Joe Warren officially became the Bellator interim bantamweight champion at Bellator 118 on Friday night in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The event was originally supposed to feature a highly anticipated bantamweight title fight between champion Eduardo Dantas and season nine tournament winner Warren.
Dantas, however, was forced to withdraw from his title defense due to a head injury, and from there, an interim title fight was slapped together between Warren and 2013 bantamweight Summer Series winner Rafael Silva. Silva came in without a proper training camp and was not afforded the opportunity to properly cut down to 135 pounds. Silva would hit the scales at 137 pounds, meaning he did not have the opportunity to take the belt, regardless of the outcome (though Warren could still earn the belt with a win).
When they finally faced off, the first round was pure fireworks as Silva took Warren down early, initiating a back-and-forth series of scrambles, takedown attempts and reversals. Silva would wobble Warren and seemed to come close to scoring the knockout, but Warren would survive the round with his high-caliber wrestling.
From there, though, things got slower by the minute.
Silva's lack of a proper training camp bit him as he started to show a lacking gas tank early in the second round. While he repeatedly wounded Warren with punches, and got the better of many grappling exchanges, Warren's smothering wrestling would wear Silva down as the clock ticked on.
The scorecards unanimously read 48-47 in favor of Warren, with "The Baddest Man on the Planet" taking Rounds 3, 4 and 5. With that, Warren becomes the first fighter in Bellator history to win a belt in two weight classes (he was featherweight champion from 2010 until 2012, when he was knocked out by Pat Curran).
Dantas speculated that he will be able to return to action in September, and if so, look for the title to be unified this fall.
In a welterweight tournament semifinal bout, dynamic Russian striker Andrey Koreshkov followed up his brutal knockout of Nah-Shon Burrell with a comparably impressive knockout of Justin Baesman. Koreshkov stalked him from the very beginning and lit him up with his hands. Eventually, with Baesman's back to the cage, he landed a spot-on flying knee that left him in a heap.
Koreshkov will face Adam McDonough in the welterweight tournament finals some time this Summer.
Additionally, Bellator kicked off its next season of tournaments tonight with a 2014 Summer Series light heavyweight tournament bout between Liam McGeary and Mike Mucitelli.
Both fighters have been quietly fighting outside Bellator's light heavyweight tournaments (which, traditionally, have been exclusively filled with UFC and Strikeforce castoffs) but entered the night with undefeated records and records stacked with finishes. McGeary, though, would get the better of Mucitelli with a lethal left hand that scored the finish after just 22 seconds.
The full results are as follows:
- Joe Warren def. Rafael Silva by unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)
- Andrey Koreshkov def. Justin Baesman via knockout (Round 1, 1:41)
- Marcos Galvao def. Thomas Vasquez by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Liam McGeary def. Mike Mucitelli via knockout (Round 1, 0:22)
- Dante Rivera def. Gemiyale Adkins by majority decision (29-29, 30-27, 30-27)
- Jesus Martinez def. Ryan Contaldi by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26)
- Tim Woods def. Eugene Fadiora by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
- Darrion Caldwell def. Joe Pingitore via submission (Round 1, 1:32)
- Lester Caslow def. Jay Haas via submission (Round 1, 2:29)
- Sidney Outlaw def. Mike Bannon by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Kevin Roddy def. Amran Aliyev by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)