There would be no controversy this time around.

Richard Hale advanced to the Season 7 heavyweight tournament finals with a first-round technical knockout victory over Thiago Santos. Referee Dan Miragliotta stopped the bout at the 3:31 mark of the opening frame.

Hale (21-4-1, 6-1 Bellator) hung tough during a furious opening salvo from Santos (11-2, 3-1, 1 NC, Bellator), who appeared to have his adversary reeling with a series of heavy punches in the opening moments. The Brazilian then attempted a standing guillotine before executing a takedown and moving to side control. Unable to earn a finish, Santos slowed considerably from there.

“He definitely rocked me. It’s nice to be back at heavyweight,” said Hale, who had previously competed at 205 pounds. “The big question before this fight is can I get hit by a heavyweight. I’m here to stay; I’m here for the belt.”

Santos was bleeding from the mouth and appeared to spit out a tooth during a tie-up against the fence. After Miragliotta restarted the bout, Santos desperately lunged forward to engage, and Hale took control, landing a series of strikes as a defenseless “Big Monster” turtled up on the canvas.

K. Mills

Shamhalaev folded Richman with a punch.

Shamhalaev KOs Richman

Shahbulat Shamhalaev punched his ticket to the Bellator Season 7 featherweight tournament finals in emphatic fashion, knocking out Mike Richman with a beautifully timed counter right hand.

The stoppage came 1:45 into the opening frame, giving Shamhalaev the fourth recorded knockout of his MMA career. The 29-year-old Russian will face the winner of the Wagnney Fabiano-Rad Martinez matchup at a later date.

“I’m ready to take on just about anybody,” Shamhalaev (11-1-1, 2-0 Bellator) said through a translator.

Both fighters entered the bout with no shortage of confidence in their hands, but it was Richman (13-2, 2-1 Bellator) who made a critical mistake.

As “The Marine” threw a punch to the body, Shamhalaev took advantage of the opening and dropped his man with an overhand right. He needed just two more follow-up punches on the ground before referee Yves Lavigne called a halt to the bout.

K. Mills

Lima dispatched Ortiz in the third frame.

Lima Overwhelms Ortiz

Douglas Lima showed no lasting effects from his Bellator 64 loss to Ben Askren, as he scored a third-round technical knockout victory over Jacob Ortiz in a 180-pound catch-weight affair.

Lima stunned his foe with a head kick and then finished the job with vicious ground-and-pound from top position with just 10 seconds remaining in the final frame.

The Season 5 welterweight tournament champion had opportunities to finish the bout in both the first and second periods. Ortiz came out with his hands low and paid the price when Lima floored him with a right hand early in the opening round. It was all Lima from there, as the Brazilian controlled much of the frame on the ground, taking back mount and hunting for a rear-naked choke. Lima had another chance for a stoppage in round two after hurting Ortiz with a right hand, but the Power MMA product was saved by the horn.

“All the respect [to Ortiz]. The guy has a head made of bricks,” said Lima, who has won 10 of his last 11 fights.

K. Mills

Ford (top) pounded on Baker for three rounds.

Ford Bloodies, Outpoints Baker

Ryan Ford started with a flurry, then held on to earn a unanimous decision over the gritty Kyle Baker in a welterweight contest. Judges scored the bout 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 in favor of Ford (19-4, 2-0 Bellator), who went the distance for just the second time in 19 professional victories.

“It was a little bit wild. I want to thank Kyle Baker for taking the fight on such short notice,” said Ford, who stepped in when UFC veteran Paul Daley couldn’t compete due to via issues. “Out of all my 23 fights, he’s the toughest guy for sure.”

Baker (12-7, 0-1 Bellator) somehow survived a physical assault from Ford in the opening stanza. The TriStar Gym product pummeled his foe with heavy ground-and-pound, opening a cut and causing visible swelling around Baker’s right eye. Despite absorbing heavy fire from Ford, Baker never wilted.

Ford’s pace slowed significantly over the bout’s final 10 minutes, but the Canadian did enough to maintain control as a determined Baker continued to press forward.

Franck Earns Split Nod Over Capoeira Ace Aurelio

In preliminary action, Frenchman Christ Franck wore down Marcus Aurelio, earning a split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29) over the capoeira specialist in a welterweight clash; Russian heavyweight Vitaly Minakov earned a technical knockout victory over Vladimir Starcencov 27 seconds into round two; Magomedrasul Khasbulaev submitted Josh Pulsifer with a rear-naked choke at the 3:30 mark of round one in a featherweight duel; Josh Appelt got by Ed Carpenter with a first round TKO at 3:20; Guillaume DeLorenzi rear-naked choked Johnny Carson at 4:49 of the opening period.
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