UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Matt Mitrione floored Sergei Kharitonov with the first strike he threw Friday night, but the attempted leg kick landed flush on the groin of the Russian heavyweight and rendered him unable to continue, ending the Bellator 215 main event with an uneventful no contest at Mohegan Sun Arena.
The end came just 15 seconds into the headliner of this opener of a weekend doubleheader that continues in the same building Saturday. That event, Bellator 216, features a grudge match between British welterweights Michael "Venom" Page and Paul Daley.
Kharitonov (29-7, 1 NC) collapsed to the canvas after absorbing the full impact of Mitrione's left foot, and he lay on his back grimacing until medical personnel entered the cage. He was attended to for a couple of minutes, never moving from his back, before the bout was waved off. Mitrione stood off by the cage looking dejected.
Bellator officials said Kharitonov was transported to a hospital and they hope to have an update on his condition on Saturday morning.
"I cannot begin to explain how sorry I am for everybody who paid money to come watch the fight between Sergei and I," Mitrione said. "It would have been really dope. It would have been a great fight.
"Obviously it was not intentional. It was just the worst possible situation."
Coming off a smothering October loss in the Heavyweight Grand Prix to eventual tournament winner Ryan Bader, Mitrione (13-6, 1 NC) was looking to get back on track in his third consecutive fight at Mohegan, a run that started with last February's victory over Roy Nelson. He had won four straight before Bader took him down and beat him up in the fall.
If feasible, Mitrione said he's willing to fight on Saturday's card.
"I told Mr. Coker [Bellator president Scott Coker] that if they can find any situation where I could fight tomorrow, I will fight tomorrow," Mitrione said.
The fight was billed as a clash of elite strikers, but it quickly struck out.
Kharitonov, 38, came in unbeaten in his previous six fights, with just one loss in his past 12 dating back to 2012. A former kickboxer in Glory, K-1 and other promotions, he has victories over some of MMA's elite, including former UFC heavyweight champions Andrei Arlovski and Fabricio Werdum as well as Strikeforce titlist Alistair Overeem.
Storley didn't get to be a four-time NCAA Division I All-American for nothing, and he gave Pascu an up-close-and-personal look at his prowess on the way to remaining unbeaten with a dominant unanimous decision in the welterweight co-main event.
The 26-year-old former University of Minnesota wrestler (10-0) earned his fifth Bellator victory by doing what elite wrestlers do, taking the fight to the canvas quickly and efficiently, then remaining in control and delivering punishment. He did it in the first round, and it was rinse and repeat for the remaining 10 minutes.
Pascu (18-10), who has lost all three of his Bellator fights, was unable to mount any offense, fighting off his back for all but the first few seconds of each round. The Romanian did prevent Storley from gaining full mount and did fend off many of the punches and elbows thrown his way, but he also absorbed a lot. Pascu put up a fight from start to finish, but his resistance was futile.
Dantas, a former Bellator bantamweight champion, ended a two-fight skid by seizing control right from the start and never letting Misech transition from defense to offense, as the Brazilian got the nod on all three judges' scorecards (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
Dantas (21-6) made quite a racket early on, landing a succession of kicks to the legs and torso and landing them loudly. Then he took Misech to the canvas, and while he couldn't quite advance to dominant position and couldn't quite secure the kimura he was going for, he remained in control until the bell.
The 30-year-old from Rio de Janeiro, who dropped his belt in 2017 to Darrion Caldwell, then was finished in under a minute by Michael McDonald last July, seized control again early in the second round, much of which he spent trying to gain full mount or secure a rear-naked choke. He was unsuccessful at both, but the fight was nonetheless going his way.
Misech (11-7) knew what he had to do in the third round, and he came out firing away with big shots. But Dantas was elusive, and when it wasn't his footwork keeping him safe, it was his jab or an occasional distance-preserving kick. By midround, Misech was either out of energy or out of ideas, and the fight devolved into a staring contest. The crowd did not appreciate that. Loudly.
But Dantas had done what he had to do in order to get his career back on track.
Misech was competing in Bellator for just the second time, after making his debut just two months ago with a TKO of Edward Thommes in his native Hawai'i.
John Douma def. Mike Kimbel by first-round triangle choke
Kimbel, who hails from across the state in Waterbury, got the big welcome from the Connecticut crowd, but it was the other local bantamweight -- Douma is from Narragansett, Rhode Island, also about an hour away -- who walked out of the cage to fan adulation.
Douma (4-1), making his Bellator debut coming off his first career loss last summer, handed Kimbel his first defeat by fending off his opponent's fury on the canvas and calmly securing the triangle, then holding on even as Kimbel picked him up and slammed him to the mat headfirst. It was the kind of slam that can knock a guy out, but Douma remained conscious and did not let go. Within moments of the fighters hitting the canvas for a second time, Kimbel (2-1) tapped at 2 minutes, 51 seconds.
"I let him do my job for me," Douma said. "He took me down."
Kimbel's two previous pro fights also were in Bellator, and he won both with first-round finishes. His October KO win came in just 6 seconds.
Austin Vanderford def. Cody Jones by first-round arm triangle choke
If Vanderford keeps fighting like this, Paige VanZant might soon be better known to fans as "Mrs. Vanderford."
Vanderford, who is married to the popular UFC strawweight and been playfully (or not) referred to by fans on social media as "Mr. VanZant," remained unbeaten (7-0) with a sharp performance in his Bellator debut, dropping Jones within the first 30 seconds and maintaining grappling control before finishing the 175-pound catchweight bout with the choke at 4:49.
Both fighters threw heat right off the bat, and it was Vanderford who landed, putting his opponent on the canvas with a short right hand and pouncing. Jones tried several maneuvers to scramble out from bottom position, but Vanderford was a step ahead the whole way, working his way into position to sink in the arm triangle in the final seconds before the first round was to end.
Jones (6-3) had won his previous four, all via first-round finishes.
Welterweight: Billy Goff def. Ryan Hardy by unanimous decision
Flyweight: Zarrukh Adashev def. Ronie Arona by unanimous decision
Featherweight: Matt Probin def. Ali Zebian by split decision
Featherweight: Pete Rogers def. Jason Rine by second-round KO (0:50)