Phil Davis spoiled the Bellator debut of former UFC title challenger Yoel Romero on Saturday night, putting together a well-rounded performance to take a split decision win (30-27 Davis, 29-28 Romero & 30-26 Davis).
The matchup headlined Bellator 266 from the SAP Center in San Jose, California, USA.
Romero had a notably slow start to the fight, not throwing many shots in the opening round. This allowed Davis to take control of the fight in stand-up exchanges, throwing and landing at a solid pace.
Davis connected with a right cross in the second round that seemingly got Romero’s attention.
While the first takedown attempt from Davis was stuffed in the second round, he was able to get Romero down later in the frame.
A large part of Davis’ success in the third round happened on the ground, where he had controlling positions and landed strikes periodically.
Romero was making his first appearance in Bellator since signing with the promotion late last year.
Romero’s Bellator debut was first expected to take place earlier this year as part of the Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix. Plans changed after Romero was removed from his quarter-final fight, failing pre-fight medicals for the bout.
Romero made the move to Bellator after a multi-year run in the UFC that culminated with a title fight against UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya in early 2020.
Davis was booked against Romero after being eliminated in the first round of the light heavyweight bracket, losing to current 205-pound champion Vadim Nemkov.
Davis shouted out his parents after the fight, revealing that both of them started a battle with cancer this year.
“By god’s grace they are still here … I love you guys and I cannot do this without you,” said Davis to his parents in his post-fight interview.
Grappling Ace Gracie Earns First TKO Win
Grappling expert Neiman Gracie showed his boxing skills in the co-main event, overwhelming Mark Lemminger for a stoppage win in the second minute of action.
Gracie backed Lemminger up against the cage with a clinch in the second minute. He unloaded with punches, hurting Lemminger with an uppercut before a fast flurry forced the fight to end.
The fight was the first TKO win of Gracie’s career.
“I don’t need to take people down to win fights anymore. But if I take you down… Oh boy,” said Gracie in his post-fight interview.
Gracie called out three big names after his win, mentioning Michael Venom Page, Jason Jackson and Bellator Welterweight Champion Yaroslav Amosov.
Saturday’s co-main event put Gracie back into the win column, coming back from a decision loss he took against Jackson in April.
Lemminger has now lost three of his past five bouts. He earned a stoppage victory in June, defeating Demarques Jackson with strikes.
Bennett Puts on Stellar Performance, Gets First Bellator Win
Invicta FC vet DeAnna Bennett put on a strong performance on Saturday night, defeating Alejandra Lara via unanimous decision for her first win in Bellator.
Bennett aggressively hunted for a finish early, getting the fight to the ground to alternate between landing strikes and attempting submissions.
Bennett showed her stand-up in the second round, showcasing how her striking has improved. Bennett was on her back for most of the third round, although she was able to hurt Lara in the position with upkicks.
Bennett lost her Bellator debut last year, getting submitted by former UFC title challenger Liz Carmouche.
Lara is now on a two-fight losing streak. She lost a close split decision earlier this year, getting defeated by then-undefeated Kana Watanabe.
Rogers Utilizes Wrestling Ability For Decision Over Karakhanyan
The wrestling skills of Saul Rogers secured him a unanimous decision victory over veteran Georgi Karakhanyan on Saturday’s main card.
Rogers was able to notch lots of control time throughout the fight, taking Karakhanyan down and frequently being in the better position.
Karakhanyan had Rogers in trouble briefly in the second round, landing a flying knee that visibly had him stunned.
Rogers was bouncing back after being submitted in a fight against Mads Burnell in April.
Karakhanyan had some momentum coming into the bout, having defeated Bryce Logan and Kiefer Crosbie at recent Bellator cards.
Parrish Earns Upset, Hands Edwards First Loss
Bellator newcomer Ben Parrish opened the main card with a huge upset, stopping prospect Christian Edwards in the first round with strikes.
Edwards was dropped hard early in the first round with a left cross as part of a combination. The fight was stopped after Parrish landed some ground and pound.
The fight put Parrish back into the win column after taking his sole pro loss in 2019. The fight, a loss, came due to a leg injury.
Parrish was a big underdog for the fight, being a +630 underdog, per Tapology.
Edwards entered the fight as an undefeated prospect, being a fighter that has been developed in Bellator since 2019.
The Rest of the Card
Former LFA Light Heavyweight Champion Alex Polizzi handed Grant Neal his first pro loss in the featured prelim, battling to a close split decision victory after three rounds.
LFA and “Dana White’s Contender Series” alum Anthony Adams won his Bellator debut on the prelims, earning a unanimous decision victory over Khalid Murtazaliev. The fight was Murtazaliev’s second appearance in the promotion, as he earned a win against Fabio Aguiar back in April.
Bobby Seronio III had a dominant performance in his pro debut, defeating short-notice opponent Socrates Hernandez via unanimous decision.
Abraham Vaesau’s explosive punches were on display on the prelims, finishing Albert Gonzales in the first round with strikes. After hurting Gonzales with numerous strikes, Vaesau dropped him with a right hook to end the fight.
Shane Keefe scored his second pro win, going the distance for a unanimous decision victory against Rhalan Gracie. Keefe now has two pro wins as a pro, including a head kick stoppage he earned early this year. The bout was Gracie’s return to MMA after over a decade out of the cage. He remains winless as a pro.
Coming off an undefeated four-fight amateur run, Edwin De Los Santos had a dominant pro debut against Jon Adams. De Los Santos stopped the fight in the first round, dropping him with a body kick before following up with shots on the ground.
Two-time NCAA wrestling Division I National Champion Jesse Deldago had a solid pro debut to open the prelims, using his athletic background to keep Joshua Dillon on his back for three rounds and win via decision.
Bout 12: Phil Davis def. Yoel Romero via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 11: Neiman Gracie def. Mark Lemminger via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 2:27)
Bout 10: DeAnna Bennett def. Alejandra Lara via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 9: Saul Rogers def. Georgi Karakhanyan via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 8: Ben Parrish def. Christian Edwards via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 0:38)
Preliminary Card (7:00PM EDT / 4:00PM PDT) (Youtube)
Bout 7: Alex Polizzi def. Grant Neal via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 6: Anthony Adams def. Khalid Murtazaliev via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 5: Bobby Seronio III def. Socrates Hernandez via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 4: Abraham Vaesau def. Albert Gonzales via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 2:17)
Bout 3: Shane Keefe def. Rhalan Gracie via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 2: Edwin De Los Santos def. Jon Adams via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 3:29)
Bout 1: Jesse Delgado def. Joshua Dillon via Decision, Unanimous