Douglas Lima earned his second tournament crown, and four welterweights advanced to the semifinals of their bracketed action, as Bellator MMA celebrated its 100th event Friday night in Phoenix.
Lima faced his American Top Team compatriot Ben Saunders and repeated history with a second-round knockout. Unlike their first meeting in 2011, also a Bellator welterweight tournament final, Lima finished with his feet instead of his hands, though punches were the reason Saunders couldn't see a high kick coming.
A competitive opening frame went to Lima, who traded heavy kicks with Saunders while mixing in head-popping jabs and left hooks. One such shot cut Saunders in a bad spot underneath his right eyebrow, yet by the time the fight was finished at 4:33 of Round 2, it was the loser's other eye that looked particularly gruesome.
"Ben Saunders is a warrior," Lima said. "Hats off to him. It happens. Somebody's gotta lose."
Saunders, 25, forgot his mouthpiece in the corner at the start of the second frame. He was fortunate enough that referee Jason Herzog allowed him to call time and put it in place because mere seconds later, Lima, who thought he broke one of his hands in the previous round, slammed a beautiful right into his friend's face.
The left eye of Saunders appeared to be immediately encased by puffy, purple skin. There was no way he could see as Lima swarmed for a finish. Somehow, though, Saunders remained aware, fished for a submission from his guard, and soon returned to his feet when Lima backed away after easily defending a kneebar attempt.
It seemed as if Lima took pity on Saunders (16-6-2) as his punching output subsided, but the 25-year-old out of Atlanta was simply biding his time. Saunders flailed and Lima dug hard to the liver with a left hook. He followed up the punch with a perfect kick that cracked the left side of Saunders' face.
Saunders went down along the fence and Lima (25-5) walked away, another $100,000 richer after three stoppages (Bryan Baker and Michail Tsarev were the other victims) to claim the tournament crown and another title shot.
After defeating Saunders in 2011, Lima fell short on points against Bellator champion Ben Askren. It's unclear if Lima will get a second chance at Askren, whose contract with Bellator has run its course and is expected to leave the promotion for the UFC.
War Machine advances via technical submission
Vaughn "Blud" Anderson, 35, talked too much trash for the oft-troubled and controversial War Machine's liking. Yet the brash 31-year-old American found something to respect from his Canadian opponent based out of Xi'an, China.
"My game plan was just to come in here and fight," War Machine said after securing a second-round technical submission victory. "I was a bit apprehensive because I was sick. I actually had to hock up a big loogie in the middle of the fight. Vaughn talked a lot of crap. Sorry I don't care about him, but he was tougher than I expected him to be. Props to him for not tapping. He went to sleep like a real man. I don't like people that tap."
War Machine (14-4) outclassed Anderson (16-2-1) on the canvas, which is where most of the action took place. Machine's guard passing was very effective, and it led him to mount and back-control. After a strong opening stanza, Machine stood above his grounded opponent and slammed home a right hand while passing into side control. From there he moved into a crucifix position and delivered several shots until Anderson gave up his back.
Anderson did well to defend his neck by peeling away Machine's hands four times in a short span. But Machine adjusted and clasped his hands together on the fifth attempt, almost immediately rendering Anderson unconscious.
"Big money [is] coming," the winner said. "This tournament is mine."
Hawn cruises past Terrado
The most interesting aspect of Rick Hawn's quarterfinal decision win against Herman Terrado was what happened after the final bell sounded. And even then, the verbal back and forth wasn't especially compelling.
A lightweight tournament winner who was knocked out by Bellator champion Michael Chandler in January, Hawn (16-2) stepped up on short notice to face Terrado and enjoyed a relatively easy time over 15 minutes.
Hawn pressed forward throughout the contest, but that was the extent of his offense. The heavy punching power that once concerned fighters at 155 did not materialize for Hawn at welterweight, yet he did enough for judges to score it unanimously in his favor.
The American Olympic judoka in 2004 earned the win with scores of 30-27, 29-28, 29-28. ESPN.com saw it 29-28 for the 37-year-old Hawn, giving Terrado the opening period because he was the early aggressor.
Terrado's offense wilted the rest of the way. He failed to connect with anything of substance. And Hawn walked down the 23-year-old out of San Diego, Calif., who dropped to 11-2.
Keslar earns victory by split decision
Despite his need for oxygen, Ron Keslar held his breath as scores were read after three rounds with Sergio Junior.
Judges at cage-side were split, but Keslar was the victor (29-28, 29-28, 28-29). ESPN.com agreed, seeing it 29-28 for the Californian.
Keslar got off to an aggressive start, landing several strikes against his veteran Brazilian foe, particularly during scrambles. Junior, 32, picked it up in the middle of the round, though he failed to land anything of note or put himself in dominant position.
Round 2 was all Keslar (10-3). The 33-year-old Strikeforce veteran slammed the back-end of a combination, a long right straight, into Junior's chin, knocking the Brazilian off his feet early in the frame. Junior was surprisingly spry after taking the punch and slamming his head onto the canvas, prompting Keslar to defend a desperation kneebar. He did, took control and maintained it via not-so-offensive back-control.
The third round was Junior's best five-minute stretch. He strained hard to finish with a guillotine. When that didn't work, he followed with short strikes while Keslar carried on as if he was just about finished. But when a step-over armbar from Junior (29-12-3) failed, Keslar rode out the round on the Brazilian's back.
Weedman finishes Baesman by submission
Weedman, 28, was noticeably stronger than his previous attempts in the welterweight division, and utilized that newfound power to dominate grappling sequences against Baesman. After a trip that put him in top position, Weedman looked for several unorthdox submission combinations before settling on a very traditional straight armbar.
Baesman momentarily fended off Weedman, twisted and turning while holding onto his right arm. Weedman (22-8-1) adjusted and finished the fight 33 seconds after getting it to the floor.
The end came at 3:20 of Round 1 as Baesman tapped in the belly-down armbar position.
"I knew he was going to be really hard to finish and he was twisting really well in that armbar," Weedman said. "True jiu-jitsu doesn't end at the tap. You have to be ready to break it in a real fight and I was ready to go as far as I needed to go. My hat's off to Justin; he was very tough."