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By Matt Pelkey, MMATorch Columnist
Bellator is live tonight for their 67th incarnation from the Casino Rama in Ontario, Canada headlined by a lightweight non-title fight between Michael Chandler and Akihiro Gono. Also on the card is the first semifinal of the welterweight tournament between Ben "Killa B" Saunders and Bryan "The Beast" Baker. Stick with MMATorch.com for full coverage tonight.
FIGHT ONE: LUIS SANTOS VS. RYAN FORD (WELTERWEIGHT)
ROUND ONE: Santos misses a head kick early. Santos slips throwing a kick, Ford tries to pounce, but Santos backs him off with an upkick and gets back to his feet. Nice low kick by Santos. Santos lands a head kick that drops Ford, but Ford is quickly back to his feet, albeit on wobbly legs. Ford is hangin in there but eats a few big knees and he goes down again. Santos takes his back and lands some big punches. Santos is either being patient now or is getting tire, but Ford seems safe for now. Santos is picking his shots nicely and landing when throwing. He won't let Ford out of this position. Thirty seconds left. Santos switches his attack and lands a couple nice knees to Ford's thigh. Round over. 10-8 Santos
ROUND TWO: Ford comes out aggressive early, throwing a two punch combo followed by a head kick. They get against the cage and Ford lands a big knee that drops Santos! He follows him to the ground, lands a few punches as Santos covers up, and the ref calls it. Wow. Great comeback.
WINNER: Ryan Ford by tko at 1:24 of round 2
STAR RATING: (**+) The first round was all Santos, including the knock down from the head kick, but he was clearly slower in round two and he paid for it. Ford knew he was down big and fought accordingly. Good fight. Even better comeback.
FIGHT TWO: DAMIAN GRABOWSKI VS. DAVID HUCKABA (HEAVYWEIGHT)
ROUND ONE: Grabowski immediately shoots in for the takedown following the glove touch. No dice though. He shoots in again and gets it however. Full guard. Not much action, just Grabs using some punches to loosen Huckaba up. Huckaba lands a nice elbow from the bottom, but that's all his offense so far. Midway through the round Bid Dan stands them up. Huckaba looks confident on the feet. Grabs fails on a takedown attempt and tries to butt scoot. Back to the feet. They clinch against the cage. With a minute left Grabowski gets another takedown. He's given a shorter leash this time and they get stood up with ten seconds left. Huckaba lands a nice knee, but the round ends and it wasn't nearly enough to make up for the first 4:50. 10-9 Grabowski
ROUND TWO: The fight stays on the feet for the first minute and a half of the round, but its actually Grabowski winning most of the exchanges. Huckaba finally lands a couple punches that back off Grabs and then a good knee to the body thirty seconds later. Grabowski follows up a partially blocked head kick with a good kick to the inside leg. He finally shoots in for the takedown and gets it this time. Grabs takes Huckaba's back, but he has a cut on his forehead. Huckaba shakes Grabs off him and ends up on top for the first time. Huckaba backs out and they're back to the feet. Huckaba lands a big lead right uppercut for his best shot of the fight. Horn sounds. Close round but Grabowski was more aggressive, got the takedown, and had the dominant position. 10-9 Grabowski
ROUND THREE: Despite the fight starting on the feet every round, Huckaba is not taking advantage. Grabowski gets another takedown, but this time they're only on the mat for a bout fifteen seconds before they're stood up. Big Dan needs to stop listening to the crowd. Huckaba lands a couple of nice rights, Grabowski shoots for a desperation takedown, but Huckaba reverses it and Grabowski ends up on his back. Huckaba wants it on the feet though. Huckaba is clearly the better striker, but he keeps coming in with one shot and then backing off. Grabowski, to his credit, keeps coming forward and landing shots of his own. He'll always be a work in progress standing, but he's clearly improved. Round over, fight over. Huckaba took that one, so it'll come down to how the second round was scored. 29-28 either way is acceptable, but I, like Jimmy Smith, gave this fight to Grabowski. 10-9 Huckaba
WINNER: Damian Grabowski by unanimous decision (29-28x3)
STAR RATING: (**-) It was a low-level heavyweight fight that went to a decision, but Grabowski fought hard and showed improved striking. Huckaba will regret not fighting more aggressively as one or two more solid punches may have been the difference between winning and losing for him tonight.
