On Wednesday, July 31, Bellator MMA returned with its final event of its Summer Series, its 97th event overall, from the Santa Ana Star Casino in Rio Rancho, N.M.

The stacked card was headlined by two title fights, two tournament finals and the semifinals of the promotion’s bantamweight tournament. In the main event of the evening, undefeated lightweight champion Michael Chandler faced off with recent tournament winner David “Caveman” Rickels. The night’s co-main event featured undefeated welterweight kingpin Ben Askren taking on fast-rising Russian Andrey Koreshkov.

Also on the Spike TV-broadcast main card, the Summer Series light heavyweight champion was decided as Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal clashed with Jacob Noe and a new heavyweight title challenger was determined as Ryan Martinez battled Vitaly Minakov.

The 14-fight card was split between a five-fight main card on Spike TV that kicked off at 7 p.m. ET and a nine-fight preliminary card. Four preliminary card bouts streamed on Spike.com beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET.

Chandler knocks out Rickels to retain lightweight title

Lightweight champion Michael Chandler put his title on the line for the second time at Bellator 97 against David “Caveman” Rickels.

The champion came out looking to work his hands early, while Rickels tried to keep things compeitive by staying in the face of his opponent. Rickels landed a solid left hand, but was countered by Chandler as he tagged Rickels to put him on his back. Chandler swarned and finished the challenger off with quick ground and pound shots to retain his title.

Askren dominates Koreshkov to retain strap

In the co-main event, welterweight kingpin Ben Askren put his strap on the line against Andrey Koreshkov.

Koreshkov tried to touch gloves with Askren, but the champion looked for a takedown instead. Askren locked up a guillotine, but when Koreshkov slipped out, he attacked the back of the Russian. Askren mixed up his attacks by landing punches and elbows, while also searching for submission holds.

The challenger came out with a takedown attempt, but Askren made reversing it look easy. At one point in round two, Askren chanted “USA!” to the crowd. Askren transitioned to multiple dominant position to put another round in the books.

Askren continued his dominance on the mat the entire duration of the fight, and in the fourth round, the referee had seen enough to stop the bout.

“King Mo” stops Noe to earn light-heavyweight title shot

Two heavy-handed light heavyweights Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal and Jacob Noe squared off to determine the tournament champion.

Noe came out throwing leg kicks early in round one, but Lawal easily took Noe to the mat. With Noe down, Lawal landed a legal knee to the body before returning to his feet, and followed with another double-leg takedown. Lawal picked his spot to lands punches until the bell rang.

“King Mo” landed another takedown to begin round two. Noe looked for a guillotine from the bottom, but lost it and punched from the bottom. Lawal rained down hammerfists while inside the guard of Noe as his opponent defended, and easily earned another round on the scorecards.

Round three was another rinse and repeat round for Lawal as he landed an early takedown and went to work on Noe. As the round progressed, Lawal had battered the face of Noe. After a couple more punches, the referee called an end to the fight.

With the win, “King Mo” earns a check for $100,000, as well as a future title shot.

Minakov finishes Martinez to win heavyweight tournament

The heavyweight tournament crown was decided as Ryan Martinez went to battle with Vitaly Minakov.

Martinez looked to load up his punches in round one, while the Russian was more technical by clinching against the cage to avoid the heavy hands of his opponent. Both men kept a steady pace in the round, while also finding a way to do damage, Martinez with punches, Minakov with knees.

Minakov brought the fight against the cage once again as Martinez bled from his nose. Minakov landed an illegal knee below the belt of Martinez, and the referee took one point away from the Russian. Martinez caught Minakov a counter punch and used good head movement to close round two.

After the point deduction, the fight was up for grabs in the final round. Minakov landed a crucial double-leg takedown and transitioned into full mount midway through the third round. Minakov landed an array of elbow with his weight on Martinez, then landed right hands to finish the job.

Minakov moves on to challenge fellow Russian Alexander Volkov for the heavyweight title in the future.

“Pitbull” knocks out Downing in second round

Kicking off the stacked main card was a featherweight match-up between former RFA champion Jared Downing and Patricio “Pitbull” Freire.

Freire rocked Downing very early in round one, and pounced for a guillotine attempt. Downing was able to pop his head up and remain on top, however. After a break up by the referee, the two 145-pound fighters returned to their feet. In the striking area, “Pitbull” held a clear advantage by peppering Downing with shots. Downing landed a late takedown as time expired.

In round two, the powerful strikes of Freire continued. “Pitbull” rocked Downing over and over again on the feet until Downing finally fell down to the ground, forcing the bout to be stopped.

Spike.com Preliminary Card Summary

Undefeated lightweight prospect Bubba Jenkins made his Bellator debut on Wednesday, and impressed with a second-round TKO over Mike Barreras. Jenkins targeted the injured left eye of Barreras and easily landed a takedown. From there, Jenkins was able to pound him out to get his hand raised.

Anthony Leone followed with a third-round submission of his own to advance to the finals of the tournament. Leone earned a takedown over his opponent Frank Baca in the final round, took his back, and finished by rear-naked choke. Leone will meet Silva at a later date with a future bantamweight title shot and check for $100,000 on the line.

In the first of two bantamweight tournament semifinal fights, Brazilians faced off with Rafael Silva submitting Rodrigo Lima to advance to the finals. Silva set up a takedown with kicks, then slameed Lima to the mat. Once there, he transitioned to the back of Lima and forced a tap due to rear-naked choke.

To kick off the prelims on Spike.com, one of Bellator’s top prospects took on Cris Leyva. The wrestling of Brooks proved to be too much for Leyva in the fight after a suplex in round one. Brooks stuck with his strong point and ended up finishing his opponent with strikes in the third round.

Michael Chandler def. David Rickels by knockout (strikes). Round 1, 0:44 – for Bellator lightweight title
Ben Askren def. Andrey Koreshkov by TKO (strikes). Round 4, 2:58 – to retain Bellator welterweight title
Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal def. Jacob Noe by verbal submission (strikes). Round 3, 2:51 – light-heavyweight tournament final
Vitaly Minakov def. Ryan Martinez by TKO (strikes). Round 3, 4:02 – heavyweight tournament final
Patricio “Pitbull” Freire def. Jared Downing by TKO (strikes). Round 2, 0:54
Will Brooks def. Cris Leyva by TKO (strikes). Round 3, 2:20
Rafael Silva def. Rodrigo Lima by submission (rear-naked choke). Round 3, 2:03 – bantamweight tournament semifinal
Anthony Leone def. Frank Baca by submission (rear-naked choke). Round 3, 1:07 – bantamweight tournament semifinal
Bubba Jenkins def. Mike Barreras by TKO (strikes). Round 2, 1:05
Jeremy Kimball def. Keith Berry by knockout (strikes). Round 2, 1:45
Shawn Bunch def. Russell Wilson by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Javier Palacios def. Richard Jacques by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Adrian Cruz def. Felipe Chavez by TKO (strikes). Round 2, 4:24
Donald Sanchez def. Cliff Wright by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)

Photo: Michael Chandler has his arm raised in victory (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

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.