Dan Hornbuckle and former United States Olympian Ben Askren earned spots in the championship round of Bellator Fighting Championships’ Season 2 welterweight tournament with victories at Bellator 19 on Thursday night.
Askren defeats Thomas in anticipated rematch
Askren, one of the most decorated wrestlers in mixed martial arts, defeated UFC veteran Ryan Thomas in the most anticipated bout of the evening. The first meeting between the two ended in a controversial ref stoppage, but Askren gave Thomas no room to complain in the rematch, using his dominant wrestling to control the fight over the course of three rounds.
“It was a war … he definitely came to fight,” Askren said afterward. “I definitely had to dig deep. I was going for some submissions but he kept slipping out. It was a great fight.”
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney agreed. “Ben Askren was impressive,” Rebney said in the post-fight press conference. “For someone this new to MMA to be able to put on a performance like that against a fighter like Ryan Tomas is a testament to his huge, huge talent. He’s going to be tough guy to bet against.”
Hornbuckle advances to finals with submission win
Earlier in the night, Iraq War veteran Steve Carl was able to take Dan Hornbuckle to the ground shortly after their fight began, but Hornbuckle locked in a tight kimura and scored the submission just over two minutes into the fight.
“(Hornbuckle) continues to evolve and grow as a mixed martial artist,” Rebney said. “He is an awfully dangerous welterweight and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the world at 170 who would go in as a favorite against him right now. I’m looking forward to watching him again next month.”
Soto stops Saraiva
In the “Super Fight,” Joe Soto defeated Diego Saraiva by doctor stoppage in the first round after using a big elbow to open a giant gash on Saraiva’s forehead. It was the first time Saraiva had been stopped in 38 professional fights.
“It sucks that I had to end him with the cut, but that’s the way it goes,” Soto said afterward. “Now I’m just looking forward to fighting the winner of the tournament.”
Rebney said Soto made a major statement with the win. “This was a very dangerous fight for Joe,” Rebney said. “But he came to us and said ‘I want the toughest guy you can find at 145.’ With a performance like that against a fighter of Diego’s caliber, it’s a great night for him.”