Bellator once again returned to its familiar stomping grounds of the Casino Rama in Rama, Ontario, Canada for its 79th event. On the card heavyweights Richard Hale and Thiago Santos battled for a spot in the Season Seven tournament final. Also, featherweights Mike Richman and Shahbulat Shamhalaev looked to punch their ticket to the promotion’s 145-pound final.

As always, the night’s main card aired live on MTV2, while the preliminary card streamed live on Spike.com.

Hale finishes Santos with strikes

Richard Hale is quickly showing why a move to heavyweight was the right move, despite previously making the light heavyweight tournament finals. The American survived an early storm from Brazilian Thiago Santos to come back and claim a spot in the season seven tournament final.

Santos opened the fight by rocking Hale with a big right hand. He followed with a left hand that saw Hale stumble and Santos looked for a standing guillotine. Hale escaped, but ended up on his back. Hale managed to regain his footing and found a second wind. He bloodied the Brazilian by knocking out one of his teeth, forcing Santos to turtle on the ground. Hale smelled the finish and dropped heavy shots until the referee waived off the contest.

“I’m here for the belt and I hope you enjoyed the show,” Hale declared in his victory speech.

Shamhalaev shocks Richman to earn spot in finals

Russian featherweight Shahbulat Shamhalaev scored the biggest upset of the night as he finished off former Marine Mike Richman in under two minutes in their semifinal clash.

Richman opened the fight with his typical aggressive nature, but Shamhalaev was quick to counter at any opportunity. The Russian dumped Richman on his back after catching a leg kick and sweeping out his back leg. The fight-ending blow came as Richman looked for body shot, leaving his chin exposed for a Shamhalaev right hand. Richman crashed to the ground and the referee quickly halted the action.

Shamhalaev became the first finalist in the season seven featherweight tournament.

Lima crushes Ortiz

In his first fight since dropping a five-round decision to Bellator champion Ben Askren, Douglas Lima showed why he won the season five welterweight tournament with a lopsided performance against Jacob Ortiz.

Lima’s striking prowess came into play early and often throughout the contest. The opening frame saw him connect with an overhand right that dropped Ortiz, but Lima could not find the finish.

In the middle round, Lima poured it on, again dropping Ortiz. Lima finished the round with an onslaught along the fence after a head kick that sent Ortiz crashing to the mat. Luckily for Ortiz, the bell prevented Lima from closing out the fight.

Ortiz’s luck would run out in the final stanza. Lima continued to press forward and scored repeatedly with his hands. A right hand sent Ortiz backpedaling and a follow-up head kick from Lima saw Ortiz’s knees buckle. The referee had seen enough and waived off the bout.

The win secured Lima a welterweight tournament slot in 2013.

Ford dominates Baker

If Canadian Ryan Ford’s first bout under the Bellator banner didn’t do enough to put make the welterweight division take notice, his domination of veteran Kyle Baker should have.

Ford quickly put Baker on his back with a barrage of strikes, but he didn’t let up from the top position. Heavy punches from Ford had Baker bleeding and swelling from his right eye before the midway point of the opening frame. Baker’s chin somehow withstood the onslaught, but Ford clearly took the frame.

It was more of the same in the second stanza as Ford mixed punches, elbows and kicks to repeatedly hurt Baker. However, Ford took the fight to the ground and Baker was able to reverse and take the dominant position. Baker briefly threatened with a rear-naked choke, but Ford escaped and finished the round on top.

The pace slowed in the final round, but Ford continued to score with his strikes. Baker again showed his heart and resiliency by taking Ford’s back, but it was short-lived as Ford regained the top position and finished strong.

All three judges scored the fight in Ford’s favor, which likely secured a spot in the next 170-pound tournament for the TriStar product.

FULL RESULTS
Richard Hale def. Thiago Santos by TKO (strikes). Round 1, 3:31
Shahbulat Shamhalaev def. Mike Richman by KO (strikes). Round 1, 1:45
Douglas Lima def. Jacob Ortiz by TKO (strikes). Round 3, 4:50
Ryan Ford def. Kyle Baker by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Christ Franck def. Marcus Aurelio by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Vitaly Minakov def. Vladimir Starcencov by TKO (strikes). Round 2, 0:27
Magomedrasul Khasbulaev def. Josh Pulsifer by submission (rear-naked choke). Round 1, 3:30
Guillaume DeLorenzi def. Jonny Carson by submission (rear-naked choke). Round 1
Josh Appelt def. Ed Carpenter by submission. Round 1

Photo: Richard Hale (Keith Mills/Sherdog)