Richard Hale's move to the heavyweight division continues to be successful as he scored a first-round TKO over Thiago Santos on Friday night in the Bellator 79 main event at Rama Casino in Rama, Ontario.
The win wasn't exactly pretty for the former light heavyweight. Hale was hurt early by a flurry of left hands from Santos. As he was dazed, Hale fell into a standing guillotine, but he eventually managed to fight out of the choke.
Once Hale cleared the cobwebs it was immediately visible that Santos was running on fumes. It appeared the Brazilian suffered a mouth injury as well. Following a separation by referee Dan Miragliotta, he actually spit his mouthpiece out momentarily before action resumed.
The end came at the 3:31 mark of the round, when Hale caught Santos walking in with a right uppercut.
"He definitely rocked me," Hale said. "The big question before this fight was could I get hit by a heavyweight because I came up (in weight). I'm letting you guys know I'm here to stay and I'm going after the belt."
Hale (21-4-1) will face either Alexander Volkov or Vinicius Queiroz in the heavyweight tournament final. He'll enter that fight on a four-fight win streak. For Santos (11-2), it marks his first loss since May 2009.
Shamhalaev rocks Richman, advances to final
Shahbulat Shamhalaev will head to the Bellator featherweight tournament final with some serious momentum on his side.
The Russian striker punched his ticket to the final with his second consecutive first-round finish in Bellator, knocking out the favored Mike Richman in less than two minutes.
It was fairly obvious Shamhalaev was looking to set up his counter striking in the fight, but Richman simply couldn't avoid it. Shamhalaev appeared to have him beat on hand speed and proved too elusive for Richman's jab.
A counter right hand over the top was all referee Yves Lavigne needed to see to stop the fight. The official stoppage came at the 1:45 mark.
"I was able to get it in the first round so I'm very happy about that," Shamhalaev said through a translator. "I'm ready to take on just about everybody."
Lima rebounds to stop Ortiz
Frustrated by a decision loss to champion Ben Askren in April, Lima showcased his entire skillset against Ortiz, battering him through three rounds before posting the TKO victory with 10 seconds remaining in the fight.
Lima put on a striking clinic from the start, hurting Ortiz with a straight right hand in the first round. Ortiz's tendency to drop his hands didn't help matters, as Lima continued to dictate the action with his jab and left hook in the second frame.
A late flurry from the Brazilian, capped by a brilliant head kick, prompted referee Marc-Andre Cote to step in moments before the final bell.
"All respect to the guy," Lima said. "He had a head made of bricks. Really tough."
Lima (22-5) now will look to work his way back to Askren in the next 170-pound tournament. Ortiz (13-4) drops to 1-1 overall in the Bellator cage.
Ford survives scare from late replacement Baker
Ford seemed poised for the finish after an early takedown led to some brutal right hands on Baker's chin. But Baker survived and managed to work back to his feet, only to get caught with another flurry later in the round.
The Bellator newcomer refused to quit, though, and continued moving forward during the next two rounds. His best chance to pull off the upset came in the second frame, when he took Ford's back and tried to lock in a rear-naked choke.
Apart from that scare, it was Ford who controlled the fight. He consistently got the better of the exchanges and outwrestled Baker in the third when both appeared to be fatigued. Judges scored it unanimous for Ford: 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
"I want to thank Kyle Baker for taking the fight on short notice," Ford said. "Of all the guys I've fought, he's the toughest for sure."
Ford (19-4) now has won three straight and seven of his last eight. Baker (12-7) loses for the third time in four appearances.