Askren and Hornbuckle punch ticket to finals

Ben Askren, still undefeated, advances to face Dan Hornbuckle in the finals. Dave Mandel for Sherdog.com

As most fans expected, the two favorites in the welterweight tournament, Ben Askren and Dan Hornbuckle have made it to the welterweight finale with convincing wins at Bellator 19 at the Verizon Theater in Grand Prairie, Texas on Thursday night.

Hornbuckle, who fought off of his back for the majority of the bout, forced Steve Carl to tap after securing a very slick looking kimura in the first round. He now takes on Ben Askren in the finals.

When asked how he planned on neutralizing Askren’s wrestling superiority in their finals matchup, Hornbuckle kept his answer short and sweet. “ATT Power. Thank You,” said Hornbuckle, an obvious nod to his training facility American Top Team.

Ben Askren used his Olympic-level wrestling in order to cruise to a victory over Ryan Thomas. Despite Thomas’ promise to shut Askren up after both fighters had been jawing at each other for weeks, it is Askren who gets to move forward to the next round against Dan Hornbuckle.

“I’m looking forward to the [Hornbuckle] fight,” Askren said at the post-fight press conference. “He’s well rounded and I heard he’s tough. That’s what I like most. It’s going to be a good fight. We are going to go at it. I’m hoping to submit him, although I’m sure Dan doesn’t think that’s going to happen.”

Featherweight Champ Joe Soto, made quick work of his opponent, Diego Saraiva with effective ground control and use of elbows. One of his elbow strikes created a very deep and long cut on Saraiva’s forehead, forcing the Doctor to stop the fight.

“Diego has a really different style,” said Soto. “He stayed with the butterfly guard, so it was a little different. It was a good fight. I have a lot of respect for Diego. He has over 30 fights and brought his game today, but unfortunately the fight was stopped because of the cut, but that’s just the way it goes.”

Bjorn Rebney, during the post-fight press conference, commented on how impressed he was with the three fighters from Fitness Fight Factory, Douglas Frey, Chas Skelly, and Johnny Bedford. Although he would not commit to any local feature fighter being added to a future tournament spot, he did say that they would definitely be showcased on future Texas events in some capacity.

“On the local card we had some terrific fighters in the Texas area; Chas Skelly, Douglas Frey, Johnny Bedford put on great performances,” Bjorn Rebney said. “They were using this as a platform to get noticed by Bellator and they did get noticed by Bellator so we were thrilled to have them on the show and as we come back into this area we will have them back on shows. I look forward to doing some things with those gentlemen.”

“I would have liked Bjorn to have said, ‘yeah, yeah’ we want you in the tournament,” Skelly states. “But they are saying they want us back on another card in the area [tournament or not] and that is still encouraging and gives me another shot to prove to them that I should be on the tournament. They WILL put me on that tournament. They will. I have no doubt about it.”

“I think I did my job,” Bedford states. “I went out there and was dominant. I had it in my mind that I would get confirmed to be on that August tournament tonight, although that didn’t happen, that doesn’t mean it’s over.”

Post-fight Breakdown

Joe Soto cuts Diego Saraiva; gets win.

Soto started off quick by getting the first takedown. Despite having top position, Joe Soto was kept at a distance by Diego Saraiva’s active guard -- although he was able to sneak in a punch every now and then. It wasn’t until Soto stacked Saraiva that he was able to do some significant damage. As Soto was hovering over his opponent, he threw several damaging elbows, at least one of which creating a larger gash over the middle of Saraiva’s forehead. Although Saraiva made it to the end of the first round, the doctor stopped the fight due to the extent of the injury. Soto gets the win via Doctor stoppage. This bout served as a tune up match before he faces the eventual winner of the featherweight tournament.

