In a finals match-up between UFC veterans, Roan Carneiro handily defeated an exhausted Brock Larson to emerge the winner of Battlegrounds MMA's throwback one-night, eight-man tournament on Friday at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.
Carneiro (20-9) overcame Larson, Trey Houston, and Randall Wallace in succession to win the night's $50,000 grand prize.
"I can't put in words how I'm fighting right now," Carneiro said afterward. "Three fights in one night. Two finishes, one decision with Brock. A tournament like this, anything can happen, man.
"All respect to all the fighters who competed tonight. That's for real. That's back in the days, an old-school tournament. All fighters, all seven guys with me, congratulations guys."
The finals match was a relatively slow affair, with Carneiro controlling the pace against the more weathered Larson (39-9), who had to undergo a concussion test following his semifinals win. Carneiro nearly brought the tournament to a close with his third finish of the night, reversing an early third-round takedown, taking Larson's back, then raining down a heavy salvo of punches onto Larson's head. However Larson survived to the horn, bringing the combined total cage time of both competitors to a whopping 62 minutes and 23 seconds.
All three judges scored the contest 30-27 in Carneiro's favor.
In semifinal action, Carneiro punched his ticket by downing underdog geophysicist Trey Houston (11-3) with a wicked combination midway through the second round. Carneiro turned to his wrestling early, spending a majority of the opening frame raining down strikes from mount, then sealed the deal with a looping right-left combination that sent Houston tumbling to the canvas. Carneiro swarmed to finish the fight at 2:11 of the second round.
Larson, meanwhile, squeaked by Joe Ray (12-4), earning a unanimous decision win on the strength of his takedowns and top control. Ray managed to devote most of the second frame to working short strikes from Larson's half guard and fishing for a d'arce choke, but the first and the third rounds were all Larson, as the veteran seized early takedowns then meticulously stifled Ray's offensive capabilities. All three judges scored the bout 29-28 for Larson.
Carneiro kicked off his run by easily dispatching late-replacement Randall Wallace (9-3) via first-round submission in the night's quarterfinals. The Brazilian used the fence to propel himself onto Wallace's back early in the first frame, and from there it was a mere formality. Carneiro briefly worked for a rear-naked choke, then transitioned into a picture-perfect armbar to coax the tapout at 3:29 of the opening round.
On the other side of the bracket, Brock Larson survived a frenetic first-round scramble to wear down Cody McKenzie (15-5) and ultimately secure himself a second-round finish. McKenzie, a former UFC fighter who gave blood to make the welterweight limit on his second attempt on Thursday, hunted valiantly for his patented guillotine throughout round one, but nonetheless spent a majority of the time on his back. The second round was more of the same, as Larson muscled McKenzie to the canvas, then methodically secured an arm-triangle choke from side control at 1:43 of the second frame.
Rounding out the quarterfinals, underdog late-comer Joe Ray made short work of Luigi Fioravanti (24-12), stopping the former UFC fighter with a slick series of knees to the head early in the first frame. Fioravanti elected to bull Ray to the fence, but it was Ray who was able to capitalize, creating some space then cracking Fioravanti with three hard successive knees, the last of which dropped him. Ray finished off his handiwork at 2:39 of the first round.
In the night's opening tournament bout, hometown fighter Trey Houston upset one of the field's favorites, Jesse Taylor (27-11), nabbing a sneaky submission victory with an armbar off his back early in round one. Taylor, who recently challenged for the WSOF middleweight title, aggressively worked for an takedown and got it, but Houston kept his guard open and quickly threw up his legs to grasp the fight-ending submission just two minutes into the first frame.