Daniel James didn’t let a slow start spoil his first Bellator main event.
The heavyweight contender shook off two ugly rounds of action in the Bellator 293 headliner and came out in the third with an explosive attack that completely caught opponent Marcelo Golm (10-4) off-guard. Golm was left starry-eyed by a right uppercut from James (15-6-1) that was immediately followed up by a rocket left.
Another uppercut followed as Golm turned away and that was more than enough to stop the fight.
Watch the explosive finish here.
Daniel James closes the show with a powerful KO #Bellator293— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) April 1, 2023
(via @BellatorMMA) pic.twitter.com/qFZYSHPPnC
The official time of the stoppage was 0:26 into Round 3.
Afterwards, James called for a shot at Bellator heavyweight champion Ryan Bader, who was cageside at Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula, Calif.
“Bader’s in the crowd, Bader’s who I want,” James said. “Bader’s a good guy, but I think Bader’s right there. Bader’s going to make a lot of money tonight and I heard Bader say that he hasn’t been fighting anybody that was just worthy, so I wanted to give him that shot and hope I’m worthy of giving him the opportunity or me have the opportunity with him to have some fun.”
Bader seemed amenable to the suggestion, responding to James with a thumbs up from the crowd.
In the co-main event, Cat Zingano (14-4) won a back-and-forth battle with Leah McCourt (7-3) to earn a unanimous decision and keep her ranking at the top of the featherweight division.
Zingano went to her wrestling early to counter McCourt’s long-range striking, but McCourt was more than up for the challenge as she quickly sprang up after being taken down and grappled with Zingano against the fence. A Zingano elbow left McCourt with a bruise on her cheek at the end of a close opening round.
McCourt opened Round 2 by catching a Zingano kick and immediately taking the one-time UFC title challenger to the mat. She racked up points with heavy ground-and-pound, only for Zingano to reverse positions and eventually take McCourt’s back.
It looked to be anyone’s fight in the final round, which McCourt opened with a trip. Zingano eventually reversed position, forcing McCourt to work the fight back to the feet where she scored with a big throw. The most damaging moment of the fight occurred in the final moments as Zingano landed a knee that busted McCourt open.
Cat Zingano comes out on top after a back-and-forth fight against Leah McCourt at #Bellator293— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) April 1, 2023
(via @BellatorMMA) pic.twitter.com/NNhz1SS5mp
After 15 minutes, both women were left to sweat out the decision, which Zingano won with scores of 29-28, 30-27, and 29-28.
“Right now it sounds like it’s a vacant belt half the time, so I don’t know really what’s going on,” Zingano said post-fight when asked what was next following her fourth straight win. “I’m just going to follow Bellator’s plan. Of course, I want to be the champion, I’ve been working on that for a while. Whatever that looks like, let’s go.”
One-time Bellator middleweight title challenger John Salter (19-6) announced his retirement following a clear-cut unanimous decision win over Aaron Jeffery (13-4). The 38-year-old used his superior grappling to neutralize Jeffery for three rounds, then left his gloves on the mat following an emotional post-fight speech.
— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) April 1, 2023
After his win at #Bellator293, @JohnSalter_mma announces his retirement from MMA. Thanks for the memories, John. pic.twitter.com/EgxMbqtz3g
“This is my last fight,” Salter said. “It’s been an absolute honor, I’ve been so blessed, and thank you God for everything.”
Also on the main card, Luke Trainer (7-1) stunned light heavyweight prospect Sullivan Cauley (5-1) with a slick rear-naked choke submission in the first round, then proceeded to successfully propose to his girlfriend, and Archie Colgan (7-0) made short work of Justin Montalvo (5-1) in a clash of undefeated lightweights.
Archie 'King' Colgan stops Justin Montalvo to remain undefeated #Bellator293— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) April 1, 2023
(via @BellatorMMA) pic.twitter.com/xRJ83n9WDw
See full Bellator 293 results below.
Daniel James def. Marcelo Golm via KO (punches) (R3, 0:26)
Cat Zingano def. Leah McCourt via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28)
John Salter def. Aaron Jeffery via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Archie Colgan def. Justin Montalvo via TKO (strikes) (Round 1, 3:33)
Luke Trainer def. Sullivan Cauley via submission (rear-naked choke) (R1, 2:58) | Watch
Rakim Cleveland def. Christian Edwards via submission (guillotine choke) (R3, 3:55)
Mike Hamel def. Nick Browne via TKO (strikes) (R1, 0:42) | Watch
Adam Piccolotti def. Mandel Nallo via submission (rear-naked choke) (R3, 4:26)
Sara Collins def. Pam Sorenson via submission (armbar) (R1, 2:43)
Jeff Creighton def. Joey Davis via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Lucas Brennan def. Josh San Diego via submission (rear-naked choke) (R1, 2:14)
Vladimir Tokov def. Lance Gibson Jr. via KO (punch) (R1, 1:02) | Watch
Randi Field def. Ashley Cummins via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Bryce Meredith def. Brandon Carrillo via submission (rear-naked choke) (R2, 3:11)
Mackenzie Stiller def. Maria Henderson via submission (armbar) (R1, 3:17) | Watch