Pat Curran continues to tighten his stranglehold on Bellator's featherweight division. The champion successfully defended his belt for a second time, putting Shahbulat Shamhalaev to sleep with a first-round guillotine choke in the Bellator 95 main event.
The finish was officially ruled a technical submission since Shamhalaev never tapped. Referee Keith Peterson called for the finish at 2:38. Shamhalaev objected to the referee's call, but replays clearly showed his body going limp.
"It feels great, man," Curran said after his victory. "I didn't get hit once in the face. I wanted to get in, get out, rest up and get ready for the next one."
The fight got off to a slow start as the two fighters, both known as counterstrikers, waited for the other to make the first move. As Curran indicated in his post-fight comments, there weren't a whole lot of strikes landed. The final Compustrike tally was 6-1 for Curran.
The finish came as Shamhalaev shot in for a takedown. Curran snatched the guillotine and closed his guard, and had Shamhalaev near-side arm trapped against his neck the same way an arm triangle would. Shamhalaev tried to make space for himself but the modified hold was locked up, and consciousness quickly escaped him.
It was the sixth straight win for Curran, who is now 19-4 overall.
The line continues to form behind him.
Just before he fought, another featherweight earned a guaranteed title shot, when Magomedrasul Khasbulaev out-pointed Mike Richman en route to a unanimous decision by a trio of 30-27 scores.
Khasbulaev, who goes by the nickname "Frodo," out-landed Richman 102-63 in the fight, and also scored three takedowns. The fight was action-oriented, and both men left bleeding with various lacerations.
It was Khasbulaev (21-6) who was the more active fighter, frequently punctuating his combinations with kicks that had Richman moving backwards at times. Richman fought gamely, and actually landed more power strikes than "Frodo," by a 40-38 tally, but Khasbulaev's activity won.
The Russian is queued up to fight for the belt, but the timing of that opportunity could be complicated by factors out of his control. Daniel Straus earned a title shot by winning the season six tournament, and was supposed to fight on Thursday night but was forced out due to a broken hand. Since that time, he was arrested on drug and traffic charges. The case is still pending, and Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney has said that the company stands behind Straus and would still honor his title match when he is deemed healthy and free of any legal obligations.
Marshall scored a devastating knockout over Brett Cooper at 3:39 of the first round. The finish came in a flash, with Marshall crushing him with a straight right. Cooper crashed backwards to the mat and Marshall was able to get in one more power strike before the ref could step in to stop the bout.
Marshall, who was a WEC light-heavyweight champion back in 2006, fell into semi-obscurity after leaving that organization behind. But since coming to Bellator last November, he's reeled off four straight wins, with three knockouts in improving to 18-6.
The victory over Cooper was the most surprising, as Cooper (19-8) came in riding a six-fight win streak and was considered a sizable favorite.
After coming up short in his bid for the Bellator lightweight title, Rick Hawn returned to the welterweight division, coming up with a second-round TKO over UFC veteran Karo Parisyan.
The two judokas have a long rivalry dating back to the time Parisyan was a teenager. Hawn, who at 36 is six years the elder, used his power as the difference-maker in the bout. He rocked Parisyan late in the first but ran out of time before he could look for the finish.
In the second, he continued the assault, wobbling Parisyan with a step-in right. A couple of uppercuts dropped Parisyan to his knees, and a few cursory ground strikes spelled an end to the night at 1:55.
Afterward, Hawn (15-2) said the welterweight matchup was just a pit stop in the division, and that he would be heading back down to 155 pounds.