Kenny Foster, Daniel Straus, Wilson Reis and Patricio "Pitbull" Freire advanced to the semifinals of the Bellator featherweight tournament Saturday night with victories at Bellator 37.
Although the card will obviously be overshadowed by UFC 128, it was another good showing for Bellator, which is consistently putting on high-quality mixed martial arts cards on MTV2. This card featured the four opening-round fights for Bellator's Season 4 145-pound tournament, and it delivered an entertaining couple hours of action in the cage.
Foster absolutely dominated Eric Larkin, winning by submission with a guillotine choke in the first round. Larkin was a great college wrestler at Arizona State, but he has a long way to go before he's a well-rounded mixed martial artist. Larkin attempted a takedown in the early going and was caught with a knee from Foster that opened a big cut, and none of his other takedown attempts found much success. Once Foster got on top of Larkin on the ground, Larkin was helpless, and he tapped quickly to the guillotine.
Straus's unanimous decision victory over Nazareno Malegarie was an exciting little scrap that gave Malegarie his first loss after starting his career 19-0. Malegarie showed off some good skill on the ground and threatened Straus with some submissions, but Straus showed he was bigger, stronger and a better wrestler, and as the fight wore on he also started to hurt Malegarie in the stand-up. All three judges scored it 29-28 for Straus, as did I.
Reis completely outclassed Zac George in earning an easy first-round submission victory. Reis simply exploded on George at the outset, got him on the ground, got his back and quickly applied a rear-naked choke that forced George to tap just two minutes into the fight.
Pitbull dropped Georgi Karakhanyan with a big left hand to the chin in the third round, then finished him off with a few more punches on the ground. Pitbull has consistently shown himself to be one of the most tenacious featherweights in MMA, and Saturday night's fight was no exception.
It's an open question whether Bellator's promoters can carve out a niche for themselves in the Zuffa-dominated MMA landscape, but there's no question that Bellator's fighters distinguish themselves in the cage. This was another good night of fights.