Blagoi Ivanov's return from a near-fatal stabbing in 2012 has been one of MMA's truly inspirational stories over the past year.
But Alexander Volkov still had a job to do Saturday night.
The 6-foot-7 former Bellator heavyweight champion handed Ivanov his first career defeat on Saturday night, submitting Volkov in the second round of their heavyweight tournament final bout at the Landers Center in suburban Memphis.
But in the first round, the Bulgarian Ivanov showed no fear of Volkov's size advantage, stepping in, landing some big power shots, and trapping Volkov against the fence. Volkov managed to get his hands untracked late in the round, but it Ivanov likely won the round.
In the second round, however, Volkov wasn't playing around. He scored an inside trip, meet a slick transition, and quickly manuevered into position for the winning choke, getting the tap at 1:08.
With the victory, Volkov became a two-time tourney winner. He'll meet unbeaten Bellator champ Vitali Minakov in a title fight, date TBD.
"I was happy to win the way I did," Volkov said. "I have wanted my rematch for the title and now I'm going to get it."
Volkov improved to 22-4, with 13 wins in his past 14 fights. Ivanov dropped to 11-1 with a no-contest.