- Brett Okamoto
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Apparently, Quinton Jackson is not ready to retire from professional fighting.
Jackson (34-11) delivered his second consecutive knockout under the Bellator MMA banner Friday night, finishing Christian M'Pumbu at Bellator 110 via TKO at 4:34 of the first round at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The finish came after M'Pumbu (18-6-1) slipped during a kick attempt and fell to his back. Referee John McCarthy stopped the bout after two hard Jackson right hands.
Before stepping away, "Rampage" stood over M'Pumbu, who had made promises to "retire" him earlier in the week, and pointed a finger in his face.
"He said he was going to retire me; I took that personal," Jackson said. "Y'all don't know who you're messing with. I'm a monster. I'm taking everybody out. Anybody who steps in the cage is going to sleep."
The win sets up a high-profile tournament final between Jackson and former Strikeforce champion Muhammed Lawal (12-3), who outpointed Mikhail Zayats in the card's co-main event. The two exchanged words in the cage immediately following Jackson's win.
M'Pumbu sought to execute a conservative game plan, as he spent the opening minutes of the fight circling away from Jackson. The strategy even prompted Jackson to step back toward the center of the cage and raise his arms above his head.
After M'Pumbu landed a couple of outside leg kicks, Jackson eventually rushed forward, where M'Pumbu turned him into the fence and looked to kill time. McCarthy warned him to pick up the pace before eventually separating the clinch.
Midway through the round, Jackson connected on a short right cross and right uppercut that had M'Pumbu staggered. He would recover, but a slip later in the round spelled the end of his tournament hopes.
Jackson is now 2-0 since signing with Bellator last year. The 35-year-old departed from the UFC on the heels of a three-fight losing streak, including a submission loss to champion Jon Jones in September 2011. He bounced back with a first-round TKO victory over Joey Beltran in November.
M'Pumbu fell to 0-3 in his past three fights. The loss marked the first time he had been stopped in his career.
'King Mo' snaps losing skid
He settled for merely a win.
Lawal (12-3) advanced to the tournament final with a unanimous decision over Zayats but looked sluggish in the process. "King Mo" failed to convert on the majority of his takedown attempts and struggled to find any sort of rhythm on his feet.
Nevertheless, his jab and cage control were more than enough to outpoint Zayats. All three judges scored the 205-pound contest 30-27, in favor of Lawal.
The Connecticut crowd booed the semifinal matchup from the second round on, as neither fighter did much offensively. A short right hand by Zayats appeared to stagger Lawal as he drove in for an early takedown, but he recovered quickly.
The former Strikeforce champion attempted to take Zayats down throughout the bout but couldn't get it done. He settled for smothering Zayats along the fence in the second round, which likely earned him the frame.
Lawal improved to 4-2 since his Bellator debut last year. Both losses have come at the hands of Emanuel Newton, who is scheduled to challenge Bellator champion Attila Vegh for the light heavyweight title in March.
Featherweight tournament opening round
Daniel Weichel (32-8) def. Scott Cleve (14-4) via submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:46 of Round 1. A submission specialist, Weichel showcased his standup first, dropping Cleve with a right hand before finishing him on the ground.
Will Martinez Jr. (9-2-1) def. Goiti Yamauchi (16-2) via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27). In a significant upset, Martinez used top control and cleaner striking to outpoint the touted Brazilian prospect.
Desmond Green (10-2) def. Mike Richman (16-4) via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27). Green scored a key takedown in the second round and kept Richman at bay with the jab to land an upset decision.
Matt Bessette (13-4) def. Diego Nunes (18-6) via split decision (29-28, 30-27, 28-29). Hometown fighter Bessette claimed a narrow split-decision win in a high-pace standup fight. Nunes fell to 1-4 in his past five.
At 35, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson showed he still has the fire to compete with Friday's first-round TKO of Christian M'Pumbu at Bellator 110.