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Phil Davis beats 'King Mo' at Bellator 154 to earn light heavyweight title shot

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Phil Davis scored a unanimous decision over King Mo Lawal on Saturday night in San Jose in a match to determine who would face Bellator light heavyweight champion Liam McGeary

Bellator MMA

Phil Davis punched his ticket to a Bellator light heavyweight title fight with Liam McGeary in taking a unanimous decision win over King Mo Lawal in the main event of Bellator 154 on Saturday night at the SAP Center in San Jose.

The fight was promoted as the fight that should have happened on the Sept. 19 show in San Jose, when Davis and Lawal were in a four-man, one-night tournament for a title shot in the same building. Both won in their first match, but Lawal suffered injured ribs and couldn't come out for the final. But Lawal came back to win an eight-man heavyweight tournament in Japan at the end of December.

Davis had largely clinched the decision going into the third round, provided Mo didn't finish him, as he was up 20-18 on two judges scorecards, which likely surprised the crowd, not to mention Lawal, who felt he won the fight.

Even Davis (16-3, 1 NC) wasn't expecting those scores after two rounds, as he said he came into the third round thinking that one would decide it.

"If anything, I thought it was split (going into the third round)," said Davis. "I feel like that third round, like the fifth round in fights, that's where it's all at."

The two men, who had trained together at times when both were amateur wrestlers, and again for a short period of time as MMA fighters when both were based in San Jose, largely neutralized each other's wrestling.  Davis' game is usually based on takedowns and submissions, but he was unable to get Lawal to the ground until the third round, after catching him with what was the best punch of the fight.

Lawal (19-5,1 NC) landed more punches early in the fight, while Davis countered with body kicks that Lawal claimed never hurt him significantly. 

Lawal scored his only takedown early in the second round when catching a Davis kick and using it to get him down. But Davis was up quickly. The crowd was restless for much of the first two rounds, but Davis took over with body kicks during the second round.

Lawal took the early lead in the third round until an overhand right by Davis landed, which stunned Lawal momentarily. Davis followed with a takedown, and landed punches on the ground. As Davis went for a Kimura, Lawal was able to reverse to the top, but Davis got up and landed more shots late.

Lawal had one chance in the final seconds as Davis slipped throwing a high kick, but he was too slow to capitalize.  The crowd, which booed some in the early rounds -- Lawal believed they were booing Davis -- picked up in the last few minutes which were the most exciting part of the fight.

McGeary squared off with Davis in the cage after the decision was read, and again backstage, with the two joking around. McGeary, who has been out of action with knee problems, expected he would be able to fight late summer. McGeary said he was hoping the title fight would take place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, since he lives in New York.

The Bellator 154 main card had been decimated with the death of Jordan Parsons and injuries to Josh Thomson, and then Sergei Kharitonov.

Saad Awad (19-7), normally a lightweight who noted that he was fighting right near his walk-around weight, finished Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos (21-17) in a welterweight fight. The key to the fight was Awad was ready when Santos was going for a heel hook, the same move he used to beat Brennan Ward on April 22 in Uncasville, Conn., in 30 seconds. Awad kept rolling with it before unleashing a barrage of punches.

Awad continued to land dozens of consecutive punches before the fight was stopped at 4:31 of the first round.

"I definitely did," said Awad when asked if he thought the fight should have been stopped earlier. "I hit him a couple of times with my left and he went limp, then I'd hit him and he'd wake up. The referee kept warning him. I'd hit him and he'd wake up and move. I'd hit him and he'd roll his eyes, but then he'd wake up and defend himself. I think he took a little more damage than he should have."

Awad felt that if he was to fight at welterweight, he'd like to have more time to build more muscle, noting he probably went into the cage around 174 pounds while he figured Santos was 190 to 200 pounds.

But after the fight, Awad issued a challenge to Josh Thomson, a lightweight. He said with the announcement that Michael Chandler was facing Patricky "Pitbull" Freire for the lightweight title on June 24 in St. Louis, that he sees Thomson as the biggest name he could face in the division.

In an emotional fight, Adam Piccolotti (8-0) stopped late replacement Ray Wood (7-2) through domination on the ground. Piccolotti was originally to face Jordan Parsons, who passed away less than two weeks before the fight as a result of a hit-and-run accident. Piccolotti noted it was difficult the different feelings he went through since then, but said that he pushed through it.

After a takedown, Piccolotti got full mount, then back position and later mount. After a flurry of punches on the ground, when Wood got up, Piccolotti jumped on his back and got the choke, pulling him backwards to the ground where Wood tapped.

The television opener saw Andre Fialho (8-0), a welterweight who comes from Portugal but trains out of AKA in San Jose, defeat Rick Reger (7-2) in a welterweight fight. Fialho knocked Reger down three times, the final time being with a right uppercut, and finished him with a punch on the ground in just 2:11 of round one.