Ryan Bader knocks out Fedor Emelianenko at Bellator 214

MMA


LOS ANGELES — A second Bellator MMA title. A Heavyweight World Grand Prix championship. And a win over a legend of the sport.

Ryan Bader accomplished a lot with a single punch.

Bader (27-5) claimed Bellator’s vacant heavyweight championship on Saturday with a 35-second knockout of Fedor Emelianenko (38-6). The title fight headlined Bellator 214 at The Forum, and it brought an end to the Heavyweight Grand Prix, which began in January 2018.

A former collegiate wrestler at Arizona State University, Bader, 35, stunned Emelianenko with a swift left hook in the center of the cage. Referee Mike Beltran quickly moved in to stop the bout, as Bader landed a handful of follow-up shots. Replays showed Emelianenko was clearly done after the initial shot.

“First and foremost, give it up to the man who stood across the cage from me,” Bader said of Emelianenko. “I had a good night; he’s had a storied career. One of the best to ever do it. It was an honor for me to be in the cage against that man. I have a lot of respect for him.”

Bader went into the heavyweight tournament as Bellator’s light heavyweight champion. He is the first dual-weight champion in Bellator history.

He more or less cruised through the tournament, start to finish. He knocked out Muhammed Lawal in just 15 seconds in the opening round, and he dominated Matt Mitrione on the ground in the semifinals. Although Bader was favored to defeat Emelianenko, Saturday’s final figured to offer at least a challenge — but it didn’t turn out that way.

Bader is 5-0 since signing with Bellator in 2017. He fought exclusively in the UFC from 2008 through 2016, but he never earned a title shot despite a 15-5 record.

Emelianenko, 42, suffered his first defeat since June 2017 and the fifth knockout loss of his career.

Corrales stuns Pico in first-round exchange

For the second time in his short career, highly touted prospect Aaron Pico suffered a stunning defeat in the opening round.

Widely considered one of the best young talents in MMA, Pico (4-2), 22, lost to featherweight veteran Henry Corrales (17-3) via knockout at the 1:07 mark of the contest. It was Pico’s first defeat since his pro debut in June 2017, when Zach Freeman submitted him in 24 seconds.

Corrales, 32, suffered an early knockdown from a Pico uppercut but quickly recovered. The finish came off a right cross, as the two traded knees and punches in the clinch.

The loss snapped a streak of four first-round finishes for Pico, a run that had him and the promotion talking about a potential title shot. A standout amateur wrestler, Pico trains his boxing under Freddie Roach and has showcased remarkable knockout power, but he has been hurt on the feet in both of his pro losses.

Corrales, who fights out of the MMA Lab in Arizona, extended his winning streak to five and strengthened his case to challenge defending champion Patricio Freire.

Former WWE star Hager makes successful MMA debut

Jake Hager, aka Jack Swagger, posted a quick victory in his professional MMA debut, submitting heavyweight JW Kiser at 2:09 of the opening round with an arm triangle choke.

A pro wrestling star, formerly with the WWE, Hager began training MMA full time in 2017. The 36-year-old easily took Kiser down in the first 30 seconds of his debut, landing a handful of elbows before securing the finish.

Prior to his career in pro wrestling, Hager was an All-American wrestler at the University of Oklahoma. He continued to make appearances in pro wrestling in 2018 but is fully committed to MMA. He signed with Bellator in 2017.

Archuleta successful in drop to bantamweight, calls for title shot

Juan Archuleta (22-1) moved to 4-0 in the Bellator cage with a unanimous decision victory over Ricky Bandejas (11-2). All three judges scored the bantamweight contest 29-28 for Archuleta.

It was Archuleta’s first appearance in Bellator’s bantamweight division. His first three fights with the promotion were at featherweight. Archuleta, 31, dropped a weight class for a more direct path to the title. Following the win, he called for a title shot against current champion Darrion Caldwell.

The 15-minute bout was very close, as Archuleta repeatedly tried to get Bandejas to the ground with limited success. Bandejas clipped him with a head kick in the first round and a knee in the third, but the judges sided with Archuleta’s jab, front kicks and offensive grappling.

A teammate of UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw, Archuleta extended his winning streak to 17.



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