Bellator Fighting Championships began its sixth season with a featherweight title fight that delivered great action, as Pat Curran took the title from champion Joe Warren, knocking him out with big punches in the third round.
It was a great showing for Curran, who continues to look like not only the best featherweight in Bellator but one of the most powerful strikers in the featherweight division in all of MMA.
For Warren, it was his second consecutive knockout loss. Warren is a great wrestler but has problems with his striking, and he has talked about attempting to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in Greco-Roman wrestling. It remains to be seen whether he returns to the cage at all.
After Warren at first looked like he was going to control the first round with his superior wrestling and clinch work, Curran exploded with a high kick and a couple of flying knees that had Warren wobbling around the cage. Warren recovered nicely, however, and after being in big trouble he actually finished the first round by taking Curran down and getting on top of him as the round ended.
The second round was less eventful, as Curran continued to win the stand-up exchanges but without any of the spectacular striking he showed off in the first round, while Warren managed to take Curran down but couldn't do anything on the ground.
And then in the third round Curran's striking became spectacular: He bashed Warren against the fence with punches over and over again, and it was shocking that Warren could even stay standing. The referee allowed the fight to go on for a long time before Warren finally fell to the ground and it was stopped, making Curran the winner.
In addition to Curran taking the featherweight belt, Bellator began the process of determining its next featherweight title contender with the quarterfinals of its eight-man tournament, with Marlon Sandro, Mike Corey, Alexandre Bezerra and Daniel Straus advancing:
-- Sandro dominated Roberto Vargas, winning by first-round submission with a rear-naked choke after beating Vargas up with punches. Vargas showed toughness and a willingness to stand and trade with Sandro, but he also showed that he's just not on Sandro's level.
-- Corey pulled off an impressive upset over Ronnie Mann, surviving a Mann onslaught in the first round and controlling the second and third to win 29-28 on all three judges' scorecards.
-- Bezerra sunk in a rear-naked choke and forced Kenny Foster to tap out with just three seconds remaining in the second round.
-- Straus beat Jeremy Spoon by unanimous decision, 30-27 on one judge's scorecard and 29-28 on the other two cards.
In other Bellator action, Josh Shockley beat former Ultimate Fighter contestant Shamar Bailey by unanimous decision in a one-sided affair. Bailey entered the fight with a reputation as a good wrestler, but Shockley dominated him on the ground.
And the show started with a brutal mismatch in which Genair da Silva, who was removed from the featherweight tournament for failing to make weight, repeatedly hurt Bobby Reardanz with leg kicks and finally put him away with punches on the ground for a third-round TKO.