Bellator 67 took place tonight from a packed Entertainment Hall inside the beautiful Casino Rama and saw the fighters deliver an exceptional night of fights for the Ontario fans.
The night tipped off with the highly anticipated Bellator debut of Canadian Ryan "The Real Deal" Ford taking on tough Bellator veteran Luis Santos. The first round saw Ford come out and feel out his opponent which gave Santos some space to land a solid head kick midway through the round. The kick hurt Ford and he went down before Santos jumped to take his back.
Ford stayed calm and composed and kept himself tight in his defense while Santos tried to find the opening to sink in a choke. The opening did not appear and Ford was able to recover and escape the round. The second saw Ford come out with a new aggression and he locked up Santos as the two backed up to the cage.
A clinch on the cage ensued and Ford was able to get position to open up his brutal knee strikes on Santos. The first one landed to the body and the second one landed flush on Santos' jaw dropping the veteran to the floor. Ford pounced with a flurry and ended the fight via TKO early in the second round.
It was an impressive debut for Ford in front of a large entourage of family and friends who came in from Edmonton to support him. Ford can now expect to get a spot in the next welterweight tournament and make his run at a Bellator title from there.
There was a huge semifinal fight in this season's welterweight tournament on the card and classy Bryan Baker was able to out-battle and outlast Ben Saunders in a very exciting fight.
Saunders used some solid knees early and had Baker in what looked to be a very tight triangle in the round, as well. Baker calmly defended and forced Saunders to give up on the hold as fatigue set in to end the round.
The second round saw a reversal of fortunes for Baker as he got top position on Saunders and rained down pressure for the majority of the round. I had the fight deadlocked going in to the third round and it was anyone's fight to take with a win of the round.
Baker was the stronger, fresher fighter and he quickly got top position on Saunders again early where he rode that control to the win to move to the tournament final. Baker is a classy, impressive individual who is two years in remission after being diagnosed with leukemia a few years ago.
In the main event of the evening, lightweight champion Michael Chandler made extremely quick work of featured opponent Akihiro Gono, landing a right hand in the very first exchange and getting a TKO victory at 0:56 of the first round.
In the other main-card fight on the night, Polish heavyweight Damian Grabowski stole a controversial decision win over a tough and humble Dave Huckaba. I felt Huckaba was the busier fighter, and did more damage with his shots, but the judges saw it differently and chose Grabowski's takedowns and top control in the decision.
The night of fights was a very good one with the Belllator fighters bouncing back from a disappointing card in Windsor just last month. It is Bellator's third show at Rama and fourth in Ontario in a year and here's hoping the trend continues and we see them back in Ontario sooner rather than later.
Dwight Wakabayashi is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report MMA, MMA editor at CKSN.ca and guest blogger for Sportsnet.ca.