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Mann Dominates, M'Pumbu and Hale Advance at Bellator 42

In an exciting if overlooked Saturday night fight card, Ronnie Mann put on an impressive showing in his Bellator Fighting Championships debut, while Richard Hale and Christian M'Pumbu advanced to the light heavyweight tournament final at Bellator 42.

Mann spent three rounds brutalizing an overmatched Josh Arocho, winning a unanimous decision in which one judge awarded him a shocking (but not completely unreasonable) 30-25 victory, while the other two judges gave him the more conventional 30-27 scores. The British Mann was making his Bellator debut, and he was confident and aggressive, displaying great positional control and violent ground and pound. Mann, who improved his professional MMA record to 19-2-1, showed that he's going to be a force to be reckoned with in Bellator's featherweight division, although he's going to have to beat much better opponents than Arocho, whose record fell to 6-10.

Hale beat D.J. Linderman by a razor-close split decision, with two judges giving him the bout 29-28 and one judge giving Linderman a 29-28 advantage. Linderman and Hale were close -- with Linderman perhaps having a slight advantage -- in the first couple of rounds, but Hale spent most of the third round controlling Linderman on the ground while trying to secure a rear-naked choke. The third round was enough to earn the victory for Hale.

Up next for Hale is a tournament final fight with M'Pumbu, who beat Tim Carpenter by first-round TKO with a big right hook to the chin, followed by right uppercut that knocked Carpenter to the ground. The referee ran in and stopped the fight as soon as Carpenter fell, and Carpenter complained that it was too fast a stoppage. But credit M'Pumbu for an impressive display of punching power.

In other Bellator action, Luiz Alberto Nogueira beat Jerod Spoon by unanimous decision, 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28. Spoon put forth a good effort in a fast-paced, exciting fight, but Nogueira is on another level as a striker. One of Brazil's top bantamweights, Nogueira lets the punches and kicks fly with speed and precision, and he looked great in improving his professional MMA record to 11-1.

And then there was the most inspirational performance of the night: Returning to the cage for the first time since suffering an ugly knee injury last year, Jared Hess looked good and made short work of Chris Bell, forcing Bell to tap out just 1:40 into the first round. It was great to see Hess fighting again, and he demonstrated that he's back at 100 percent.

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