Eric Larkin Impresses, Carey Vanier Gets Away With One at Bellator 28

Four-time All-American wrestler and NCAA Division I champ Eric Larkin wrapped up his third straight MMA victory in as many tries at Bellator 28 in New Orleans on Thursday night.

Larkin got off to a quick start, dropping Marcus Andrusia with a surprise head kick in the opening seconds, then adding some vicious ground-and-pound as Andrusia struggled to regain his bearings. After taking a beating in the half-guard, Andrusia attempted to sit up and got caught in a tight guillotine choke from Larkin, forcing Andrusia to submit at 2:46 of round 1.

"I actually had a coach text me today and say, 'Hey, you should throw the head kick. He'll never expect it.' And I landed it," Larkin said after the victory.

The win brings Larkin's record to 3-0 since beginning his pro MMA career in April. Though he wrestled at 149 pounds, the fight with Andrusia took place at lightweight as a precursor to Larkin moving down to featherweight to compete in Bellator's 145-pound tournament.

"I'm excited," said Larkin. "I weighed in at like 153 or 154. I actually got down there pretty light, so that's not going to be that bad to get down to 145."

The lightweight tournament qualifier bout between Carey Vanier and MMA veteran Rich Clementi made for an interesting clash, but was not without controversy. Midway through the third round of a close fight, Vanier hit Clementi with two illegal knees to the head as Clementi was pinned against the cage with one hand on the mat, making him technically a downed opponent.

After the first knee Clementi looked up at Vanier and at referee Mark Leblanc, who did nothing. It was only after Vanier landed the second illegal knee, which opened a nasty cut over Clementi's left eye, that Leblanc stepped in to pause the action as Clementi shouted at him.

Clementi was livid with Leblanc for the oversight, but while Leblanc gave Clementi's corner time to work on the cut, he did not take a point from Vanier for the foul. That would prove to be an important call, as Vanier took the split decision with scores of 29-28, 29-28, and 28-29.

Vanier seemed to indicate that he couldn't see Clementi's hand on the mat from his vantage point, but Leblanc certainly could, and he took no steps to stop or even warn Varnier about the first illegal knee. The bout continued after the brief stoppage, but Clementi's cut opened again soon after, leaving him bathed in blood by the end of the final frame.

In other action, middleweight Eric Schambari outpointed former IFL champ Matt Horwich behind an effective jab and a commitment to the takedown. Though Schambari seemed to be landing more punches on the feet, Horwich plodded through them like a persistent mummy for most of the first round.

Schambari spent much of rounds two and three trying to get Horwich to the mat, eventually succeeding in the third and keeping Horwich on his back until the final horn. Two of the three judges rewarded Schambari with scores of 30-27, while one judge inexplicably scored it 29-28 for Horwich.

Finally, featherweight Georgi Karakhanyan won a unanimous decision victory over Anthony Leone after a three-round grappling match that saw each man put his jiu-jitsu skills on display. In the end, Karakhanyan was able to control more of the action and maintain top position for most of the bout, netting him scores of 30-27, 30-27, and 29-28 for the win.

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