After the most successful season in the promotion’s history, Bellator was back tonight with the first of three Summer Series events aimed at naming a few new title-contenders and keeping fans entertained until the organization returns on a weekly basis this fall. Specifically, Bellator 96 featured the first round of two four-man tournaments highlighting talent in both the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions.
On the “big boy” side of things, unbeaten Russian Vitaly Minakov (11-0) took on 6’5” slugger Ron Sparks (8-2) and seasoned veteran Rich Hale (21-5-1) attempted to stop the momentum of Ryan Martinez (10-2). Meanwhile, former Strikeforce champions saw action at 205 pounds with Renato Sobral (37-11) squaring off against Jacob Noe (12-2) and Mo Lawal (10-2) meeting Seth Petruzelli (14-8) respectively.
Both heavyweight fights ended with opening round knockouts, seeing Martinez and Minakov advance to a tilt with a title-shot on the line, while Noe pulled off an upset over “Babalu” by peppering him with strikes to the point the referee intervened despite Sobral still standing and Lawal blasted Petruzelli into la-la land with a huge shot from above.
Also worth mentioning, Sobral announced his retirement after his clash’s conclusion, walking away after more than 15 years in the sport.
Read below for a rundown of Bellator 96 outcomes:
Jarrod Card def. Chas Skelly via Unanimous Decision
Keith Berry def. Cortez Coleman via Split Decision
Mike Maldonado def. Chavous Smith via Submission Round 1 (Rear-Naked Choke)
Justin McNally def. Steven Artoff via Verbal Submission Round 1 (Triangle Choke/Armbar)
Derek Campos def. Brandon Girtz via Unanimous Decision
Brandon Halsey def. Joe Yaeger via Split Decision
Ryan Martinez def. Rich Hale via Knockout Round 1 (Strikes)
Raphael Butler def. Jermiah O’Neal via TKO Round 1 (Strikes)
Damon Jackson def. Keith Miner via TKO Round 1 (Strikes)
War Machine def. Blas Avena via TKO Round 1 (Strikes)
Vitaly Minakov def. Ron Sparks via TKO Round 1 (Strikes)
Jacob Noe def. Renato Sobral via TKO Round 3 (Referee Stoppage)
Mo Lawal def. Seth Petruzelli via Knockout Round 1 (Strikes)
* – Taking place after main card
PHOTO CREDIT – BELLATOR