If any fighter has intentions of lifting the Bellator featherweight title from Pat Curran, he would be best served not to underestimate the champion's submission ability.
A solid stand-up fighter, Curran proved Thursday night at Bellator 95 in Atlantic City, N.J., that there is more to his game than just throwing punches and kicks.
Curran, who has a reputation as a slow starter, caught Season 7 tournament winner Shahbulat Shamhalaev in a guillotine and put him to sleep at 2:38 of the opening round of their title bout.
Shamhalaev did not tap and protested that referee Keith Peterson should not have stopped the fight despite the fact that the protest came after he had regained consciousness. Peterson made the correct decision after noticing that Shamhalaev's arms had gone limp, a sign he was unconscious.
Curran could not have hoped for the fight to play out better than it did.
"I didn't get hit once," said Curran, who successfully defended his 145-pound title for the second time. "I wanted to get in and get out and get back in the gym."
Curran (19-4) is expected to make the next defense of his belt against Season 6 tournament winner Daniel Straus, who was arrested last month in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on charges of driving with a suspended license and being in possession of illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia.
Shamhalaev (12-2-1) pushed the action to start the fight, throwing several punches and kicks, but he could never find the range to land against the champion.
Curran, a former Bellator lightweight tournament winner, is ranked third among featherweights by ESPN.com.
Khasbulaev defeats Richmond to earn title shot
For the second year in a row, a Russian has stood in Mike Richman's path to the Bellator featherweight tournament title.
And for the second year in a row, he has failed to move that Russian out of his way.
Magomedrasul "Frodo" Khasbulaev pressured Richman throughout their three-round final showdown en route to a unanimous decision. All three judges scored the fight 30-27. ESPN.com also had Khasbulaev winning 30-27.
Richman (15-3) was knocked out in the first round of a semifinal featherweight tournament fight by Shamhalaev in November.
On Thursday, Khasbulaev found a pattern that worked early in the bout and stuck with it. He delivered a left-right combination, followed by a kick to the head, and more often than not Richman had no answer to stopping it.
Once in a while, Khasbulaev attempted to take Richman to the ground, but most of those tries were stuffed.
Khasbulaev, who improved to 21-5, earned a featherweight title shot with the victory.
"I'm very happy and grateful to all my teammates," Khasbulaev said.
Though he ate a lot of hard shots, Richman remained competitive. He used good footwork that allowed him to counter Khasbulaev with a straight left, one of which opened a cut on the Russian's right eyebrow.
But the cut did not force Khasbulaev to veer from his fighting pattern: left punch, right punch and kick to the head.
Marshall knocks out Cooper with perfect right hand
During a brief exchange, Marshall took a moment to sit on his right hand and he connected perfectly on Cooper's solid chin. The punch sent Cooper to the canvas, where he lay motionless.
But Marshall was able to land one more punch before referee Bill Bookwalter could jump in at 3:39 and prevent further damage. So impressed with his handy work, Marshall stood over the fallen Cooper and glared at him.
"If I catch you with the right hand you're going to sleep," Marshall said. "I was trying to knock his beard off, but it didn't come off. Maybe next [time]."
Marshall (18-6) earned a middleweight title shot against champion Alexander Shlemenko. Bellator officials have not yet announced when or where the bout will take place.
Shlemenko, a native of Russia, often speaks proudly of representing his country inside the cage. Marshall took the opportunity to offer his opinion on the matter.
"New Jersey, you know what I say about fighting a Russian? America," Marshall said.
Cooper, who entered the contest on a six-fight win streak, slips to 19-8.
Hawn stops Parisyan in grudge match
With each man possessing solid jiu-jitsu skills, Hawn figured his boxing abilities would come in handy against Parisyan. And he figured correctly.
A right hand on the chin wobbled Parisyan in the second round. It was the opportunity Hawn needed as he followed up the punch with several right uppercuts that sent Parisyan to the canvas.
Parisyan was unable to protect himself, forcing referee Gasper Oliver to jump in and wave the bout off at the 1:55 mark. Hawn had defeated Parisyan in judo competition, but the two had never fought in mixed martial arts.
Their past helped fuel their mutual dislike. But Hawn expressed respect for Parisyan's fighting skills after his knockout victory.
"I wasn't trying to look for it," said Hawn, who improved to 15-2. "I knew from back in the old days that he was good."
Despite his impressive win, Hawn -- who has been competing at lightweight -- made it clear he will not remain at 170 pounds.
"[Lightweight] is where I'm going to stay," Hawn said.
The setback ends Parisyan's win streak at two. He falls to 22-10.