Dan Hornbuckle submits Steve Carl and heads to finals

After a brief feeling out period, Steve Carl breaks the silence with a couple of kicks that set up a takedown attempt. Hornbuckle quickly secures full guard and begins looking for the kimura. Carl is unable to posture up and do damage with Hornbuckle controlling his wrists. Hornbuckle looks for the kimura again, this time he’s in a better position that has him controlling Carl’s body with his legs. With full control over Carl’s body and left arm, Hornbuckle pulls back on the arm forcing Carl to tap at the 2:31 mark of the first round. With the win, Hornbuckle moves on to face Ben Askren in the finals of the welterweight tournament.

Ben Askren handles Ryan Thomas moves on to finals

Although Ryan Thomas had brief moments of control in the three round fight, Ben Askren, the Olympic wrestler, controlled the majority of the match with the more superior ground game. Unable to do any damage even in full mount, Askren had to settle for a decision. Despite the win, Askren’s lack of a jiu-jitsu game has yet again been exposed and this could be a factor in his finals matchup against submission artist, Dan Hornbuckle.

Scott Barrett overwhelms Ty Lee

In a move that was clearly the deciding factor in the fight, Scott Barrett suplexed Ty Lee to the ground taking Lee’s back and eventually getting back mount position in the first round. While in this dangerous position, Barrett was able to land multiple unanswered strikes to Lee’s head for a minute and a half before the ref ended the fight halfway through the first round. Scott Barrett goes to 10-1 and has likely earned a shot in the Bellator heavyweight tournament.

Chas Skelly submits Daniel Pineda

With the entire support of Collyeville’s Fitness Fight Factory fan base on his side, Chas Skelly battled with Daniel Pineda for two hard-fought rounds. After briefly striking with Pineda early in the first round, Skelly went to his wrestling base getting the takedown and taking the back of Houston-based fighter, Daniel Pineda. Just like his Fitness Fight Factory team mate, Skelly was motivated by a very supportive and noisy crowd; chanting “Skelly” through the bout. After what was a back and forth two rounds, Skelly finds an opening and grabs hold of Pineda’s leg securing the knee bar until Pineda taps in the second round. The win will likely secure Skelly's spot in the next featherweight tournament, although Bellator is non-committal regarding his status.

Johnny Bedford destroys Jared Lopez

I’ve seen Bedford fight in Texas numerous times over the years, and I have to say that this has to be his most dominating performance to date. Whether it was on the ground where he landed elbow after elbow in half guard against the face of his opponent, Jared Lopez, or the clinch game where he withered Lopez with devastating shots to the body, Bedford was in superior form in all three rounds. Chants of “Johnny” throughout the match surely motivated the Fort Worth fighter who represents Fitness Fight Factory. Early in the third round, Lopez, unable to defend the onslaught of strikes fell to the ground and turtled up -- allowing Bedford to finish him off. Bedford’s third round TKO of Lopez could get him into the upcoming bantamweight tournament this August. Fight of the Night? Absolutely.

Joe Christopher forces Brandon McDowell to tap

Joe Christopher, representing North Texas MMA and supported by a very loud local fan base, quickly went to work in the first round against Texas MMA veteran, Brandon McDowell. Christopher got the takedown and swiftly choked out Brandon McDowell in 36 seconds of the very first round. It is a solid win by Joe “Jitsu."

Douglas Frey chokes out Aaron Wise

Quickly into the first round Douglas Frey locked in the Muay Thai clinch unleashing knees that forced Aaron Wise to go for the takedown attempt. Frey was able to grab the neck on the way down to the canvas securing the guillotine chock submission after only 49 seconds into the first round. Frey, from Arlington, and fighting out of Fitness Fight Factory goes to 8-3 and gets his first win on the national stage.

Donyiell Winrow vs Josh Smith

Josh Smith controlled all three rounds with effective clinch work and takedowns. Winrow intended to slug with Smith using his big right hand, but Smith was able to get in close minimizing Winrow’s effectiveness on the feet. Smith wins all three rounds and gets the 30-27 decision. The Little Elm fighter wins the biggest fight of his life and is now 2-1 in his professional career.