SAN DIEGO -- It's 2014 and here Tito Ortiz is -- still digging graves.
Ortiz (18-11-1) collected his second win of the year by outpointing Stephan Bonnar in a split decision at Bellator MMA 131 at Valley View Casino Center on Saturday night.
The judges scored the bout 30-27, 30-27 and 28-29. The dissident score was head-scratching at best, as Ortiz scored takedowns in every round and consistently got the better of exchanges on the feet.
The light heavyweight bout brought months of trash talk between the two to a close -- sort of. Ortiz, 39, mentioned the idea of a rematch -- but Bonnar sounded disinterested.
"It really wasn't all it was cracked up to be," Bonnar said. "In my head, for some diluted reason, I thought it would be fun to get my head split open again. Actually, it kind of sucked."
In his first appearance since October 2012, Bonnar (15-9) came out looking to set a high pace on the feet but was unable to keep it up for three rounds.
Takedowns also hurt Bonnar, as he struggled to stay upright and likely depleted his gas tank trying.
"The difference in this fight was his wrestling," Bonnar said. "Hat's off to him."
Coming off a first-round submission win over then-middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko in May, Ortiz dealt with Bonnar's early pressure well, covering up against punches when he was near the fence and scoring takedowns on second efforts off single leg entries. He opened a cut near Bonnar's hairline in the first round with a right hand.
An accidental knee to the groin by Ortiz briefly halted the action, but Bonnar recovered well ahead of the allowed five minutes.
Both fighters gradually showed fatigue as the fight went on, starting in the second round. They stood flat footed in several exchanges, with Ortiz typically slipping under Bonnar's singular shots and landing the right hand. When he had energy, Bonnar managed to turn it into an ugly fight at times but never truly captured momentum.
Bonnar's nose was bloodied in the second round by a punch and he turned into an easy target late in the fight as his gas tank hit empty. He made one final push in the final 20 seconds of the fight, letting his hands go as Ortiz backed up and covered. Bonnar's punches had nothing on them though, and it was Ortiz who finished the fight with a flurry.
Ortiz is now 2-0 under the Bellator banner. The former UFC heavyweight champion announced his retirement in July 2012, but returned, citing a clean bill of health, nearly two years later. After the result was read, he expressed interest in fighting Bonnar a second time to put a staple on it.
"[I have] Little bit of respect for Bonnar," Ortiz said. "He came in and fought but everybody saw his character. Hey, split decision; let's do it again."
Bonnar, 37, came out of retirement for the opportunity to fight Ortiz. The UFC released him of his contract earlier this year so he could do so. The Las Vegas-based light heavyweight was suspended one year after a loss to Anderson Silva at UFC 153, after he tested positive for the anabolic steroid Drostanolone. Bonnar said he took the steroid before he accepted the fight against Silva, at a time he considered himself retired.
Brooks repeats success over Chandler
A lightweight title fight between Chandler and Brooks ended, again, somewhat controversially, as Brooks (15-1) earned a TKO win shortly after Chandler paused and looked toward referee Jason Herzog in the middle of the fight. The finish came at the 3:48 mark of the fourth round.
"I feel amazing," Brooks said. "I did exactly what I thought I was going to do and I knew I could finish him.
"I"m a steam train and I am going to run over everyone. I said it this morning I could feel it in my bones that I was going to finish him, and that is exactly what happened."
Brooks, 28, said he was initially confused when Chandler (12-3) raised his arms and stopped fighting. He said he then recognized Chandler must have been hurt by a right hand landed moments before and went after the finish. With Chandler turned defenseless against the fence, Brooks unloaded four unanswered shots to earn the stoppage.
The TKO win unifies the Bellator 155-pound title for Brooks. He won an interim belt in a narrow split decision over Chandler in May.
To be sure, all momentum was on Brooks' side at the time of the unusual finish. He shut down the majority of Chandler's attempts to take him down and nullified much of his standup.
Brooks utilized clean footwork to stay outside of Chandler's range, while darting in unpredictably with jabs and inside leg kicks. He started to time Chandler's double leg shot as the fight progressed with knees up the middle, hurting the San Diego-based fighter at one point with one to the chin in the third round.
In the second round, Chandler had his best moment of the fight, closing on Brooks with punches and working dirty boxing. After Brooks disengaged from him, Chandler sprinted across the cage to keep momentum and Brooks smartly shot on a takedown. Chandler, although off-balance, managed to scramble back up and nearly sink a guillotine on Brooks.
