ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - Daniel Straus is going to need a deposit slip.
The second time proved to be the charm for the 27-year old Straus, who, in his second appearance in a Bellator Featherweight Tournament Final, defeated Marlon Sandro via unanimous decision Friday night at Bellator 68 inside Caesar’s Atlantic City.
Nearly a year since his loss to Patricio Freire in the Bellator Season 4 Featherweight Tournament, Straus bounced back with unanimous-decision victories over Jeremy Spoon, Mike Corey and finally Sandro to earn at $100,000 payday and a date with either Freire or current champion Pat Curran for the Bellator featherweight title.
“It’s been a really, really long ride with a lot of bumps, a lot of bruises, a lot of tears and a lot of blood, but I’m here,” Straus said at the post-fight press conference.
Straus (20-4) outpointed the veteran Sandro 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 thanks to a much-improved striking game. He was getting the better of the dangerous Sandro in their exchanges and managed to stay away from the Brazilian’s looping right hand that has switched off several fighters over the course of his eight-year pro career. After two rounds Straus was comfortably ahead, but Sandro (22-4) nearly stunned him in the third round when he tried to sink in a standing arm-triangle. The choke looked tight – and it was – but Straus was able to get free and finish with a big slam that put the finishing touches on his biggest victory to date.
“It was tight,” Straus admitted. “I kinda saw it coming and I thought I could turn the corner, but he closed the distance quickly.
Straus knew his only chance of holding off the submission attempt was to stay on his feet.
“It would’ve been a wrap,” Straus said.
Since going 1-2 to start his career, Straus has won 19 of his last 21 fights. His only losses during that span have to against – fittingly so – Curran and Freire. He’ll get his chance for a measure of revenge no matter whomever he faces.
“I’m not looking for a grudge fight, I’m just looking to win that title no matter who has it,” Straus said.
Curran and Freire will most likely square off in the final summer series event, which could be in July or August, according to Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney. Straus will face the winner for the title sometime in late fall, Rebney also said.
Galvao advances to 135-pound final
Marcus Galvao (11-5 MMA, 3-2 BFC) overpowered Travis Marx (19-4 MMA, 1-1 BFC) to become the first to advance to this season’s bantamweight final. The 29-year old Brazilian peppered Marx with vicious kicks and effectively mixed in his boxing to control the standing portion of the fight. Good takedown defense kept Marx from moving the fight to the ground, and Galvao continued to out-strike him on their feet. Galvao took the two of the three rounds on the judges scorecards for a 29-28 victory across the board.
“It’s been a dream since a kid to win this tournament,” Galvao said through a translator.
It was emotional day for Galvao, who dedicated the fight to his mother, who passed away from cancer two weeks prior to the start of the tournament.
Held hooks ‘em again
Derrick Kennington knew exactly what he had to look out for, but in the end it didn’t matter.
The New Jersey native stepped in for his injured coach, UFC veteran Kurt Pellegrino, to take on submission specialist Marcin Held. He knew exactly the spots to stay away from, and certainly started strong when he knocked down Held with a punch in the opening minute. Kennington jumped on Held and started throwing bombs looking to finish the fight. Held was able to escape, however, and quickly went to his bread and butter move.
Held shot in for a takedown and dropped down for a leg lock. Kennington tried to spin free but Held had a firm lock on a heel hook and forced Kennington to tap at 2:08 of the first round.
“I went down but I recovered quickly,” Held said. “I took him down and did what I do best. I tried a heel hook and it worked. Next time I’ll have better standup.”
The 20-year old Pole won by submission for the seventh time to up his career mark to 13-2 and 2-1 in Bellator. Rebney continued to sing Held’s praises, calling him ‘The Polish version of Shinya Aoki’.
“He’s a spectacular submission artist,” Rebney said. “It’s hard for me to believe he’s just 20-years old.”
Rebney also liked what he saw from Kennington. Even though he didn’t make it out of the first round, he thinks the Pellegrino MMA product has earned another chance.
