Emanuel Newton was never anyone's pushover, but he was also never anyone's obvious candidate for a Bellator world title fight. That is until one spinning back fist changed everything on a Thursday night in Utah.
In one of the most stunning upsets in Bellator history, Newton knocked out former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion 'King' Muhammed Lawal in the first round of their season 8 light heavyweight semifinal bout at Bellator 90 in West Valley City, Utah. The end officially came at 2:33 of the very first round.
The frame opened as expected. Lawal patiently and calmly pressed forward as a more frantic Newton moved his hands and trunk trying to create openings and throw heavy overhand right. Early on, Lawal connected nicely with short, inside punches, but was repeatedly stung with overhand rights from Newton, reacting to Lawal's lazy jab.
Halfway through the first round, Newton whiffed on an overhand punch, but spun around before Lawal knew what was happening. The spinning back fist connected on flush on Lawal's chin, knocking him unconscious precisely where he stood. He collapsed to the mat, forcing an immediate referee stoppage. Newton now moves on to the finals of the light heavyweight tournament.
In the main event, season 7 featherweight finalists Shahbulat Shamhalaev and Rad Martinez finally completed what was supposed to be the final at Bellator 83 (and, for a brief time, Bellator 84). While Martinez was the hometown favorite, the outcome was not to be in his favor.
Shamhalaev scored a knockdown with his lightning quick punches and excellent accuracy in the first frame. Martinez eventually scored a takedown, but wasn't able to execute much meaningful offense.
In the second frame, however, Shamhalaev resorted to his speedy and powerful punching, rocking Martinez and eventually putting the former Clarion University wrestler out cold. The official ending via referee stoppage came at 2:12 of round 2. Shamhalaev wins $100,000 and will face the winner of Daniel Straus vs. Pat Curran for the Bellator featherweight title.
"I'd like to apologize to everybody, whoever's mood I ruined today by knocking him out," said Shamhalaev. "Secondly, I feel good. I want to thank the president of our club and to let you know, we're going to bring a lot more heat to the U.S. with our fighters.
"I think I showed a pretty good fight with pretty much every one of my opponents," the Russian continued. "I showed some good striking. A lot of the guys were really good. I think it was a good experience for me, but I got a lot more that you guys don't know about"
Douglas Lima moved on to the finals of the season 8 welterweight tournament by obliterating Bryan Baker in less than a round. Baker, filling in for an injured Brent Weedman, looked lost from the opening bell. He circled into Lima's power hand nearly the entire fight, absorbed several leg kicks and never seemed to launch any kind of offense of his own. The official end came courtesy a one-two combination that flattened Baker, causing a referee stoppage at 2:34 of the first round. Lima will face Ben Saunders, who also advanced in the tournament with a first-round head kick KO on the preliminary card against Raul Amaya, in the finals of the welterweight tournament.
In the opening bout of the evening's main card, season 8 light heavyweight tournament semifinalists Jacob Noe and Mikhail Zayats squared off in what was ultimately a short, one-sided shellacking. Despite Noe's best intentions, Zayats cracked him with a head kick that appeared not only to stun his opponent, but caused him to bleed badly. Zayats was eventually able to score a takedown and move to mount. From there it was the beginning of the end. As Noe tried to create a scramble to escape, he moved base down, leaving an arm free for what began, of all things, as a Russian armbar. Zayats eventually finished back down, getting the tap at 3:38 of the first round. He moves on as one of the finalists in the tournament where he will face Emanuel Newton.