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Rick Hawn and Jay Hieron at Bellator 43

Rick Hawn and Jay Hieron at Bellator 43

Former IFL welterweight champion Jay Hieron kept his return streak alive on Saturday night at Bellator 43 in Newkirk, Okla., moving into a title fight with Bellator champion Ben Askren.

Hieron used his experience and savvy to keep former Olympic Judoka Rick Hawn at bay for the better part of their three-round bout. While Hawn continues to sharpen his striking arsenal, Hieron used an evasive countering style against Hawn’s aggressive, pressuring tactics.

Hawn closed strong, improving as the seconds ticked away, but Hieron was sharper earlier in the fight, constantly stinging Hawn with an array of punches, knees, and kicks, as he circled away from Hawn’s power.

It was a close fight, with an exciting flurry at the final bell, but Hieron left with cage with a split decision victory and a ticket to a title shot.

“Hard work pays off, I live by that,” said Hieron, $100,000 richer as the tournament champion.

“Askren, shine up my belt for me, I’m coming for it!”

Bryan Baker at one time fell just one fight short of a Bellator middleweight title shot, but he’s on the road to recovery. Since losing in Season 2 middleweight tournament final, Baker has won back-to-back fights, the second of which was an impressive knockout victory over UFC veteran Joe Riggs on Saturday night.

The opening round was primarily a long feeling out process; although Baker landed a couple head kicks to keep Riggs on his heels.

Round two was much the same, albeit at a higher pace than the first, but it was Baker that found the button first. One left hook on the chin sent Riggs face down… fight over.

“That’s exactly what I was looking for to get in, finish, and show my greatness,” Baker said after the fight.

Former WEC bantamweight champion continued his run back towards the top of the division by submitting Jose Vega. It was obvious from the onset that Beebe was searching for the guillotine, latching it on a couple of times early in the opening round from the standing position. Slightly more than four minutes in, he locked it on for good when the fight hit the ground.

With the victory, Beebe ran his streak to four consecutive victories, and joined Eduardo Dantas in Bellator’s Season 5 bantamweight tournament.

Heavyweight bruiser Ron Sparks may have wanted to pound Vince Lucero out, but it wasn’t to be. He did batter Lucero early with some heavy punches, but put him on the mat by kicking his leg out. Spark dropped down into side control and was served up with a keylock for the tap.

Bellator 43 Main Card Results:
-Jay Hieron def. Rick Hawn by Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
-Bryan Baker def. Joe Riggs by KO (Punch) at 3:53, R2
-Chase Beebe def. Jose Vega by Submission (Guillotine Choke) at 4:06, R1
-Ron Sparks def. Vince Lucero by Submission (Keylock) at 2:18, R1

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