“Marcin Held is a submission freak but much like a lot of the great Japanese fighters if you can stay away from that aspect of their game you have a good chance to win the fight,” Rebney added. “But any mistake is fatal. Add that to the fact that it’s a big fight that is on TV and it’s a lot of pressure on somebody. There’s no shame in losing to a guy like Marcin Held, specifically in a way he beats everybody.”
“You have to applaud guys like that who are willing to step up. He didn’t crumble and he stepped up in an enormous way. A lot of other people wouldn’t have done that.”
Zaromskis, Spiritwolf entertain but still seek resolution
From five seconds to 10 minutes, this time there was actually plenty of substance to the matchup between Marius Zaromskis and Waachiim Spiritwolf.
But for the second straight time each left the cage with a sense of unfinished business.
After a dominating second round by Spiritwolf in which he nearly put Zaromskis way twice, the bout was called due to a deep cut over the right eye of Spiritwolf to give Zaromskis the TKO victory.
Spiritwolf was impressive in the first round by effectively moving into the clinch and staying inside Zaromskis’ dangerous kicks. He scored a pair of takedowns and briefly took his opponent’s back, ultimately doing enough to control the round.
Midway through the second round Zaromskis landed consecutive knees to the face of Spiritwolf and looked to have him hurt. But Spiritwolf countered by swinging away in a flurry that pinned Zaromskis against the cage. Zaromskis tried to scurry out of danger but Spiritwolf caught him with another punch that dropped him to the floor. Spiritwolf jumped on him and looked to finish, but Zaromskis was somehow able to regain his composure while Spiritwolf slowed as he ended the round in top position.
It looked like Spiritwolf was up 20-18 through two rounds and the crowd was fired up for a third round. But during their exchanges a significant cut had opened above Spiritwolf’s eye and the cage-side doctor determined it was too severe to continue. Spiritwolf looked to be in fairly good shape and was visibly upset by the stoppage. Zaromskis wasn’t even sure what was happening until the official decision was rendered.
“My hand was full of blood and I was like, ‘what’s going on’,” Zaromskis said. “I was worried maybe I’m cut. After I found out it was his head but I was waiting for the third round.”
The pair first met under the Strikeforce banner in 2010. That fight was deemed a no contest after an accidental eye poke by Zaromskis.
“We went from five seconds to 10 minutes,” Zaromskis said. “I’m ready for a third time if Bellator wants it.”
Zaromskis, the current DREAM welterweight champion, improves to 17-6 with his third consecutive victory.
Quick knockout highlights undercard
A heck of a lot happened in half a minute.
That was proven during the undercard bout between Aung La NSang and Jesus Martinez. Martinez opened the fight by quickly dropping NSang with punches and pouncing to finish. NSang quickly recovered, got back to his feet and returned the favor by sending Martinez to the mat with punches. NSang was able to land several clean strikes on the ground to force the TKO stoppage at 36 seconds of the first round.
Francios Amborg opened the event with a split-decision victory over Gregory Milliard at 185 pounds. Anthony Leone then defeated Claudio Ledesma via split decision at 135. Leone won 30-27 on two judges scorecards, but Ledesma was curiously scored to win the fight, 29-28, by one judge. An exciting, back-and-forth battle between Don Carlo-Clauss and Jacob Kirwan in the lightweight division produced a split-decision win for Carlo-Clauss.
The Kennington-Held bout was originally slated for the preliminary card, but was moved to the main card when the Carmelo Marrero-Seth Petruzelli fight was cancelled. A pre-fight medical exam revealed fluid in Petruzelli’s lungs, and a second opinion confirmed he could not fight.
Main Card Results
-Daniel Straus def. Marlon Sandro via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
-Marcos Galvao def. Travis Marx via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
-Marcin Held def. Derrick Kennington via submission (heel hook) – Round 1, 2:08
-Marius Zaromskis def. Waachiim Spiritwolf via TKO (doctor’s stoppage due to cut) – Round 2, 5:00
Preliminary Card Results
-Don Carlo-Clauss def. Jacob Kirwan via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
-Aung La Nsang def. Jesus Martinez via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 0:36
-Anthony Leone def. Claudio Ledesma via split decision (28-29, 30-27, 30-27)
-Francois Ambang def. Gregory Milliard via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)