Bellator traveled to the Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan., for a highly-anticipated welterweight title fight between the champion Ben Askren and MMA veteran Jay Hieron. Also on the card were the two heavyweight semifinal fights as Eric Prindle took on Ron Sparks and Neil Grove battled Thiago Santos. The event was televised live on MTV2.

 Askren takes split decision to retain title

In one of the most closely contested title fights in Bellator history, it was champion Ben Askren who was able to out-point the very tough Jay Hieron by split decision to retain his title.

In round one, everyone expected world champion wrestler Askren to shoot for a takedown right away, but the fight barely went to the ground. The two men traded with each other in an evenly matched round that could’ve gone either way.

Between rounds, the champion’s corner must have encouraged him to take the fight to the ground as Askren immediately landed a takedown in the second stanza. Askren remained in Hieron’s guard the entire round, easily allowing the champ to take round two.

Now with the fight either at a round a piece or Askren up two rounds to none, both men knew they had to step their game up and take control of the fight. The two remained standing early in the third, but Askren once again landed a solid double-leg takedown midway through. However, Hieron was able to slip out to get back to his feet, but it wasn’t a dominating round for either man.

The bout entered the championship rounds, a place Askren had the advantage of entering twice before in his career. Asken went back to his comfort zone of the mat and dominated with numerous knees to the body. But once again, Hieron was able to find his way out and get to his feet, but couldn’t land any punishing blows to the champion.

Coming into the final round, the contest was very even, with either fighter having a chance to earn the win. Bottom line: Round five belonged to the challenger Hieron. He was able to successfully keep the fight standing and take control of the striking game. Everyone in Memorial Hall knew this decision would be very close.

After many cheers and boos from the crowd, it was Askren who walked out of the cage with the belt around his waist with a split decision win.

Santos submits Grove in round one

As expected, this fight did not see the second round as Thiago Santos was able to submit Neil Grove.

Grove came right after Santos from the beginning and looked to strike. However, Santos was prepared and landed a punch to Grove that dropped him. This allowed the Brazilian to go to his comfort zone on the map and he was able to quickly lock in a rear-naked choke to force Grove to tap.

Santos becomes the second finalist of the heavyweight tournament with a 38-second submission win.

 Prindle knocks out Sparks in under a minute

Let’s just say this fight did not last long either, with Prindle getting his hand raised in the end.

Sparks threw a leg kick, but was countered immediately by Prindle with a big left hand that dropped Sparks, who was out even before the follow-up punches came.

The finish for Prindle came at just 0:40 of the first round and now puts him in the finals of the heavyweight tournament.

Main Card Results

Ben Askren def. Jay Hieron by split decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47) to retain Bellator welterweight championship

Thaigo Santos def. Neil Grove by submission (rear-naked choke). Round 1, 0:38

Eric Prindle def. Ron Sparks by knockout (punch). Round 1, 0:40

Undercard Results

Jeremy Spoon def. Adam Schindler by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)

Marcio Navarro def. Rudy Bears by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)

Kelvin Tiller def. Dan Spohn by split decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)

Emanual Brooks def. William de Souza by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 29-27)

Jacob Akin def. Jeimeson Saudino by submission (rear-naked choke). Round 1, 3:26

Aaron Ely def. Owen Evinger by submission (rear-naked choke). Round 1, 3:45

Daniel Gallemore def. Derrick Ruffin by retirement. Round 2, 5:00

Photo: Ben Askren (L) and Jay Hieron staredown (Bellator)