It took him the full length of the round, but Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson got the job done in his Bellator debut at Bellator 108 at Revel Hotel and Casino in Altanltic City, New Jersey on Friday night, stopping UFC veteran Joey Beltran at 4:59 with strikes in the first round.
It was Jackson's first stoppage victory since UFC 92, snapping a three-fight losing streak he earned in the UFC. His record moves to 33-11 in professional MMA.
As the round kicked off, Rampage, 35, immediately pressured Beltran back, landing a hard right hand and knee before the two clinched along the fence. They separated and Rampage ate a hard right hand, but returned to pressuring. Beltran stayed active throughout the first half of the round, but Jackson showed good defense and even varied his offense with outside leg kicks before hand combinations. Beltran tried to hold Jackson against the fence in the middle part of the first frame, scoring with short shots, but never coming close to a takedown. Jackson was able to occasionally create separation where he could pressure and strike from the outside.
The end came as Jackson charged forward with punches, missing with the first few, but eventually connecting with a two-punch combination that sent Beltran down to the mat face first. Before Rampage could truly follow up, referee Dan Miragliotta stopped the fight.
"I'm back," Jackson exclaimed in his post-fight speech. "Everybody in my weight class better be shaking in their boots.
"I proved I still got it. If I can train hard, I can deliver hard."
The co-main event of the evening saw the Bellator heavyweight title go up for grabs between Alexander Volkov and Vitaly Minakov. It'd be the challenger in Minakov who would strike first and strike often opening up with overhand rights, ultimately pressing Volkov into the fence where he scored with dirty boxing until a failed throw put him on his back. Quickly, however, Minakov reversed position and ended up on top, working in Volkov's guard. There wasn't enough activity, though, forcing referee Dan Miragliotta to stand them up.
Minakov would close the show from there, blasting Volkov with a right uppercut that sent the champion crashing to the mat. A series of strikes thereafter to the hurt opponent and that was enough to earn the TKO stoppage as well as the Bellator heavyweight championship. The end came officially at 2:57 of the very first round.
Minakov will face Cheick Kongo in his first title defense at a date and location to be determined.
Bellator 108 also featured a bantamweight feature fight between Bellator stalwart Marcos Galvao and Tom McKenna. Galvao struck first with a right hand that set up the ability of Galvao to get behind McKenna, slam him to the mat and take his back as McKenna tried to recapture his base. Galvao ultimately moved to mount, scoring with elbows and threatening a head and arm triangle, which he ultimately couldn't finish. Galvao would alternate between mount and the back, scoring with heavy shots and submission attempts. McKenna was ultimately able to escape on a failed triangle armbar attempt.
Galvao would quickly plant him back on the canvas, however, where he'd go right back to work, eventually earning a merciful TKO stoppage at 4:29 of round 1.
In the opening bout of the evening, Patricio Freire and Justin Wilcox engaged in season 9's featherweight tournament final and it'd be the Brazilian who would become the tournament champion.
Wilcox opened with and continually applied forward pressure, but early ate a two-punch combination from Pitbull that temporarily wobbled the American. Wilcox was able to scramble back to his feet, but a left hook from the Brazilian hurt and dropped him again. Wilcox, at this point, was badly hurt and tried to turtle up long enough to cover himself and get back to his feet. Eventually a right hand from Freire connected and wobbled Wilcox, with another landing in short order. Wilcox again tried to stand, but Freire pursued with a series of hard strikes that eventually had Wilcox belly down and hanging on just to cover up, leaving the referee no choice but to stop the action.
The end came officially at 2:23 of the very first round. The win makes Freire a two-time Bellator featherweight tournament winner and earns him a right to face current Bellator featherweight champion Daniel Straus.