On Friday, Sept. 13, Bellator MMA hosted its 99th event from the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, Calif.

The event featured the opening round of the season nine featherweight tournament with eight 145-pound fighters looking to punch their tickets to the semifinal round.

In the main event, former UFC competitor Diego Nunes took on fellow Brazilian Patricio “Pitbull” Freire. Nunes was released from the UFC earlier this year after going 3-3 inside the Octagon. Freire bounced back from a loss to current Bellator champion Pat Curran with a second-round knockout of Jared Downing in July.

Rounding out the tournament field, Strikeforce veteran Justin Wilcox faced off with Akop Stepanyan, Desmond Green clashed with Fabricio Guerreiro, and Andrew Fisher took on Joe Taimanglo.

Also on the televised portion of the event, veteran light heavyweights Houston Alexander and Vladimir Matyushenko looked to earn a spot in the promotion’s next 205-pound tournament.

The night’s five-fight main card aired live on Spike TV beginning at 9 p.m. ET. The six-fight preliminary card streamed live on Spike.com starting at 7 p.m. ET.

“Pitbull” knocks out Nunes

Patricio “Pitbull” Freire made quick work of Diego Nunes to earn the final spot in the semifinals of the featherweight tournament

Nunes came out throwing a variety of kicks; none of which landed on the composed Freire. Pitbull then pounced with a short left hand that dropped Nunes. Freire followed up with shots on the ground and that was all she wrote.

Matyushenko bests Alexander

Vladimir Matyushenko earned a unanimous decision victory over Houston Alexander in both fighters’ Bellator debut.

The two veterans felt each other out for the first minute of the fight until Matyushenko threw a leg kick. Alexander caught a second kick and landed a straight right to the body. Alexander was able to briefly end up on top of Matyushenko and land multiple body shots,but Matyushenko was able to reverse and end up on top of Alexander. Alexander quickly got back up to his feet but was taken down by a throw from Matyushenko. The Janitor was able to mount Alexander briefly, but a scramble allowed Alexander to get back to his feet.

Matyushenko threw the first strikes of the second round as well stepping in with left and right hands. Matyushenko then landed a very solid left hook to the head, but Alexander was able to shake it off. Alexander went for a takedown after ducking under a leaping right hand from Matyushenko, but was not successful. The latter half of the round was largely uneventful with Matyushenko staying slightly more active with the jab.

Alexander looked to be a bit more active to start the final round. Alexander landed a jab to the body, but wasn’t able to complete an outside trip attempt. Matyushenko was able to score a takedown shortly after. It was brief however as Alexander was able to get back to his feet and score a takedown of his own. But just as in the first round, Matyushenko immediately reversed and was able to take Alexander’s back and grind out the rest of the round with his grappling.

The judges rewarded the Belarusian for his efforts on the scorecards.

Wilcox stuns Stepanyan

Justin Wilcox scored a comeback submission win over Akop Stepanyan to advance in the season nine featherweight tournament.

After a touch of gloves Wilcox missed on powerful right hand and a head kick. Stepanyan began to fire leg kicks, knocking Wilcox off his feet twice. Wilcox shot in for a takedown after the second leg kick, but Stepanyan successfully sprawled. Stepanyan continued with the kicks, landing a stiff one to the body and dropped Wilcox once again with a leg kick. Wilcox dropped Stepanyan with a punch late in the round, but the Russian brushed it off as if it were a slip. Stepanyan closed the round landing a spinning body kick.

Stepanyan again kicked Wilcox to the ground early in the second after a jumping strike. Wilcox began severely limping and Stepanyan took advantage by landing a huge spinning back kick to the head. Wilcox was able to recuperate and land a takedown, but the kick opened up a huge gash on the back of his head. Stepanyan looked to get back to his feet, but ended up allowing Wilcox to take his back. Wilcox quickly pounced on a rear-naked choke. Stepanyan went to sleep and Wilcox earned a huge comeback victory.

Guerreiro ekes past Green

Fabricio Guerreiro won a close decision over Desmond Green to secure a spot in the featherweight tournament semifinals.

