Photo courtesy of Bellator MMA.
Cageside Report by Resolution Sports
Bellator MMA concluded its ninth season on Friday night at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, featuring a middleweight title fight and two tournament championships on the main card of the evening.
Alexander Shlemenko (49-7) vs. Doug Marshall (18-7)
In what was the final fight of 2013 for Bellator MMA, Middleweight Champion Alexander Shlemenko (49-7) put his title on the line against tournament winner Doug Marshall (18-7). Verbal exchanges had built up the anticipation for this bout, and it concluded with a spectacular finish.
At the opening bell, Shlemenko shot and earned a quick takedown, but Marshall was able to walk himself up the cage and get back to his feet. His time standing would once again be short-lived, as Shlemenko soon after scored his second takedown of the night. Action did soon return to the stand-up, and both men began to engage with their hands and kicks. Amid a close-range exchange, Marshall was showing some nice dirty boxing but then got buckled when Shlemenko unloaded a vicious liver shot with his left hand. Marshall never truly recovered from the blow, eating a couple more shots as he backed up on his heels. Finally, at the 4:28 mark of the first frame, both men threw left hands at the same time, but the hook from Shlemenko landed flush to the chin of his opposition and crumbled him. Referee Dan Miragliotta immediately jumped in between the two combatants, calling a halt to the bout and keeping the belt around the waist of the Russian veteran.
Ron Keslar (11-4) vs. Rick Hawn (18-2)
In this Season 9 Welterweight Tournament Final, former Lightweight Tournament Champion and two-time welterweight finalist Rick Hawn looked to add a second tournament championship in a second weight division. In the opening frame, Keslar struck Hawn with an early knee that dropped him, attacking furiously once he hit the canvas. Hawn did finally walk himself up the cage to get back on his feet, and a very nice stand-up exchanged ensued over the second half of the first round.
The striking affair continued into the next stanza, with Hawn demonstrating some very good boxing as he rolled under the punches of Keslar and did well working off the jab. He also displayed nice head movement and faints, something that appeared to start making Keslar just a bit uncomfortable. In the final frame, Hawn picked up the pace on his dirty boxing and rocked Keslar. As the Pittsburgh native’s legs started to go, Hawn started throwing punches in bunches. Keslar did all he could to get his legs back under him, but all that did was leave him around long enough to eat a crushing right hook 55 seconds into the round that gave Hawn the win and tournament title.
Will Brooks (13-1) vs. Tiger Sarnavskiy (25-2)
Brooks put on an amazing display of wrestling in this contest, which was for the Season 9 Lightweight Tournament Championship. He came out doing a nice job with both his hands and feet, but he made clear his intentions for this fight early, scoring a takedown and smothering Sarnivskiy on the canvas. Each round opened with a quick shoot and eventual takedown, and Brooks kept the bout on the floor to work his ground game. Sarnivskiy was never truly able to counter the wrestling of his opposition, and the floor chess match remained in favor of Brooks throughout the three rounds of action. In the end, Brooks took flush decisions from the ringside judges (30-27x2, 30-26), earning him his first tournament championship.
Patrick Cenoble (9-3-1) vs. Terry Etim (16-5)
After a long time away from the cage, this feature bout marked the return of British welterweight Terry Etim, who may not have used the most crowd pleasing methods to earn the eventual win, but he certainly was effective in his appeal to the three cageside officials. Nearly the entirety of the 15-minute contest was spent on the floor of the Bellator cage, which obviously frustrated a usually aggressive Cenoble. Etim made repeated attempts at various choke holds during this fight, but the defensive counters of Cenoble kept him clear of danger. However, the end result was still in favor of Etim, who won via unanimous decision with tallies of 30-27, 30-26 and 29-28.
Preliminary Results: FULL RECAP