverted triangle choke submission of Jorge Masvidal.
The submission earned Imada a shot at Bellator's lightweight title in the organization's inaugural 155-pound tournament. However, Imada would lose to Alvarez in his next fight and has since never had another shot at the belt.
Sean Smith is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA. For the latest insight and updates on everything MMA, Follow Sean Smith on Twitter