Guerreiro looked to fire off first with a one-two combination, but neither punch landed flush. Green looked to get off, faking a takedown but missing on an uppercut. Guerreiro surprised Green with a hip toss takedown but Green immediately returned to his feet. The rest of the round stayed on the feet with Guerriero being the more aggressive fighter against the slightly tentative Green. Green looked to steal the round landing his first takedown with seconds remaining.

Guerreiro started round two by throwing straight low kicks at the knee of Green and a head kick that was blocked. Guerreiro then took down the wrestler once again. Green got back to his feet, but Guerreiro took his back. Guerreiro wasn’t able to do much damage only landing knees to the thigh. Green was finally able to break free and create some distance in the final 90 seconds of the round. Green pressed Guerreiro up against the cage but was not able to complete the takedown. Herb Dean briefly paused the fight to let Green recover from an accidental low blow. Green was then once again able to score a takedown in the final few seconds of a round.

Green finally looked to be the aggressor to start the round. He pressed Guerreiro against the cage and get on his back. Green connected with knees to the thigh and looked to press all of his weight on Guerreiro in an attempt for a takedown. Guerreiro eventually summersaulted out of the bad position into an ill-fated triangle choke attempt. Green immediately got out of the submission and the fight returned to the feet. Both fighters went for takedowns in an attempt to take the round with only Guerreiro being successful, albeit extremely brief.

Taimanglo outworks Fisher

Joe Taimanglo used unorthodox striking to confuse Andrew Fisher to become a featherweight tournament semifinalist.

Fisher caught an early leg kick from Taimanglo and took the fight to the ground. Both featherweights quickly scrambled to the feet where Taimanglo landed a few wild strikes before earning a brief takedown. Referee John McCarthy briefly stopped the fight after a second clash of the heads and warned both fighters to be careful. Taimanglo continued the rest of the round with some wild combinations that occasionally landed. Fisher was able to catch Taimanglo coming in with right hands twice late in the first frame.

Fisher came out early in the round looking to establish his reach, but Taimanglo was successful in closing the distance and landing a stiff body shot. Taimanglo continued closing the distance, stepping in with the right hand and putting pressure on fisher. There was a good exchange in the latter half of the round when Fisher countered a Taimanglo uppercut with an overhand right. The round closed with Fisher briefly on Taimanglo’s back after a wild rush.

Taimanglo came out in the third round continuing with his wild, unorthodox striking style. Taimanglo’s confidence grew as he was smiling throwing a spinning back kick. Fisher retaliated though landing his best shot at the fight with a clubbing right hand. Taimanglo just smiled, pointed at his chin and kept moving forward. Taimanglo continued to be the aggressor on the feet through the final two minutes of the fight.

Patricio Freire def. Diego Nunes by knockout. Round 1, 1:19 – featherweight tournament quarterfinal
Vladimir Matyushenko def. Houston Alexander by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Justin Wilcox def. Akop Stepanyan by technical submission (rear-naked choke). Round 2, 2:26 – featherweight tournament quarterfinal
Fabricio Guerreiro def. Desmond Green by unanimous decision (29-28 x3) – featherweight tournament quarterfinal
Joe Taimanglo def. Andrew Fisher by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)- featherweight tournament quarterfinal
Hector Ramirez def. Savo Kosic by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
Gavin Sterritt def. Andy Murad by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Goiti Yamauchi def. Musa Tolver by submission (rear naked choke). Round 1, 1:01
Blagoi Ivanov def. Manny Lara by submission (guillotine). Round 1, 1:17
Virgil Zwicker def. Nick Moghaddam by TKO (strikes). Round 1, 3:22

Photo: Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Trey Downey
Staff Writer

A Central Florida native, Trey Downey's interest in MMA came after a trip to Blockbuster and the rental of UFC 47 on VHS. He has been blogging about the sport since 2011 and hosted a podcast called The TD Experience focusing on football and MMA (touchdowns and takedowns). Trey studied radio and television at the University of Central Florida and will soon be attending the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. Trey enjoys watching sports, pro wrestling and is an avid runner.