Chicago Theatre plays host to another exciting night of Bellator tournament action

CHICAGO, Ill. (April 15, 2010) — Bellator Fighting Championships produced yet another stunning “YouTube moment” on Thursday as local fan-favorite Pat Curran added to his family’s MMA legacy with a spectacular KO of Mike Ricci during Bellator 14 at the historic Chicago Theatre.

The fight got the highly anticipated event off to roaring start and the momentum continued throughout the night with three other compelling nationally-televised tournament fights. Also emerging victorious were former NCAA wrestling champion and U.S. Olympian Ben Askren, Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Wilson Reis and “Submission of the Year” title holder Toby Imada.

The Curran-Ricci fight, though, provided the most fireworks of the night.

At 3:01 into the first round, Curran (10-3) socked Ricci with a brutal overhand right, dropping him to the mat and rendering him unconscious. It was the first loss in six pro fights for Ricci, the protégé and longtime training partner of Georges Saint-Pierre.

“I saw the opening, threw a big right hand and it landed and he crumpled,” Curran said during the post-fight press conference. “This is definitely the biggest win I’ve ever had. I’m just proud to be a part of Bellator and to move on in the tournament.”

The KO victory advanced Curran, the cousin and student of MMA pioneer Jeff Curran, into the semifinals of Bellator’s Season 2 lightweight tournament along with Imada and Belaltor 13 winners Roger Huerta and Carey Vanier.

Semifinal pairings will be announced next week.

Later on in the night, Askren made an impressive (and somewhat controversial) Bellator debut, using a high-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu anaconda choke to finish former UFC contender Ryan “The Tank Engine” Thomas (10-4) via technical submission at 2:40 into Round 1.

Controversy erupted almost immediately after the stoppage, though, as Thomas, his corner and a vocal fan contingent in the theatre’s balcony protested that he gave no indication that he wanted the fight to be stopped.

“It’s a bad call by the referee,” Thomas said afterwards. “It’s just a shame that the fans got cheated and Ben got cheated out of some more cage time. I was fine – it wasn’t like the world was closing in on me. I was totally fine.”

Askren, for his part, called on Thomas to “accept the result of the fight graciously.”

“When I was in the cage, I didn’t know what happened,” said Askren, who improved his pro record to 4-0 and advanced to the semifinals of Bellator’s Season 2 welterweight tournament. “But after watching it, it sure looked like it was over.”

Thomas said his camp plans to lodge a formal complaint in order to have the result overturned.

In the second fight of the night, Reis, a crafty Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, was able to overcome an aggressive challenge from former New York University wrestling standout Shad Lierley (5-3).

The fight got off to an explosive start during Round 1, with each fighter landing a variety of kicks and blows to the head. It went to the ground during the second and third rounds with Reis’ eventually gaining the upper hand and locking Lierley into a rear naked choke 3:33 into Round 3.

“I knew I was going to fight Shad and I knew that I had to work on my wrestling,” said Reis, who improved his pro record to 10-1. “It was a good fight and I was very happy to win.”

Reis joins Bellator 13 winners Georgi Karakhanyan and Joe Warren in the semifinal round of Bellator’s Season 2 featherweight tournament.

In the final tournament fight of the evening, Imada (25-14) easily handled WEC veteran James Krause (11-3), submitting him via arm bar at 2:44 into Round 1.

The evening also featured four Local Featured Fights. The results of those fights are as follows:

Bout #1Louis Taylor (6-1) of Chicago def. Ryan Sturdy (12-5-1) of Crystal Lake, Ill. (TKO 1:08)

Bout #7: Felice Herrig (3-2) of Buffalo Grove, Ill., def. Jessica Rakoczy (0-2) of Las Vegas, Nev., (split decision)

Bout #8: Bryan Goldsby (16-6) of Macon, Ga., def. Jeff Curran (32-13-1) of Crystal Lake, Ill., (unanimous decision)

Fans who missed the action during Bellator’s live nationwide broadcast on FOX Sports Net can watch all the action during special highlight shows on NBC, Telemundo and mun2 this weekend. Check your local listings for exact times and dates.

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About Bellator Fighting Championships:

Bellator Fighting Championships is a Mixed Martial Arts promotional company with offices in Los Angeles and Chicago.  Bellator’s founder/CEO, Bjorn Rebney, is an experienced fighting sports and entertainment professional with a deep commitment to the purity and integrity of the sport of MMA and its athletes.  Bellator Fighting Championships’ executive team is comprised of top industry professionals in the areas of live event production, television production, fighter relations, venue procurement, sponsorship creation/development, international licensing, marketing, advertising, publicity and commission relations.

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