Blagoi Ivanov's amazing comeback continues.
A mere two years after nearly losing his life in a stabbing incident, Ivanov improved to 11-0 in MMA on Friday night. He submitted Lavar Johnson in the main event of Bellator 116 at Pechanga Casino in Temecula, Calif.
With the win, Ivanov advances to the finals of the Bellator heavyweight tournament, where he'll meet Alexander Volkov.
"I feel magic," said Ivanov. "I thank god because I'm here. I thank all my fans and my coaches."
Ivanov went for submissions early and often in the bout, including a foot lock which Johnson managed to wriggle out of. Johnson, known as a knockout artist, managed a highlight with a pro wrestling-style powerslam. But Ivanov regained his bearings and soon found himself in position for the victory. He worked Johnson into a Kimura and got the tap at 4:08 of the first round.
In the other heavyweight tournament semifinal, Volkov (20-4) earned the other finals berth as he scored a vicious head-kick knockout of veteran Mighty Mo Sigala (6-2). Volkov and Sigala were working in the clinch, when Volkov broke free, created some space, and unleashed the the picture-perfect strike to the jaw. The 43-year-old Sigala hit the mat and the fight was waved off at 2:44 of the first round.
It was the fifth straight victory and 12th career first round KO/TKO finish for Volkov, a former Bellator heavyweight champion.
In his final career fight, longtime veteran Vladimir Matyushenko was submitted in the third round by Joey Beltran in a light heavyweight matchup.
Matyushenko (27-8) had a solid first round, in which he landed better shots against the Alliance MMA fighter. In round two, "The Janitor" started out strong and landed several, but by the time the round neared its end, his hands were down low, as Beltran picked up the pace.
Beltran seized control in round three, scored a takedown for the fight's first ground exchange, then finished the bout at 3:06 with a North-South choke.
"I thought I could have gone either way," Beltran (15-10) said. "He probably got the second round, I knew I needed to come out and dominate."
In a touching scene, Matyushenko, whose career dates back to 1997, left his gloves on the mat and was given a solid ovation by the crowd as he finished a journey which took him all over the world.
"I guess its time to hang up my gloves here I want to thank the fans for my long time support here," Matyushenko said. "I want to thank all the fighters who I fight with and train with, I want to thank all the fighters."
In a welterweight tournament semifinal bout, unbeaten Adam McDonough improved to 11-0 with nine finishes as he knocked out Nathan Coy (14-4).
McDonough nearly finished the bout in the first round, as he dropped Coy and then unleashed a string of more than two dozen right hands. But Coy got back to his feet and survived the round. In the second, though, McDonough sealed the deal, using a left uppercut to drop Coy. Referee Mike Beltran waved off the bout at the 30 second mark of the round.
"Nate Coy is one of the most underrated welterweights in the world," McDonough said. "I was just going to keep my calm, my cool, and composure, I was going to win two of three rounds whatever I had to do."
McDonough will meet the winner of Andrey Koreshkov and Sam Oropeza in the other semifinal.
In a middleweight tournament semifinal bout, Brandon Halsey (6-0) scored across-the-board 30-27 scores to defeat Joe Pacheco (7-2). The two were elevated into the tournament after last week's Jeremy Kimball-Dan Cramer fiasco, in which Kimball was so far overweight that the company didn't even bother officially weighing him in; and Cramer was yanked from the tourney after reportedly turning down a substitute fight. Halsey will meet veteran Brett Cooper in the finals.
In an undercard bout of note, Karo Parisyan (23-10, 1 NC) scored the first KO victory of his career. The 31-year-old from N. Hollywood, Calif. rallied in a fight he was losing to Ron Keslar (11-5) before counterstriking his way to the KO win at 4:05 of the second round.