This time around, Lawal left little room for doubt. Outweighed by 41 pounds against an out-of-shape Jackson, Lawal turned up the heat in the final round of their Bellator 175 main event, sealing the deal on a unanimous decision.
The judges’ scores on Friday night at AllState Arena in Rosemont, Ill. were 29-28 across the board in favor of Lawal.
“He came to fight,” Lawal said. “I had a game plan and he was great.”
Jackson (37-12), who took a five-fight win streak into the bout, weighed in at 253 pounds for the matchup. Lawal (21-6, 1 NC), who was 212, used his wrestling base to neutralize Jackson for the bulk of the fight.
That enabled Lawal to easily take the opening round, as he clinched Jackson early and often. In the second, Lawal appeared to tire from carrying around his opponent’s weight, and the heavy-handed Jackson landed some big shots, turning the round in his favor.
In the final round, Jackson went for an ill-advised takedown, which failed, and Lawal controlled the round from there, winning in both the standup and on the floor.
“In the second round I got hit a few times, one time I got cross eyed,” said Lawal, who won for the second time in his past three fights. “I was really burning on him, had to dog him out, I landed my big punches.”
After the bout, it was announced Lawal would meet Ryan Bader at Bellator NYC on June 24 at Madison Square Garden.
The matchup was the last of Jackson’s Bellator contract, which was negotiated as a settlement in a legal dispute. He’s now under a previously signed UFC contract.
In the co-main event, Roufusport’s Emmanuel Sanchez continued to state his case in the Bellator featherweight divsion. Meeting former Bellator bantamweight champ Marcos Galvao in the latter’s first fight since going up in weight, Sanchez dominated all aspects of their matchup en route to a unanimous decision victory. The judges’ scores were 30-27 across the board.
With the win Sanchez (15-3) has won two straight and five of his past six. He also, however, missed weight by three and a half pounds for the bout, which he acknowledged.
“I made a mistake, I admit it like a man,” Sanchez said. “I proved myself, I fought a former champion, beat a former champion, I want a title shot.”
They say power is the last thing to go for a fighter. That truism was a good thing for heavyweight Sergei Kharitonov, who’s clearly not the fighter he used to be, but can still hit like a freight train.
Kharitonov and Los Angeles’ Chase Gormley traded bombs for the better part of a round before the Russian showed off the knockout power which defined his career.
Kharitonov landed a big knee, an overhand right, and a right to the jaw, before landing a gigantic uppercut which ended the bout on the spot. The time of the knockout as 3:55 of the opening round.
Kharitonov (24-6), who has 14 knockouts and 23 overall finishes among his 24 career wins, said he deliberately fought at a methodical pace after losing his Bellator debut last fall in a quick knockout.
“That was part of my strategy, to be disciplined and not risk anything,” said Kharitonov (14-6). “It’s not my usual style, but I promise in my next fight I will be aggressive.”
Save for a flash knockdown in the first round, Lahat dominated the matchup. In the opening round, he took Carter down, worked him over from the top, and attempted and arm triangle.
Carter got out of the first round, but didn’t get out of the second. This time, after getting Carter to the mat, Lahat, an American Kickboxing Academy fighter, was relentless in his offense, softening Carter up and finishing him with a rear-naked choke at the 3:50 mark.
“I knew I had him because I heard him taking the shots and I heard him quitting so I knew I needed to put the pressure,” Lahat said. “That’s why in the first-round I didn’t go for the choke, I had the back but I switched and went to the elbows because I had to cook him a little bit.“
After the fight, Lahat took a novel approach to callouts.
“I’m not going to call anyone out,” Lahat said after his sixth career submission victory. “They’re going to call me out, anyone in this division who wants it, call me out.”
In the main-card opener, Steve Kozola made the most of his first appearance on the big stage and lived up to his “Thundebeast” nickname in the process.
The Team Quest lightweight dropped the MMA Lab’s Jake Roberts (7=2) at the outset with a wicked left hook. After Roberts faceplanted, Kozola poured it on until the bout was waved off at the 28-second mark.
That moved Kozola, a Chicago-area native who now lives in San Marcos, Calif., to 8-0, all via finish, including five first-round knockouts.
“I felt supremely confident going in,” Kozola said. “I knew I did the proper preparation and put in the work and time to make it happen. I have the right coaches and people behind me and I have the right mindset.”
“You don’t want these problems,” Kozola said. “I will put you out. Be authentic — be yourself.”