It didn't come easily, but Roger Huerta
lived up to his reputation for excitement, going to the third round before defeating Chad Hinton
via kneebar submission in his Bellator debut at the Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Fla.
The end came at 56 seconds of the round after a spectacular, athletic move by Huerta. Hinton had Huerta's back in a standing position. Huerta did a forward roll, taking Hinton with him, and he ended up on top of Hinton's chest. Huerta grabbed Hinton's free leg and applied a kneebar for the finish.
"The leg was there," said Huerta, who improved to 21-3-1. "I was trying to finish by TKO, ground and pound. I had to take the leg. This guy wasn't going to give up. He's really tough."
It didn't come easily for the former UFC star against the previously unbeaten Hinton. The first round was quite competitive, with Hinton scoring a pair of takedowns and Huerta getting the better of the standup, rocking Hinton twice with right hands. The first came out of a clinch and wobbled Hinton before Hinton instinctively and successfully completed a takedown.
Huerta got the fight back to a standing position 30 seconds later and rocked Hinton again. Hinton again went for a takedown and tried to take Huerta's back before Huerta escaped and unleashed some ground and pound to end the round.
The second frame was all Huerta, as he took Hinton down in the opening minute and spent the rest of the round hammering away. Hinton took a beating as Huerta transitioned to full mount in the final seconds of the round, though Hinton made it to the final bell before losing in the third.
The 38-year-old Hinton lost for the first time in his career, falling to 6-1.
"He is a strong guy," Huerta said. "Oh my God, so strong. It's amazing. It just goes to show that age doesn't matter. You got the cardio, the stamina and put in the time and work. Hats off to him, he's a great fighter."
Huerta advances to the lightweight tournament semifinals with the win.Carey Vanier also advances in lightweight bracket
Huerta was joined in the lightweight semifinal bracket by Carey Vanier
, who controlled Joe Duarte
over the course of the fight until finishing Duarte with ground strikes late in the third round.
Vanier used his superior wrestling skills to take Duarte down repeatedly throughout the fight and wear him down with his ground attack before earning the finish. Duarte had taken the fight on short notice, replacing Janne Tulirinta after Tulirinta's visa issues prevented him from entering the country.