Daniel Straus will get a chance to capture Bellator gold.
The featherweight captured the season six divisional tournament on Friday but outworking Marlon Sandro en route to a unanimous decision win. The judges scored it 30-27, 30-27, 29-28.
Straus controlled most of the fight but had to withstand a third-round submission attempt from Sandro with a standing arm triangle in the final two minutes. He eventually escaped and put an exclamation mark on his win with a powerful late slam takedown and a rear naked choke attempt.
By the time it was over, Straus was sure he had won.
Sandro seemed to lose energy as the fight wore on. Though he had his moments in the first, it was Straus dictating the action while landing his straight left and initiating the clinch. It was more of the same in the second, and Sandro only put him in a few seconds of danger in the third before Straus again seized the momentum.
Straus improved to 20-4 with the win while Sandro fell to 22-4.
Straus will have to wait a while for his championship match, however. Current champ Pat Curran is scheduled to fight season four Patricio "Pitbull" Freire before Straus can face the winner. Freire has been sidelined due to a broken hand, delaying his own opportunity.
"I'm just excited to watch them go at it," Straus said. "I've fought Pat earlier in my career, and I fought Pitbull last season. But I'm a different fighter from when I fought both of them. I'm going to keep getting better. I'm going to keep improving."
Straus lost in the season four featherweight tournament final to Freire. He also previously lost to Curran by knockout back in April 2009.
It was also the second straight tournament final loss for Sandro, who also fell in the 2011 featherweight tournament final, that time to Curran.
In the first bantamweight tournament semifinal, Marcos Galvao advanced by beating Travis Marx in a unanimous decision. All three judges scored it 29-28 for the Brazilian.
Galvao (12-5-1) got off to a good start in the first, scoring with overhand rights while denying Marx the takedown, but Marx rebounded in the second with a mixed attack. Galvao turned up the aggression in the third, walking forward and firing off offense until Marx tried to turn the tide late with a takedown. Galvao was able to get back to his feet quickly though, and that probably kept Marx from stealing the round.
He advances to take on the winner of the other semifinal between Hiroshi Nakamura and Luis Nogueira, a fight which has yet to be scheduled.
The televised opener saw a bizarre finish to an otherwise entertaining fight. Waachiim Spiritwolf spent most of the second round pounding on Marius Zaromskis, but when the round ended, the cageside physician looked at a cut over Spiritwolf's right eye and declared he couldn't continue, giving Zaromskis a TKO win.
Spiritwolf was understandably livid, asking for the fight to continue. In several instances during the round, he looked close to stopping Zaromskis, but the former DREAM lightweight welterweight champ hung on and was soon handed the gift-wrapped win.
The fight was actually a rematch of another bout that lacked a truly conclusive ending. In that one at a Strikeforce event in 2010, an accidental eyepoke left Spiritwolf unable to continue after just six seconds of action.
"Maybe we meet again," said Zaromskis (17-6-1).
In a lightweight fight promoted to the main card on fight day, Marcin Held beat Derek Kennington via submission due to heel hook. Kennington dropped Held early, but he weathered the storm and soon after attacked for the fight-ending sub.
The finish came at 2:08 of the first round for the 20-year-old Held, who improved to 13-2.
Held-Kennington was moved up after a planned catch weight fight between Seth Petruzelli and Carmelo Marrero was pulled from the card after Petruzelli was not cleared due to a medical issue. Through Twitter, Petruzelli said that doctors would not allow him to fight after hearing wheezing and sensing fluid in his lungs.