FIGHT THREE: BEN SAUNDERS VS. BRYAN BAKER (WELTERWEIGHT) WELTERWEIGHT TOURNAMENT SEMIFINAL
ROUND ONE: Both guys come out throwing a lot of kicks. Saunders gets Baker in his trademark clinch and lands a couple nice knees. Baker tries to drop down for a takedown, but Saunders defends. They clinch against the cage. Baker gets his arm under Saunders' leg and picks him up for a takedown, but Saunders nearly locks in a triangle. Baker pulls out of it so Saunders tries to switch to an omoplata. Baker pulls out of that too and lands some nice punches as the get back to the feet. Saunders tries to jump into a guillotine, but Baker avoids and they're back to the mat with Baker on top. Baker postures up and lands some good punches and hammerfists. Saunders gets wrist control and beautifully locks in a tight, tight triangle. Saunders goes for the armbar with the triangle locked in, but Baker slips out. That was close. Baker gets it back against the cage and tries for a takedown. Baker takes the back with twenty seconds left. Baker keeps the position and lands some more shots before the bell. Fun round, and Saunders came closest to finishing, but Baker also had a dominant position and landed the bigger shots. 10-9 Baker
ROUND TWO: Less kicks through the first minute+, but Baker is unloading with some punches. Saunders smiles after a flurry, but that's generally not a good sign. Saunders gets a body-lock takedown, but Baker pops right back to his feet and gets the clinch against the cage. Saunders tries for a guillotine, but Baker is quickly out. Saunders absolutely rips some knees to the body. Up against the cage again. Baker gets an outside trip takedown with 80 seconds left. He postures up and lands some nice left hands as Saunders continues to smile back at him. That would creep me out. Baker moves to side control. Baker looks briefly for an Americana, but quickly gives it up in favor of some more punches as the ten second warning sounds. Another fun round where both guys had significant offense, but Bakers clinch work and top control were the difference. 10-9 Baker
ROUND THREE: Baker fires off some punches and kicks early, but quickly goes back to his bread and butter in this fight, pushing Saunders up against the cage. He gets Saunders back to the mat. Saunders keeps looking for the triangle, but its just not there. Baker does some nice work to the body. He's staying busy enough to not get stood up, but this is easily the slowest round of the fight. Saunders works his way back up to his feet, but Baker picks him up and slams him back down. With forty-five seconds left, Saunders needs a miracle or this one is gonna be academic. Baker stands up and lands some more shots on a downed Saunders as the bells sounds. 10-9 Baker I wouldn't argue with Saunders taking the first round, but anything other than 29-28 or 30-27 for Baker will be just plain wrong.
WINNER: Bryan Baker by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
STAR RATING: (***) Good right. It slowed considerably in the final round, but the first two were a lot of fun. Both guys fought their asses off, but Baker was just to big and too strong for Saunders who wore down by the end. Baker moves on to the welterweight finals where he'll meet the winner of David Rickles vs. Karl Amoussou.
FIGHT FIVE: MICHAEL CHANDLER VS. AKIHIRO GONO (LIGHTWEIGHT) LIGHTWEIGHT NON-TITLE "SUPERFIGHT"
ROUND ONE: Chandler throwing a lot of feints early, but no punches. Nevermind. He dives in once he gets the timing down and lands a right and a left, then again, and again. He drops Gono, pounces with punch after punch after punch as Gono can only cover up. That's it. Its over. Geeze.
WINNER: Michael Chandler by tko at 0:56 of round 1
STAR RATING: (*+) Not much too it. Chandler took his time in the opening minute working on timing Gono, and it only took a handful of accurate, brutal punches to end it. Chandler is a stud folks.
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