On Thursday, March 28, Bellator held its 94th event from the USF Sun Dome in Tampa, Fla.

The event featured the conclusion of the Season 8 light heavyweight and lightweight tournaments.

In the 205-pound final, Russian Mikhail Zayats battled Emanuel Newton. Each fighter was a heavy underdog entering the tournament, but Zayats put himself on the map by stopping UFC veteran Renato “Babalu” Sobral in the opening round, while Newton upped the ante by knocking out tournament favorite Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal in the semifinals. The pair looked to claim the $100,000 prize, as well as a shot at recently crowned champion Attila Vegh.

The lightweight final pitted last-minute tournament participant Saad Awad against former welterweight David Rickels. Awad had stormed through the opening two rounds of the tournament with back-to-back knockout wins. Meanwhile, Rickels proved to be just as dangerous at 155 pounds en route to the final. The winner is set to take on the Michael Chandler-Dave Jansen winner.

Rounding out the main card was a welterweight collision between Luis Melo and Trey Houston, as well as a bantamweight bout pitting Rodrigo Lima vs. Ronnie Mann.

The four-fight main card aired live on Spike TV beginning at 10 p.m. ET, while seven preliminary card fights streamed live on the promotion’s website starting at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Newton edges out Zayats to win light heavyweight title shot

The main event featured the finals of the light heavyweight tournament as Emanuel Newton took on Mikhail Zayats in a three-round battle.

The pace of the fight was slow to start, as the 205-pound men felt one another out. But both men opened up with straight punches midway through. Newton helped his case by taking Zayats down after a close round concluded.

Zayats opened up more as the second round began, but neither fighter was able to take control of the striking exchanges. Zayats landed solid shots and a takedown in the final seconds, which may have awarded him the round.

Newton landed his biggest shot of the night in the final round, a straight punch that rocked Zayats, then went after a choke. Newton was too slippary to lock it up, and the two went back to trying to win the fight on the feet. As the fight ended, Newton had the upperhand by being on top of Zayats.

All three judges scored the bout 29-28 in favor of Newton, who earns a check for $100,000 and a rematch against light heavyweight champion Atila Vegh in the future.

Rickels wins lightweight tournament over Awad

With a check for $100,000 and a future lightweight title shot on the line, David Rickels and Saad Awad squared off in the finals of the 155 pound tournament finals, the co-main event of the evening.

Awad looked to landed quick shots from the start, but Rickels kept his hands up and answered back with strikes of his own. After standing for half the fight, Awad was able to take Rickels down and work from the top, controlling “The Caveman” after one round.

To start round two, Awad took Rickels down again, but Rickels answered back by returning to his feet and landing a takedown of his own. However, Awad reversed the position and regained top position. Rickels got to his feet with less than 30 seconds remaining, and the two threw leather until the horn sounded. But right as it did, Rickels landed a right hand that dropped Awad to the canvas. The referee ruled it as a knockout, giving Rickels the win.

The official ruling was a TKO by referee stoppage at 5:00 of the second round.

Melo submits Houston for spot in welterweight tournament

With a chance to be in the next welterweight tournament on the line, Luis Melo and Trey Houston went to battle in the biggest fight of their careers.

Melo and Houston came out quickly throwing wild shots, one of which by Melo, a kick, finding the cup of Houston. Houston was able to recover, but Melo took control of the fight from there. The Brazilian got the fight to the ground, and worked from different positions to land heavy shots while on top. Houston answered back after returning to his feet, but was taken down again before the opening round ended.

Houston needed to do more in round two, and did just that by taking Melo off his feet. Houston then worked for a choke, and had it tight for a moment, but Melo was able to escape. Melo then returned to his top gain as shown in the first round, moving from position to position on the mat. Even after the fast start by Houston, it was cancelled out by Melo controlling the later stages of the round.

Once again, Melo put Houston on his back, but this time, found a way to finish the fight. Melo locked up an arm-triangle choke, which forced Houston to tap at 1:09 of the third round.

Lima decisions Mann, earns spot in bantamweight tourney

In the first main card bout on Spike TV, Ronnie Mann made his debut at bantamweight, but was defeated by Brazilian Rodrigo Lima via unanimous decision.

Both men came out looking to strike, with Lima being the aggressor early on. Lima landed several hard shots to the chin of Mann, including a punch that rocked the Brit. After one round, the Brazilian Lima was up on the scorecards.

Lima continued to land crisp combinations on the feet, with Mann playing the role of the counter puncher. Mann pulled out a variety of strikes such as knees and kicks, but still didn’t throw enough to outmatch Lima.

Lima came out of gates quickly once again, and even brought the fight to the ground to control Mann on the mat. The former featherweight Mann, now at bantamweight, appeared to slow down as the fight went on, breathing out of his mouth while on his back. Mann transitioned out to take top position on Lima, but almost got caught in a triangle choke as Lima raised his hands as the final seconds ticked down.

All three judges scored the bout 30-27 in favor of Lima.

Emanuel Newton def. Mikhail Zayats by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) – light heavyweight tournament final
David Rickels def. Saad Awad by TKO (referee stoppage). Round 2, 5:00 – lightweight tournament final
Luis Melo def. Trey Houston by submission (arm-triangle choke). Round 3, 1:09
Rodrigo Lima def. Ronnie Mann by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Julien Williams def. Kenny Moss by submission (guillotine choke). Round 1, 3:19
Augusto Sakai def. Rob Horton by TKO (strikes). Round 2, 4:01
Jessica Aguilar def. Patricia Vidonic by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Joe Taimanglo def. Ronnie Rogers by submission (north-south choke). Round 2, 0:33
Edson Berto def. Bruno Carvalho by submission (heel hook). Round 1, 1:27
Tony Fryklund and Patrick Cenoble fight to a draw (29-27, 27-29, 28-28)
Felice Herrig def. Heather Clark by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)

Photo: Emanual Newton (L) squares of with Mikhail Zayats (Bellator)

About The Author

Corey Adams
Staff Writer

Corey Adams didn't grow up watching mixed martial arts, considering the UFC was just getting started the year he was born, but in his teenage years, witnessed the action and has fallen in love with the sport. Corey was the first to join The MMA Corner staff -- other than founder Josh Davis -- and has been writing for the site ever since. Corey attends Austin Peay State University, where he majors in Communications with a focus on journalism. When he's not covering MMA, Corey is still writing on many sports with both local and campus newspapers. His favorite sports teams are the Atlanta Braves and Denver Broncos. Follow him on Twitter at the link below.