CHESTER - It was a night of submissions Friday night at The Harv at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort when Bellator Fighting Championships launched its Summer Series with Bellator 71.
"I want to thank our partners here at Mountaineer," said Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney. "They have been an absolute pleasure to work with. West Virginia is new to MMA, but hopefully we'll be able to bring a lot more shows out here."
Six of the nights nine fights ended by tap out, including three of the five main card fights. In fact, only one fight made it to the judges' scorecards on the evening.
The main card, televised on MTV2, featured the quarterfinals of the organization's Light Heavyweight Tournament along with a heavyweight bout between former training partners and friends Brett "Da Grim" Rogers and Kevin "Concrete" Asplund.
Rogers and Asplund kicked off the main card with their grudge match. Rogers, making his Bellator debut, was extremely impressive, dominating the first round action and ultimately cutting Asplund with a flurry toward the end of the round.
The second round saw Asplund catch a knee as he shot for a takedown, but was still able to secure it. Rogers eventually reversed to control form the top. Asplund futilely attempted a pair of submission attempts and Rogers ended the round with a barrage of shots from the top.
The ringside physician checked out Asplund's swollen eye after the second round and deemed him too injured to continue. The official result was a TKO win for Rogers by doctor's stoppage due to cuts after the second round. Rogers was elated at his performance in his return to major mixed martial arts action.
"I feel good about today," said Rogers. "This fight to me was all about respect. I just wanted to put on a good show for everybody and I think I did that."
In the first Light Heavyweight Tournament quarterfinal match Beau Tribolet took on Tim Carpenter. Carpenter was a last minute replacement for Tribolet's original opponent, Richard Hale, who had to pull out of the fight due to illness.
Carpenter, who made it to the semifinals of the last LHW tourney, took advantage of his opportunity. After a close first round that saw Carpenter control the center of the cage and use crisp punches while Tribolet circled and found a home for some effective leg kicks things got interesting in round 2.
Tribolet slipped and Carpenter unsuccessfully went for a guillotine choke, ending up on his back with Tribolet in full guard. Tribolet kept top position for the rest of the round, but Carpenter remained active with submission attempts, and eventually caught Tribolet with an armbar with nine seconds left in round 2 for the win and the first ticket to advance to the tournament semifinals.
"I didn't really expect to be in the tournament," said Carpenter. "I was brought in as an alternate and things worked out for me today. Beau is a tough guy. Everyone here is tough and I look forward to my next fight."
In the evening's second quarterfinal match Roy Boughton and Emanuel Newton locked horns.
It was obvious form the fight's onset neither fighter wanted it to become a standup war with both fighters looking to secure takedowns. Newton got the better of the first round activity controlling more of the round form the top and securing a crowd pleasing, pro-wrestling style slam of Boughton.
Boughton came out in round 2 and shot in for a takedown attempt. As he did Newton caught him with a knee, took Boughton's back, and locked in a rear naked choke just 49 seconds into the round to advance to the tourney semifinals.
"I really needed this fight and I needed this win," said Newton. "I want to thank Roy too. He's tough. He's young and he was scrambling everywhere. If I didn't secure the choke I don't know if I would have been able to come out in the third."
It didn't take long for Attila Vegh to dispatch of Zelg Galesic in the quarterfinal number three.
Vegh went for a takedown out of a side headlock, but Galesic ended up on top. Vegh scrambled to his feet and Galesic chased him aggressively with punches. Galesic missed with a flying knee, Vegh caught him with a right hand that sent him to the ground. From there Vegh took his back, locked in a rear naked choke, and earned his way to the semifinals with just one minute of work.
"Zelg is a very tough opponent," said Vegh through his translator. "When the fight started I was on my toes and we were just trying to feel each other out. Then Zelg came in all crazy so it was hard to get going. I rocked him with the uppercut we worked on in the back room and I was able to secure the choke after that."
In the evening's final quarterfinal match veteran Travis Wiuff physically broke down Chris Davis.
Keeping Davis up against the cage and using dirty boxing for most of the round, Wiuff eventually brought Davis to the canvas, took his back, and started to bring punches down on the side of his head. With 48 seconds left in the round Wiuff caught Davis with a big shot that knocked him out and made Wiuff the final semifinalist in the Bellator Light Heavyweight Tournament.
"I want to thank my corner for helping me cut weight yesterday," said Wiuff. "I'm just excited for the next round. I'd fight everyone in the tournament tonight if I could, but we'll have to wait about a month. We'll see you guys in about a month."
In the preliminary fights Neil Johnson submitted Brylan Van Artsdalen with a rear naked choke at 4:29 of the second round, Jason Butcher knocked off Duane Bastress with a triangle choke submission at 1:03 of the first round, East Liverpool's Josh Stansbury finished Zanesville's Dan Spohn with a guillotine choke for the NAAFS Light Heavyweight Championship, and Youngstown's Kevin Zalac earned a unanimous decision over Wheeling's Chris Goldbaugh with all three judges scoring the fight 29-28.
"We've never been here before and we've been working on coming here for quite a while," said Rebney. "Obviously MMA has just been legalized in West Virginia. It typically takes an event or two to typically lay the foundation down.
"We were at about two-thirds capacity tonight. Obviously you'd like to see a full house. I think we can get there. I'd like to see us come back. I'd like to see us give it another shot. Maybe in the fall or after we make our transition to Spike.
"We'd like to keep moving and keep building off what we did tonight. Look, it was a great show. Eight of the fights ultimately got finished. Our light heavies really delivered for us. I think it sends a good message out to the community, the surrounding area, Pittsburgh, and the like that it's a great show if we come back here."
Featherweight fight: Neil Johnson (7-4) defeats Brylan Van Artsdalen (7-4) by sub. (rear naked choke) at 4:29 of 2nd rd.
Middleweight fight: Jason Butcher (4-0) defeats Duane Bastress (5-2) by sub. (triangle choke) at 1:03 of 1st rd.
NAAFS Light Heavyweight title fight: Josh Stansbury (4-2) defeats Dan Spohn (6-3) by sub. (guillotine choke) at 2:36 of the 1st rd.
Catchweight (191 pounds) fight: Kevin Zalac (4-2) defeats Chris Goldbaugh (2-2) by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Heavyweight fight: Brett Rogers (12-4) defeats Kevin Asplund (15-2) by TKO at 5:00 of 2nd round (doctor stoppage due to cuts).
Light Heavyweight Tournament: Tim Carpenter (9-1) defeats Beau Tribolet (7-2) by sub. (armbar) at 4:51 of the 2nd rd.
Light Heavyweight Tournament: Emanuel Newton (18-6-1) defeats Roy Boughton (8-3) by sub. (rear naked choke) at 0:49 of 2nd rd.
Light Heavyweight Tournament: Attila Vegh (25-4) defeats Zelg Galesic (11-6) by sub. (rear naked choke) at 1:00 of 2nd rd.
Light Heavyweight Tournament: Travis Wiuff (67-14) defeats Chris Davis (10-4) by KO at 4:12 of the 1st rd.
Fight card changes:
E.J. Brooks vs. Joey Holt scratched due to Brooks not making weight and showing signs of concussion due to a car accident on Wednesday.
John Hawk vs. Tim Carpenter scratched due to Carpenter being pulled up to main card. Hawk did not fight.
Richard Hale scratched from light heavyweight tournament fight with Beau Tribolet due to illness. Carpenter stepped into Hale's spot in the LHW tourney.