One half of the Bellator heavyweight tournament final most were expecting went down in flames Friday night, when Lavar Johnson was upset by Vinicius "Spartan" Queiroz in just 23 seconds.
But the other half of the anticipated finale came through as promised. Veteran Cheick Kongo was victorious in his Bellator debut at the Visalia Convention Center, knocking out overmatched Ed Godbeer (8-2) in the second round of the main event at Bellator 102.
After a dull first round spent mostly grappling, Kongo opened up in the second with his trademark knees in the clinch. Kongo landed three big knees before the British fighter crumpled to the mat. Referee John McCarthy waved off the bout at 2:04.
"I heard my cornerman tell me to knee him, so when I had the opportunity, I did," said Kongo (19-8-2).
Kongo will go on to the tourney final to meet Queiroz, who had a rude welcome for Johnson (17-8) in the latter's Bellator debut.
The Team Nogueira fighter clipped Johnson with a right hand to the jaw which sent him face first and unconscious to the mat. Johnson woke up on impact, but there was no denying he was out cold as the referee waved off the bout.
"There's too much emotion right now," said Queiroz. "He was trying to take me down because I know he has very heavy hands, so I tried to take him out. I got the knockout and it feels good to me."
The evening also featured a new bantamweight tournament winner and the semifinals of the current middleweight tourney.
Rafael Silva earned the next shot at bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas with a dominant performance against Anthony Leone. Silva (21-3) spent much of the fight working for submissions, and while he never quite put Leone (13-6) away, nor did Leone have many answers.
In winning a Summer Series tourney final which had been rescheduled, Silva won his 13th straight fight.
In middleweight semifinal action, meanwhile. Denmark's Mikkel Parlo improved to 11-1 with a unanimous decision victory over Jason Butcher (7-1).
Butcher, a Team Gurgel fighter, had never been out of the second round before, and he gassed badly sometime during the middle stanza. Much to the frustration of the crowd, Butcher, who has five career submission wins, attempted to take the fight to the ground and hit the mat at every conceivable opportunity.
But Parlo had none of it, as he picked Butcher apart in the standup with his boxing. Judges' scored were 30-27, 29-28, and 29-28.
"I feel like I would like to finish him because I hurt him some times really good," Parlo said. "But it was hard because he was running all the time."
"He was a tough dude with good wrestling," said Ward, who earned his submission at 2:41 of the second. "I know he was gone, that was a tight choke. I tried to get my elbow in really deep, I knew I had it. It was just a matter of time before he was going to tap out."