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Bellator 144 results: Rafael Carvalho stuns Brandon Halsey with liver kick KO to seize middleweight title

Bellator MMA

Rafael Carvalho made Bas Rutten proud on Friday night. The underdog Brazilian melted former champion Brandon Halsey with a beautiful second-round liver kick to complete a stunning comeback and seize the vacant Bellator middleweight title in the main event of Bellator 144.

It was a spectacular turnaround for Carvalho (12-1), who was otherwise being dominated in the contest by the much larger Halsey (9-1). The American vacated his title in May after missing weight by eight pounds, but looked strong in the bout's opening minutes, shooting for a quick double leg, then advancing into mount and locking up a nasty arm triangle that almost put Carvalho out.

Carvalho toughed it out and escaped, but still continued to be controlled by Halsey's pressure until landing his only clear strike of the night: a magnificent kick to the liver that instantly downed the wrestler. Carvalho rushed Halsey with follow-up punches, bringing an end to the contest at 1:42 of the second round and pushing his undefeated Bellator record to 3-0.

"I believed all the time," an elated Carvalho said afterward through a translator. "I believed in my training. I believed in everything for this fight. Thank you everybody in Brazil."

In the night's co-main event, Brennan Ward (12-3) proved once again why his drop to welterweight was the right call, battering Dennis Olson (14-10) on the mat before ending Olson's night under a hailstorm of first-round strikes, much to the delight of Ward's hometown Connecticut crowd.

Things started off rough from the opening bell for Olson, as he shot immediately into a tight guillotine choke and was forced to pull guard to escape. From there Ward went to work, landing occasional ground and pound and advancing into side control before allowing Olson back to his feet. Ward repeated the favor once more, staggering Olson with a counter right then capitalizing with suffocating top pressure.

Ward's second stand up would be his last, though. Just seconds after allowing his foe to regain his feet, the 27-year-old former middleweight plunged a huge straight right into Olson's chin and sent him tumbling to the canvas. One more flurry of strikes was all it took, as Ward secured his third consecutive first-round finish at 4:37 of the opening frame.

"(Bellator welterweight champion) Andrei Koreshkov is a tough dude," Ward said. "If I'm next in line, he knows we're going to scrap it out. I lost to his boy Alex Shlemenko, the toughest kid I ever fought, so hopefully me and Koreshkov will bang it out."

Elsewhere on the card, featherweight up-and-comer Goiti Yamauchi (19-2) ran a positional clinic on Isao Kobayashi (18-3, 4 NC), securing Kobayashi's back for three straight rounds before snatching the fight-ending rear-naked choke.

Yamauchi, a 22-year-old jiu-jitsu black belt fighting out of Brazil, threw everything but the kitchen sink at Kobayashi, forcing the veteran to fight off an array of leglocks, kimuras, and chokes in an impressive showing of grappling control. He sliced opened a wide cut above Kobayashi's right brow with a salvo of second-round elbows, then signaled the beginning of the end by dropping Kobayashi with a ferocious left hand early in the third.

Yamauchi ultimately worked to Kobayashi's back and coaxed a reluctant tapout at 3:50 of the final round, after which he called out Bellator featherweight champion Patricio Freire.

"Patricio, I know you will beat Daniel (Straus), so accept my fight," Yamauchi said. "Accept that I'm the next contender, baby. I'm here to be the champion. Bellator needs new blood and I am the champion."

In the night's main card opener, British super-prospect Michael Page (9-0) continued his assault up the Bellator welterweight ladder, breaking the jaw of Charlie Ontiveros (6-4) with a flurry of first-round elbows from side control to seize another lopsided TKO victory.

Page was up to his usual tricks early, shimmying around the cage and winging hard right hands that landed flush. An uncomfortable Ontiveros rushed into the clinch hoping for respite, however Page used the opportunity to trip Ontiveros to the floor then advance into mount. From there the 28-year-old transitioned to Ontiveros' back, then settled into side control after a scramble, unloading a series of nasty elbows that injured Ontiveros and forced a quick stoppage at just 3:20 of the opening round.

"I know I can finish anywhere, I don't have to prove anything. I hope he's okay," Page said. "Bring on the next opponent. I'll be back to impress again."

Check out complete Bellator 144 results here.

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