Kongo shines in Bellator debut

Cheick Kongo was looking forward to making a statement in his Bellator Fighting Championships debut. Following a round in which it looked as though he might not, the statement was received loud and clear.

Kongo (19-8-2) took care of business against an overmatched Mark Godbeer on Friday, posting a second-round TKO in the main event of Bellator 102 in Visalia, Calif. The win advances Kongo to the Bellator heavyweight tournament final.

Things got off to a slow start, as Kongo held Godbeer (8-2) in a stalemate along the fence for the majority of the first round. It appeared that might be Kongo's strategy in the following frame, when action once again made its way to the cage.

That's when Kongo made good on the statement he had promised, tagging Godbeer's midsection with a series of knees that dropped him to a crouch. As Godbeer looked to wall walk back to his feet, Kongo hit him again with a knee to the head and finally a right uppercut that forced referee John McCarthy to stop it at the 2:04 mark.

"I heard my cornerman telling me to hit him every way," Kongo said. "I used my knee to catch him in a different spot and hurt him against the cage."

Godbeer showed no hesitation going after the heavily favored Kongo, aggressively pursuing him from the opening bell. That aggression might have worked against him, though, as Kongo ducked under haymakers and shot for takedowns.

The British striker proved to be adept at working back to his feet, however, consistently using the cage to wall walk after Kongo takedowns. Despite that, Godbeer struggled creating any sort of striking room against Kongo along the fence.

The win moves Kongo one step closer to the Bellator heavyweight title, which he has set his sights on since signing with the promotion earlier this year. The title is currently held by Alexander Volkov, who faces Vitaly Minakov in November.

Queiroz stuns Johnson with one-punch knockout

Sometimes it takes endurance, game plans, wrestling, grappling, striking and mental toughness to claim a single win. Sometimes it takes one counter right hand.

Vinicius Queiroz advanced to the Bellator heavyweight tournament semifinals with one punch, knocking Lavar Johnson out cold with a right hand to the chin just 23 seconds into the contest.

Johnson (17-8) protested the stoppage with referee Michael Bell, but he was clearly out on the first punch Queiroz threw.

After the knockout, Queiroz (7-3) admitted his game plan was to take Johnson to the floor in the fight -- an area where the heavyweight has shown weakness. The quick knockout illustrates how fast things can change in a fight.

"I was here to try to take him down because I know he has heavy hands," Queiroz said. "That's how fighting goes. He could have taken me down and submitted me. Tonight, I got to knock him out."

There really wasn't much action prior to the knockout.

Johnson came out in a crouched stance, likely anticipating the takedown. He stepped into a pair of jabs, and then it was over -- a clean counter right hand down the middle by Queiroz. Johnson now has dropped three fights in a row. The California State Athletic Commission suspended him earlier this year for failing to disclose his use of testosterone replacement therapy leading up to a UFC fight in February.

Querioz rebounds from a first-round TKO loss to now Bellator champ Alexander Volkov last November.

Silva earns title shot at 135 pounds

Rafael Silva will need all his tools if he's to beat Bellator bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas. He had them all going in Friday's tournament final.

Silva (21-3) earned a shot at the Bellator 135-pound title with a well-executed unanimous decision victory over Anthony Leone. It was not a highlight-filled performance, but a relatively dominant one. All three judges scored it 30-27.

Leone (13-6) was never in trouble of being finished, but he had no success manufacturing any form of offense on the fight. Silva peppered Leone's lead leg with kicks early while slipping nearly all of his counter punches.

The Brazilian scored takedowns in all three rounds and consistently owned the action whenever it hit the mat. He took Leone's back during the opening two rounds and threatened with a standing rear-naked-choke at the end of the first.

A big overhand right in the middle frame by Leone might have been the most significant strike of the fight, but Leone failed to add anything to it.

Silva now moves on to a title fight with Dantas (15-3), who claimed the belt in a submission victory over Zach Makovsky in April 2012. The 24-year-old champion is the No. 7-ranked bantamweight in the world, according to ESPN.com.

Parlo outlasts Butcher by decision

Jason Butcher might have had the best ground game in the Bellator middleweight tournament. Problem was, nobody got to see it Friday.

Butcher (7-1) suffered the first setback of his career, a taxing unanimous decision loss to Mikkel Parlo in the tournament semifinals. All three judges scored it for Parlo, by scores of 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.

The fight was, at times, brutal to watch -- especially the final round. It was the first time Butcher had fought into the third round as a pro, and things didn't go well. Unable to get Parlo (11-1) to the ground, Butcher repeatedly fell onto his back willingly, in an effort to slow down the standup battle.

"I would have liked to finish him because I hurt him several times," Parlo said. "It was hard because he was running a lot. I wouldn't want to run into a takedown. It went as I expected."

Butcher did show heart in the first two rounds, utilizing his reach advantage early and looking to set up double-leg takedowns. It was quickly apparent, however, he didn't have the wrestling credentials to get Parlo down. By the second round, his shots amounted to basically flailing attempts at his opponent's ankles.

He rocked Parlo with a couple of right uppercuts in the second round, but even in those exchanges, it was visible which middleweight held the power advantage.

Butcher was bleeding badly from the nose from punches in the middle round. Parlo dropped Butcher twice in the last frame with left hooks to the body. Those were the best moments of an otherwise-forgettable third.

Parlo improved to 3-1 in the Bellator cage. His only loss came via decision to Sultan Aliev in February. Butcher sees his run of seven consecutive finishes snapped.

Ward advances to middleweight final

It's not every day you see a martial artist just walk away from back control -- but apparently, Brennan Ward knew what he was doing.

Ward (8-1) advanced to the Bellator middleweight tournament final with a second-round submission victory over Joe Pacheco.

Moments before the guillotine finish, Ward made a surprising move when he gave up back control on Pacheco and walked to the center of the cage. Pacheco had out-grappled Ward to that point, but it's rare to see any fighter give up that position.

The move would pay off, though. After exchanging a few punches on the feet, Pacheco shot on a double leg that Ward easily defended and turned into a power guillotine. The tap came at 2:41 of the round.

"I knew it was done," Ward said. "That was a tight choke. I knew I had it and it was a matter of time."

Pacheco (6-1) looked good early behind a strong wrestling game plan. Once the second round began, however, the 28-year-old looked winded from the high pace of the first. He ate a heavy right hand by Ward that caused swelling around his left eye.

Ward improved to 5-1 under the Bellator banner and has recorded a finish in seven of his eight professional wins.