Thomas capitalized on his re-entry into the Bellator welterweight bracket, stopping the unbeaten Jacob McClintock in 4:01 of the first round at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Incredibly, the win could set up a rematch with the man who seemingly ousted him in the first round, Ben Askren.
"There's a loss on my record that doesn't belong there," Thomas said after his win. "Ben, you know you didn't beat me, I know you didn't beat me. You're running your mouth. I want you in the second round of the tournament."
Last week, Thomas was ruled a loser by technical submission while in an Askren modified guillotine. Though he never tapped out, the referee stopped the bout, saying he'd asked Thomas to give him a sign he was OK but received no response. Thomas later said he didn't hear the referee because his ears were covered by Askren's arms.
Immediately afterward, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney promised Thomas that he would be the first alternate if any fighter was forced to withdraw. Days later, Thomas received a second opportunity when an Iceland volcano eruption caused havoc in European air travel, grounding entrant Jim Wallhead.
Though second-round matchups will not be announced until a later date, the rest of the competitors are now known.
Dan Hornbuckle seized his spot in the field, winning his fifth straight bout with a first-round submission win over Tyler Stinson at 2:03 of the first round. Stinson was able to put Hornbuckle on his back quickly, but Hornbuckle went on the offensive immediately, locking up a triangle.
Stinson fought the hold for nearly a minute but there was no escape, and Hornbuckle eventually tightened the hold until Stinson tapped.
In the final welterweight tourney bout, Steve Carl won a controversial split-decision over Brett Cooper.
After 15 competitive minutes of action, the crowd seemed to think Cooper deserved the victory, though their perception of the fight may have been influenced by a strong third round for Cooper, who closed out the last 90 seconds of the fight with powerful ground and pound.
The crowd booed the judges' decision.
"I did my best. I did the best i could," said Cooper to an ovation from the audience. "I guess I should've landed a few more punches. Steve Carl is a really tough guy. I thought I won the last two rounds and thought he won the first. There's nothing I can do about it now."
The victorious Carl said the very first strike of the fight hurt him badly, though he worked through it for the win.
"I wanted to quit then and there," said Carl, who joined Hornbuckle, Thomas and Askren in the next round.
In the final featherweight first-round matchup, Patricio "Pitbull" Freire stayed unbeaten, improving to 13-0 by submitting William Romero with an inverted heel hook in just 2:01.
Freire took Romero down just a minute into the fight and immediately looked to attack Romero's lower body, first looking for an ankle lock before transitioning to a heel hook for the tapout.
Freire improved to 13-0 while Romero suffered his first career defeat, falling to 5-1. Freire joined Wilson Reis, Georgi Karakhanyan and Joe Warren in the next round.