At the site of one of the most decorated wrestling programs in the country, Ryan Bader made use of that discipline to record his first Bellator title defense.
Bader (24-5) left no doubt that he is the top light heavyweight in Bellator, using a wrestling-heavy attack to neutralize Linton Vassell (19-6). He then finished him with ground-and-pound in the second round of the championship main event of Bellator 186 on Friday at the Bryce Jordan Center on the Penn State campus in University Park, Penn.
From the outset, it was clear that Bader’s plan was to take Vassell down and he was able to do so early in the opening round. Vassell worked his way back to the feet where he had some success against Bader, but the two-time NCAA All-American was consistently able to use his grappling to keep Vassell from stringing together too much offense.
In the second round, Bader pinned Vassell against the cage and proceeded to attack with relentless ground-and-pound, forcing the stoppage at the 3:58 mark.
“The wrestling community is a tight community, I love you all,” Bader said post fight. “It doesn’t matter if I’m from ASU (Arizona State University), I still love the wrestling community so it was fun to fight here. It felt like one of the old duals.”
The evening’s co-main event saw Ilima Macfarlane (7-0) become Bellator’s first champion at 125 pounds after submitting Emily Ducote (6-3) with an armbar 3:42 into the final round. Both contenders had their moments in the first two frames, with Macfarlane doing damage in the clinch and on the ground, and Ducote scoring repeatedly with leg kicks.
It was Macfarlane who pushed the pace as the action progressed, increasing the volume of her strikes in Rounds 3 and 4 before getting the resilient Ducote back down to the mat in Round 5. Once there, Macfarlane was able to use her submission skills to put Ducote away, making sure the judges wouldn’t be necessary.
“There are so many reasons that I wanted to win this,” Macfarlane said after her fight. “For my family first and foremost, my family that came all the way up here from Hawaii and I know that everyone else back in Hawaii was behind me. And then my gym, they’ve been with me since day one, they’ve been telling me everyday that I was going to be a world champion from day one and I never believed them.”
In other main action, two Penn State wrestling stars made a triumphant return to their alma mater. Former Bellator light heavyweight champion Phil Davis (18-4) out-struck judo expert Leo Leite (10-1) to win a unanimous decision, and Ed Ruth (4-0) picked up his fourth KO/TKO win in four professional bouts with a cracking right hand that dropped former UFC fighter Chris Dempsey (11-6).
Zach Freeman’s second Bellator fight was almost the opposite of his first as he went from submitting prospect Aaron Pico at Bellator NYC this past June to losing in 67 seconds to veteran Saad Awad (21-9). Competing in his 15th Bellator bout, Awad landed a shot behind the ear that immediately robbed Freeman (9-3) of his equilibrium, and Awad barely had time to follow up before the referee jumped in to wave off the fight and save a dazed Freeman.
See the full results here.