MMA: Rich Hale
African-born Frenchman Christian M’Pumbu stands alone atop the Bellator Fighting Championships light heavyweight mountain.
M’Pumbu stopped former two-division Rage in the Cage titleholder Rich Hale on third-round strikes in the Season 4 light heavyweight tournament final at Bellator 45 on Saturday at the L’Auberge du Lac Casino and Resort in Lake Charles, La. Finished for the first time in more than four years, Hale met his demise 4:17 into Round 3.
M’Pumbu nearly finished it inside the first five minutes, when he planted Hale on his back with a stinging left hook. He followed up with a standing-to-ground right hand and threatened with a brabo choke, but Hale survived to see a second round. There, the Arizonan backed up a more passive M’Pumbu with jabs, leg kicks and occasional kicks to the body.
Hale had the momentum, as the fight spilled into the third round. However, with roughly two minutes to go in the period, M’Pumbu raised his aggression level. He landed a blistering right hand that sent Hale crashing to the canvas once again, the finish in sight. After hesitating briefly, M’Pumbu pounced and showered his foe with right hands and hammerfists. Referee Jason Herzog gave Hale every opportunity to answer; he did not.
As with his semifinal victory over Tim Carpenter in April, M’Pumbu was reduced to tears.
“I can’t help but cry,” he said, moments after becoming Bellator’s first 205-pound champion. “I do everything I do for my kids. It’s good to know all those years of hard work are going to pay off.”
‘Pitbull’ outpoints Straus, clinches title shot
A cleaner, more-aggressive offensive approach carried the once-beaten Patricio Freire to a unanimous decision over Daniel Straus in the Bellator Season 4 featherweight tournament final. Scores were 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 for "Pitbull", who will challenge reigning 145-pound champion Joe Warren later this year.
The 23-year-old Freire landed the strikes of consequence throughout the 15-minute encounter and all but shut down Straus’ high-octane, wrestling-centric attack. The match was marked by spits of action and extended periods of relative inactivity. Freire utilized a strong clinch game, knees to the body in close quarters and punishing low kicks when the two separated.
Straus was ineffective from the outside, often ceding to the superior striker. Freire attempted to bait him into moving forward late in the third round, as he attempted to put an exclamation point on his 17th victory in 18 professional appearances. The two tournament finalists finished their engagement in the clinch, from which Straus executed a suplex that was more primal than technical. By then, he had already lost the fight on the scorecards.
“There were lots of things going on in my mind,” said Freire, “but the primary thing was the victory and [getting] a shot at a belt for the first time in my career.”
The win sets up Freire for his long-desired rematch with Warren, the man who handed him his only career defeat in a split decision 11 months ago.
“I’m going to be a champion,” the Brazilian said. “I’m going to take his belt.”
Blood-soaked Alvey edges Amoussou
In one of Bellator’s bloodiest battles to date, promotional newcomer Sam Alvey stunned Strikeforce veteran Karl Amoussou and notched a narrow split decision victory in their Season 5 middleweight tournament qualifier. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28, two of them in Alvey’s favor.
Early on, it did not look good for Alvey. Amoussou attacked with kicks to the head body and legs, scored with a textbook judo throw and transitioned immediately to mount. From there, he unleashed a series of sharp elbows and opened a pair of cuts on Alvey’s head -- one near the brow, the other on the scalp. Blood flowed freely, but Alvey did not fold. Amoussou tried for an ill-advised armbar from high mount, allowing Alvey to escape and turn into top position. By the time the frame was finished, Amoussou’s entire torso was covered in his opponent’s blood.
“I’ve never bled in a fight before,” said Alvey, who will carry a four-fight winning streak into his next appearance. “It’s a little disturbing.”
Amoussou’s pace slowed noticeably in round two, as he let Alvey climb back into the fight. The 25-year-old Waterford, Wis., native capitalized. He often countered the incoming Frenchman with sweeping hooks, and though few of them landed flush, they were enough of a deterrent to keep Amoussou at bay. Alvey closed the stronger of the two in the third round, as he answered an attempted trip with a takedown and unleashed some wild, flailing ground-and-pound in the final seconds.