In the end, it was the student and not the master who proved to be the most formidable fighter as Bellator bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas retained his crown Thursday night at Bellator 89, defeating teammate and one-time mentor Marcos Galvao by second-round TKO.
From the outset Dantas appeared to have the speed advantage, but was content to work patiently from the outside while Galvao took center cage, stalked and attempted to land one-shot heavy punches. The two exchanged leg kicks in roughly even amounts, but Dantas used his speed and sharp jab to never let Galvao establish optimum distance or timing. Galvao attempted to tie up Dantas standing after the champion slipped and tried to evade in a scramble, but wasn't able to make anything of it before the champion worked his way free. The first frame saw the Nova Uniao teammates exchange wild strikes to close the round with Dantas being cut over his right eyelid, a moment that was largely uncharacteristic of the round's complexion.
The second round, however, is where Dantas demonstrated why he was the superior fighter. While he was content to work from behind the jab in the first round, Dantas used distance in a much more offensively potent way. The Bellator champion opened up with push kicks, inside and outside leg kicks, jabs, hooks and two key strikes that set up the ultimate finish. A partially blocked head kick from Dantas changed the demeanor of Galvao by putting him on his heels and forced noticeably delayed counterstriking. The end came as Galvao backed up from a pressuring Dantas and ate an uppercut as his opponent faced him from a perpendicular angle.
The end came officially at 3:02 of round 2.
"I'm sad and happy," Dantas said with the assistance of his translator. "Sad because I had to fight my friend, but happy to still be Bellator champion."
Beyond the main event, Bellator 89 played host to the quarterfinals of the season 8 middleweight tournament. In the opening bout of the main card, former WEC light heavyweight champion Doug Marshall stopped Andres Spang in the first round with a blistering right hand. While Spang recovered from the strike as referee Dan Miragliotta stopped the bout, Spang fell awkwardly and face first making the stoppage justifiable. The end came by way of knockout at 3:03 of round 1.
Affliction veteran Brett Cooper moved past Norman Paraisy using superior wrestling and top control to earn a unanimous decision victory. While Cooper dropped the Frenchman in the second round with a series of stiff uppercuts, most of his offense over the course of all three rounds came from endless double leg takedowns. The judges awarded Cooper the bout 30-27 on all three score cards.
In arguably the most competitive and entertaining bout of the night, Bellator veterans Dan Cramer and Brian Rogers had a back and forth fight that had as much slugging as it did wrestling and frantic scrambling. Both fighters managed to hurt the other at different points in the bout, particularly in the third round. Cramer and Rogers both landed hard knees to the jaw, but it was Cramer who managed to stumble his opponent and work from on top. Rogers hung on, but spent the majority of the first and third rounds reacting to his opponent's forward attack. Cramer earned the unanimous decision nod from the judges, 29-28, 30-27 and 29-28.
The fourth quarterfinal bout of the middleweight tournament aired on the preliminary card. Sultan Aliev took a unanimous decision win over Mikkel Parlo. Aliev controlled the fight early using takedowns in the first round and a steady jab in the second to take what appeared to be an easy decision. Parlo made things a bit interesting in the third, however, landing hard liver kicks, one of which hurt and nearly buckled Aliev. Still, it wasn't enough to force a stoppage, leaving Aliev the unanimous decision victor, taking 29-28 on all three judges' scorecards.
The Bellator season 8 middleweight semifinals will feature Marshall vs. Aliev and Cramer vs. Cooper.
Bellator 89 took place at the Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina. The main card bouts aired on Spike TV while the preliminary card was streamed on Spike.com.