Bellator 96 took place at the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla., on Wednesday night, setting the finals for both the promotion’s light heavyweight and heavyweight Summer Series tournaments.
An accidental headbutt stalled the fight in the opening moments, but when action picked up, Petruzelli tried to chop Lawal’s legs out from under him with low kicks. Lawal, however, caught one of the kicks and planted Petruzelli back down on the mat.
Lawal stood up, timed his move, and dove in with a punch that put Petruzelli’s lights out… one punch, no muss, no fuss.
The victory moved Lawal into the Summer Series Light Heavyweight Tournament final.
Thirty-seven-year-old Renato “Babalu” Sobral is a veteran of nearly 50 fights and almost every major promotion around the globe. He’s competed professionally for nearly 16 years.
For everything Sobral has accomplished in those 16 years, however, Jacob Noe on Wednesday night made him look every day of his age.
Noe told MMAWeekly.com before the fight that he would keep the pressure on Sobral and force him to whither as the fight wore on, and that’s exactly what he did.
Noe was the bigger, stronger, and sharper fighter of the two, beating Sobral to the punch, stuffing his takedown attempts, and generally wearing him down.
In the final round, Sobral put everything he had into a dogged attempt to get Noe to the mat. Noe powered through the takedown attempt, separated, and then bloodied a determined Sobral with numerous punches, staggering him several times, and cutting him under the right eye.
Noe kept up the attack, Sobral’s heart keeping him on his feet, but the referee had seen enough and called a halt to the fight as Sobral staggered across the cage.
Noe moved on to the Summer Series Light Heavyweight Tournament final opposite Lawal, while Sobral called it quits.
The one-time Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, Sobral didn’t address the crow verbally, but set his gloves down in the middle of the cage, knelt down and prayed. He returned to his feet, waived to the crowd, tears in his eyes, and stepped out of the cage for the final time.
While Ryan Martinez made quick work of Richard Hale on the preliminary portion of the fight card to earn a spot in the Summer Series Heavyweight Tournament final, Vitaly Minakov did the same on the main card.
Minakov briefly danced around the cage with Ron Sparks before landing a straight right hand that sent Sparks to the canvas and then following up with a few more punches for good measure.
It took Minakov just 32 seconds to fight his way into the heavyweight final opposite Martinez. The two will square off, a title shot on the line, at Bellator 97 on July 31 in Albuquerque, N.M.
War Machine (formerly Jon Koppenhaver) hadn’t fought in more than a year and a half prior to Wednesday night, but he finally made his Bellator debut. And he did so in impressive fashion.
Although Blas Avena was doing well on the feet, landing numerous knees to the body while he and War Machine were clinched on the cage, War Machine eventually took the fight to the mat and quickly finished.
When they hit the mat, War Machine secured a crucifix and just kept hammering Avena with punches until the referee had no choice but to stop the fight.
Bellator 96 Results
-Muhammed Lawal def. Seth Petruzelli by KO (Punch) at of 1:35, R1
-Jacob Noe def. Renato Sobral by TKO (Strikes) at 3:32, R3
-Vitaly Minakov def. Ron Sparks by TKO (Strikes) at 0:32, R1
-War Machine def. Blas Avena by TKO (Strikes) at 3:55, R1
-Chas Skelly def. Jarrod Card by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
-Keith Berry def. Cortez Coleman by Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
-Mike Maldonado def. Chavous Smith by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 2:27, R1
-Damon Jackson def. Keith Miner by TKO (Strikes) at 2:00, R1
-Raphael Butler def. Jeremiah O'Neal by TKO (Strikes) at 2:57, R1
-Ryan Martinez def. Richard Hale by KO (Punches) at 2:19, R1
-Brandon Halsey def. Joe Yaeger by Split Decision (30-28, 28-30, 30-28)
-Derek Campos def. Brandon Girtz by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
-Justin McNally def. Steven Artoff by Submission (Inverted Triangle Choke) at 2:44, R1