On Feb. 28, Will Brooks walked right into a knockout loss in the opening minute of his Bellator fight against Saad Awad, experiencing the sting of his first career loss.
Friday night, Brooks wasn't having any of that. In the same New Mexico arena in which Brooks was upset eight months ago, Brooks dominated the rematch. The American Top Team standout from Chicago used his wrestling to dominate Awad (15-6) and win via unanimous decision in the main event of Friday's Bellator event in Rio Rancho.
The judges' scores were 30-27 across the board.
"I'm a little emotional right now," said Brooks (12-1). "I've been through a lot to get to this part of my life. We've made extreme sacrifices just to chase a dream we're all chasing. To be here in this same arena after this last fight, man."
With the victory, Brooks advances to the finals of the Season Nine lightweight tournament. But his championship foe will be a formidable one. Tiger Sarnavskiy reminded everyone of this with a brutally efficient performance in the evening's other lightweight semifinal bout.
Sarnavskiy wasted no time getting the job done in his fight against Ricardo Triloni. The Omsk, Russia landed a picture-perfect spinning back fist to the jaw just seconds into the bout. He swarmed the downed Tirloni. Tirloni survived the initial onslaught, but it didn't take Sarnvaskiy long to work his way into the winning leg triangle.
The time was just 1:08. Sarnivsky, who had to drop out of the Season Eight tournament after suffering a hand injury in training, improved to 25-1.
In a finish no one saw coming, the anticipated heavyweight slugfest between hard-hitting veterans "Mighty Mo" Siliga and Ron Sparks ended in a submission.
Siliga, the 43-year old Samoan by way of San Bernadino, Calif, scored an early takedown on the 39-year-old Sparks. Siliga, who comes from a kickboxing background, maneuvered into position and applied a keylock to Sparks (8-3), who tapped at 2:52 of the first round.
"I feel like I just won the title, brutha," said Siliga (5-2). "I feel great, thanks to Ron Sparks for the opportunity."
In the main card-opener, the U.K.'s Eugene Fabiora made a successful Bellator debut with a second-round stoppage of California veteran Keith Berry. Fadiora won the middleweight bout at 4:19 of the round.
The Wolverhamption, U.K. set the tone in the first round with a takedown. He kept the action there most of the round and used top control to open a cut over Berry's left eye.
In round two, it didn't take Fabiora long to get Berry back on the ground. He worked into a crucifix position and rained elbows down on Berry, deepening the cut and ultimately causing referee Rob Hinds to wave off the bout.
"I know he was going to stay outside and throw big bombs, so I went to stay on the outside and wear him down in the clinch, said Fabiora (13-1). Things went my way."
Fabiora won his fourth straight bout; Berry dropped to 13-12.