On Wednesday, June 19, Bellator MMA returned to action for the first time in two months to hold the first event of its 2013 “Summer Series” dubbed Bellator 96. The event emanated from the Global Event Center at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla.

In the night’s main event, former Strikeforce lightheavyweight champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal and Seth Petruzelli squared off, with each looking to bounce back from upset losses in the promotion’s season eight tournament earlier this year.

The co-main featured a similar story as UFC and Strikeforce veteran Renato “Babalu” Sobral and Jacob Noe hoped to advance further in the Summer Series four-man tournament than they were able to in the previous eight-man bracket.

Also on the main card, former heavyweight title challenger Rich Hale returns to action against Ryan Martinez and Vitaly Minakov takes on Ron Sparks, both in heavyweight tournament action. Finally, controversial welterweight War Machine makes his promotional debut against Blas Avena.

The night’s main card kicked off at 8 p.m. ET live on Spike TV. A live stream of preliminary card action streamed live on Spike.com beginning at 6 p.m. ET.

“King Mo” one-punch KO’s Petruzelli

Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal needed just one punch to Seth Petruzelli to get his career back on track.

Petruzelli came forward quickly, which led to an accidental headbutt can caused a stop in the action. Lawal drove in for a takedown, and got it to wind up in the guard of Petruzelli. Lawal stood up, extending the legs of Petruzelli and landed a brutal right hand to instantly knock out his opponent.

Lawal advanced to the light heavyweight tournament finals, where he will take on Jacob Noe for a future title shot.

Noe defeats Sobral via referee stoppage

The co-main event featured Renato “Babalu” Sobral taking on Jacob Noe in a light heavyweight tournament semifinal fight.

Sobral utilized leg kicks early on in the opening round, while Noe looked to land the big shot to make quick work of his opponent. Both men were smart with their offense, not leaving themselves open, which made for a close round.

Noe continued to put his hands on Sobral, wearing him down by also pressing him against the cage to dirty box. When the two returned to the center of the cage, the light heavyweights exchanged strikes, with Noe gaining an upperhand with harder punches. Sobral chipped away at the legs of Noe as he did in the first round, but the round ended with both men taunting one another in the final seconds.

In the final round, Sobral tried to take Noe down, but was unable to bring to bigger fighter to the ground as Noe reversed the position against the cage. Noe rocked Sobral with a left hook, which busted up the eye of Sobral. After getting a look at it, the referee decided to stop the bout.

The stoppage came at 3:32, placing Noe in the light heavyweight tournament final.

Minakov knocks out Sparks in 32 seconds

After Ryan Martinez already punched his ticket to the heavyweight tournament finals, Vitaly Minakov did the same by knocking out Ron Sparks in under a minute.

Both men came out aggressive looking for the home run blow, and the Russian Minakov would connect with an overhand right. Minakov followed up on the punch, and finished off with punches over a flattened out Sparks.

War Machine finishes Avena

War Machine made his Bellator debut on Wednesday, and was successful in his return to the cage with a first-round TKO win over Blas Avena.

War Machine pressed forward the entire fight, looking to let his hands go, and pressured the entire duration. As the fight hit the mat, War Machine was able to put Avena in the crucifix position by pinning the arms down of his opponent. After landing many punches, the referee was forced to stop the fight after Avena was unable to defend himself.

Martinez replaces Queiroz, knocks out Hale

Ryan Martinez came in as a late replacement for Vinicius Queiroz, and made great use of the opportunity.

Martinez took on Richard “Rare Breed” Hale on the Spike TV prelims, and earned a first-round knockout. The win puts Martinez in the 2013 Summer Series heavyweight tournament finals, where he will meet Vitaly Minakov.

Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal def. Seth Petruzelli by knockout (punch). Round 1, 1:35 – light heavyweight tournament semifinal
Jacob Noe def. Renato “Babalu” Sobral by TKO (referee stoppage). Round 3, 3:32 – light heavyweight tournament semifinal
Vitaly Minakov def. Ron Sparks by TKO (punches). Round 1, 0:32 – heavyweight tournament semifinal
War Machine def. Blas Avena by TKO (strikes). Round 1, 3:55
Ryan Martinez def. Richard Hale by knockout (punches). Round 1, 2:19 – heavyweight tournament semifinal
Jeremiah O’Neal def. Raphael Butler by TKO (elbows). Round 1, 2:57
Derek Campos def. Brandon Girtz by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Brandon Halsey def. Joe Yager by split decision (30-28, 28-30, 30-28)
Justin McNally def. Steven Artoff by submission (triangle choke). Round 1, 2:44
Damon Jackson def. Keith Miner by TKO (punches). Round 1, 2:00
Mike Maldonado def. Chavous Smith by submission (rear-naked choke). Round 1, 3:52
Keith Berry def. Cortez Coleman by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Chas Skelly def. Jarrod Card by unanimous decision (29-28 x3)

Photo: Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal (Jeff Sherwood/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.