Beyond that one sequence, it was Brooks one step ahead. He took Chandler's back in the third round after a scramble, but Chandler escaped out the back. Chandler's morale visibly declined in the third and fourth rounds, however, as Brooks continued to stuff takedowns and establish the striking range he preferred.
Brooks extends his win streak to six with the victory. The American Top Team product earns his first finish since July 2013. Chandler falls to 0-3 in his last three fights.
Schilling shellacks Manhoef in wild affair
Schilling (2-3) earned his first MMA win since 2008, dropping Manhoef with the right just moments after getting clocked with a left hook. A follow-up left by Schilling grazed Manhoef as he went down, but the fight was over the second Schilling's right landed. The finish came 32 seconds into the round.
I felt great in my Bellator debut and the end result was exactly what I wanted," Schilling said. "The first round kind of sucked and I was put in a bad position, but I went back to how I felt during training camp and tough positions I was in through that process.
"You can expect to see my game continue to evolve and I am getting better in every aspect."
A professional kickboxer since 2006, Schilling took the center of the cage at the start of the fight but nearly didn't survive the first round. After a brief feeling-out period, including an accidental knee to the groin by Schilling, Manhoef (29-12-1) came hard with a left hook and right cross that floored Schilling.
Looking for a finish, Manhoef swarmed on Schilling, throwing right hand bombs as Schilling scrambled on his back and tried to regain composure. He eventually managed to bring Manhoef into his closed guard and survive the onslaught. Referee Mike Beltran even stood the fighters back up near the end of the round.
The second round started much like the first, with Schilling slowly stalking Manhoef around the cage. The final sequence started with Schilling, as he drew Manhoe's hands high and then landed a knee up the middle from the clinch. Manhoef responded with the tight left hook that stunned Schilling, but then ate the hard right hand.
Manhoef, a fellow professional kickboxer, sees a two-fight win streak snapped in the loss. It is his fourth loss by knockout in MMA. Schilling, who had not fought a professional MMA bout since 2008, records his first knockout in the sport.
Richman ravages Phan
Richman (18-5) dropped Phan to his knees during an early exchange and hurt him again moments later with a left hook to the body. Phan crumpled near the fence from follow-up shots and referee Michael Bell quickly called a stop to the bout just 46 seconds in.
"The win over Phan felt awesome," Richman said. "I matched up well against him and I felt great going in. I am going to take down everyone in the division and I am going to knock Joe Warren's ass out."
Coming into the fight on a two-fight win streak, Phan (20-14) looked awkward and ineffective from the start. He planted his feet in the center of the cage and threw winging left hands at Richman, while simultaneously leaning back and eyeing Richman's counter punches.
Richman responded perfectly, standing his ground and throwing hard shots down the pipe. He stunned Phan within seconds with a right hand to the chin, then hurt him with the left hook to the temple. Phan was on skates after that, backing up and providing an easy target for Richman's body shot and a flurry upstairs.
A three-time participant in the Bellator featherweight tournament, Richman moves to 2-0 in the promotion's 135-pound division. He knocked out Ed West in the first round of his last fight at Bellator 126 in September. Phan, 31, falls to 2-2 in 2014. He had recorded back-to-back first-round finishes prior to the loss.
Lawal roughs up Vedepo
"King Mo" (14-4) beat up Vedepo on the ground before hurting him with a left hook early in the final round of the light heavyweight fight. Vedepo (17-9) eventually fell and turtled after the shot, where Lawal got on his back and threw powerful right hands until referee Jason Herzog stopped the bout at the 0:39 mark.
"The fight was all right; it was good to be fighting in such a big crowd and having a big walkout again was awesome," Lawal said. "I wanted to get that knockout in the first [round] but he's tough. Whatever Coker has next for me, I'm ready, I just want to keep fighting, keep getting paid, and get a title around my waist this year."
It was a dominant fight start to finish, during which Lawal took Vedepo down with ease in the opening seconds of the first and second rounds. The 32-year-old Vedepo was more or less helpless on his back, as he was unable to work to his feet and absorbed a ton of damage. Both his eyes were nearly swelled shut to start the third.
Knowing he was well behind on the scorecards, Vedepo came out aggressive to start the final round and walked directly into a Lawal left hook. Wobbled, he tried to tie Lawal up but ate more punches near the fence. Eventually Vedepo attempted a weak single leg but fell onto his back, where Lawal followed him for the finish.
A former Strikeforce title-holder, Lawal improves to 6-3 under the Bellator banner. Vedepo, who accepted the fight on short notice, sees a three-fight win streak snapped.