- Brett Okamoto
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Magomedrasul "Frodo" Khasbulaev earned his way to the Bellator featherweight tournament finals -- as well as the biggest win of his career -- with a third-round TKO victory Thursday night over Marlon Sandro at Bellator 92 in Temecula, Calif.
Khasbulaev (20-5) was dominant throughout the fight. He threatened with early submissions and wore Sandro down to the point he barely answered the bell for the final round. Referee John McCarthy stopped the bout at the 2:38 mark.
"I feel great, but tired," said Khasbulaev, through an interpreter.
The semifinal got off to a disastrous start when Sandro (24-5) caught Khasbulaev with an accidental knee to the groin. The Russian was in visible pain from the shot but eventually continued.
Shortly after the restart, Khasbulaev landed a front kick to Sandro's face, followed by a hard straight right. He nearly caught Sandro in what would have been a shocking kimura later in the round, but the Brazilian escaped.
Sandro saw his best opportunity in the next round, as he caught Khasbulaev in an arm triangle after gaining top position in a scramble. It would turn out to be his last stand, as Khasbulaev escaped and dominated the remainder of the fight.
After Sandro was slow off his stool in between the second and third rounds, Khasbulaev scored an early takedown and worked ground strikes until the stoppage.
Khasbulaev has now won eight in a row, including seven finishes. Sandro saw a two-fight win streak snapped with his last loss coming via unanimous decision to Daniel Straus in the Season 6 Bellator tournament finals.
Marshall stays unbeaten in Bellator
Marshall (17-6) advanced to the Bellator middleweight tournament finals via split decision over Aliev, handing the Russian his first professional loss in the process.
It was quickly obvious Aliev (9-1) wanted nothing to do with Marshall's standup. He took the fight to the floor in each of the three rounds, but rarely did damage once he got it there, prompting multiple standups by referee Herb Dean.
Marshall appeared surprised when the scores were read. Two judges scored the bout 29-28 in his favor; the third gave it to Aliev, 30-27.
"I've got to be honest, he was a whole lot better wrestler than I gave him credit for," Marshall said. "His takedowns were relentless."
The first round clearly went to Aliev, as he spent nearly the entire five minutes in top position. The fight was stood up with just 10 seconds left in the round, which turned out to be enough time for Aliev to score yet another takedown.
Marshall responded in the next round, opening with a left head kick that wobbled the legs of Aliev. An overeager Marshall rushed in and was quickly taken down, but another standup by Dean brought the action back to the feet.
Aliev was even more cautious the rest of the way, circling away from Marshall's power while throwing occasional counter jabs. A visibly frustrated Marshall may have secured the win in the final seconds of the fight, landing a vicious right hand as he stood in Aliev's guard.
The 36-year-old Marshall improves to 3-0 in Bellator. His previous two wins came via first-round knockout.
Cooper stuns Cramer with late knockout
Down two rounds to none, Cooper (19-7) changed the fight with a right uppercut midway through the final round. Another straight right moments later put Cramer on the ground and prompted referee John McCarthy to stop the action at the 3:19 mark.
"I was losing the first two rounds," said an emotional Cooper afterward. "My guys told me: 'All heart, go for the finish this round.' I listened to them. Luckily, I got the knockout."
Cramer (10-4) appeared well on his way to another upset victory in the Bellator tournament. He dropped Cooper in the opening 10 seconds with a right cross and spent the majority of the first round on his opponent's back.
The pace slowed in the second round, as Cooper worked for takedowns against the fence. Cramer showcased solid defensive wrestling and scored points with knees from the Thai clinch. Cooper did open a cut near Cramer's left eye during a brief exchange.
All that work did Cramer no good though once Cooper caught him in the third.
Cooper extended his win streak to six and has now finished 12 professional fights via knockout. A former contestant on "The Ultimate Fighter" reality series, Cramer suffered his first loss since August 2011.
Richman rallies to edge Bezerra
Richman (15-2) was badly outclassed on the ground early, but rebounded in the final two rounds with his standup and takedown defense. Two judges scored it in his favor 29-28, while the third saw it 29-28 for Bezerra.
"This is the biggest win of my career," Richman said. "He's got a granite chin. I hit really hard and he took every shot."
Bezerra (15-3) sold out on single leg takedown attempts early. He dragged Richman to the floor and quickly passed into full mount. Richman surrendered his back midway through the round, giving the submission specialist lots of time to work.
The Brazilian failed to capitalize on the position, though, searching for the rear-naked choke but never securing it. Richman made him pay for it in the second round as he found his range with the jab and several straight lefts.
"When he had my back that whole round, I told myself, 'Stay calm. He's tiring himself out,'" Richman said.
The third round was the closest of the fight. Bezerra caught Richman on the feet with a lead hook early and scored a huge takedown 90 seconds in. Richman eventually escaped to his feet, leading to a long exchange in the center of the cage to end the contest.
Richman improves to 4-1 under the Bellator banner. For Bazerra, it's the second time he's advanced to and lost in the tournament semifinals.
Magomedrasul "Frodo" Khasbulaev scored the biggest victory of his career Thursday night by stopping Marlon Sandro at Bellator 92 to advance to the finals of the featherweight tournament.