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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
Pat Curran completed his unlikely run in Bellator's season two lightweight tournament last night at Bellator 21, defeating Toby Imada by a controversial split decision to earn the $100,000 season two prize and a shot at Bellator Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez during Bellator's third season.
"Curran accomplished tonight is exactly what Bellator is all about,” said Bellator founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney after the fight. “He proved to himself and to the world that he deserves this championship and he deserves a fight with Eddie Alvarez thanks to three straight outstanding wins against three very tough opponents."
The fight consisted of Imada pressing the action, keeping Curran on his heels. Curran trades punches, knees and kicks with Imada throughout the fight, though spent a lot of the fight with his back against the cage or backing away from an aggressive Imada.
The most significant damage of the fight came in the third round, where Curran blasted Imada with a right that opened a nasty cut in the eyebrow as well as a big mouse under his eye. He failed to follow up, however, and Imada continued to come forward and attack the rest of the round, nearly getting to the mount late after a trip slam.
Still, two of the three judges gave Curran the nod, and he will now take some time to rest and prepare for the biggest fight of his life in Bellator's third season.
Penick's Analysis: Too many media outlets are passing along the "close rounds, tough to judge" mantra for the first two rounds of this fight, and that's simply not the case. Curran may have landed a few punches and kicks and knees of his own in both rounds, but Imada was continually the aggressor. Curran spent the entire first two rounds on the defensive as Imada walked him down and put him against the cage.
Imada held control against the cage and battered Curran with knees to the legs and body. I just can't see an argument for giving Curran either of those two rounds. On that same note, there is an argument for Imada to win the third as well, as outside of the big right early that opened up the cut, Curran did nothing the rest of the round but continue to back up and allow Imada to press the action.
This is simply nothing less than a robbery of a decision. Curran makes for a good story with two big upsets in the tournament, but the flip side to that story is that both were definitely not clear cut victories in his favor. There was a major case to be made for Roger Huerta winning two rounds in their bout, and that's the only way the fight with Imada last night should have been scored. The fact that it was in Curran's hometown doesn't help the decision go down, either. It's just a terribly bad call that cost Imada a significant amount of money, not to mention a chance at redemption against Eddie Alvarez.
Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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