Curran will face MMA vet Toby Imada; Heavyweight Cole Konrad makes national TV debut with a win

BOSTON, Mass. (May 6, 2010)Pat Curran, the 22-year-old descendant of MMA royalty pulled off one of the most shocking upsets in recent memory Thursday night with a hard-fought unanimous decision victory over former UFC standout and Bellator Lightweight Tournament favorite Roger Huerta at Bellator 17 in Boston.

Curran’s stunning victory, which quickly set the MMA world abuzz, served to highlight Bellator’s first-of-its-kind tournament-style format, which has also given rise to several other decided underdogs since its inception last year.

“It was a tremendous night for Pat and a tremendous testament to our tournament format,” Bellator founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney said afterward. “This was proof of our concept and exactly what I hoped this organization could provide to fighters.  I wanted great fighters to have the opportunity to fight other great fighters where nothing but their performance would dictate their future … an organization where it made no difference if a fighter was world-famous or simply had world class ability.  Pat Curran took huge advantage of this opportunity tonight and deserves everything he’s receiving.”

The first nationally-televised MMA event in Boston history also witnessed a spectacular “Super Fight” victory by reigning Bellator Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez while reigning “Submission of the Year” title holder Toby Imada punched his ticket to this year’s finals.

But the night undoubtedly belonged to Curran who improved his pro record to 11-3 and took a huge step out of the shadow of his cousin and longtime trainer, MMA legend Jeff “The Big Frog” Curran.

Curran and Huerta traded blows for 15 minutes in a stirring tactical standup fight that brought a raucous crowd at the 85-year-old Wang Theatre to its feet. As the decision was announced, Huerta hung his head in disbelief, saying afterward that “it was just one of those nights.”

“I take my hat off to Pat Curran,” said Huerta, who fell to 21-4. “I started out pretty flat and he capitalized. Ultimately, it’s my fault for leaving it up to the judges. It’s really tough for me to swallow, but now I just need to regroup and look to the future.”

Curran, for his part, credited his coaching and thanked Rebney for the opportunity to fight in the tournament and make a name for himself.

“It was an honor to fight Roger,” an emotional and visibly exhausted Curran told Bellator ring announcer Jimmy Smith immediately after the fight. “I just tried to keep my hands clean and went for the straight right … I was trying to counter and land my shots. I’m looking forward to getting back to the gym as soon as possible and getting to work on my ground game and preparing for Toby Imada.”

While Imada’s victory was somewhat lost in the excitement of the Curran upset, the 25-13 MMA veteran native earned his way to the lightweight tournament finals in impressive fashion as well, absorbing a flurry of first round strikes from former all-American college wrestler Carey Vanier (8-3) before eventually regaining control and finishing him via armbar at 3:33 in Round 2.

“He’s a tough dude and a great wrestler, but his arm was out and when I saw it, I grabbed it and held on,” Imada said after the fight. “It’s what I came here for … I’m looking forward to performing better in the finals this time around.”

Not to be outdone, Alvarez was equally impressive in his fight against UFC veteran Josh Neer, using a powerful standing rear naked choke to put Neer to sleep at 2:08 into Round 2. The win improved Alvarez’s impeccable overall record to 20-2 and added to the growing argument that he is the world’s top 155-pound fighter.

Afterward, Rebney made no secret of his opinion.

“I’m not much for pronouncements,” he said, “but in the lightweight division of MMA, you’ll be awfully hard-pressed to find someone who would be able to beat Eddie Alvarez.”

Alvarez, though, demurred, saying simply that he was “happy to be on the East Coast and happy to be a part of the first big MMA fight in Boston.”

“I think I executed well tonight,” he said.

In the night’s final televised fight, former two-time NCAA wrestling champion and Brock Lesnar training partner Cole Konrad outlasted New York native Pat Bennet (1-1), earning a unanimous decision victory to improve to a perfect 3-0 in his nascent MMA career.

“I learned a lot about myself and a lot about the fight game in general tonight,” Konrad said during the post-fight press conference. “There’s definitely a lot of areas I’m going to focus on developing, but a win is a win and I’m just happy to be a part of Bellator.”

Fans who missed Thursday night’s action can watch all the best moments this weekend during special highlight shows on NBC, Telemundo and the cable network mun2. Check your local listings for exact dates and times.

Bellator returns to action next week from the Monroe Civic Center in Monroe, La., with two semifinal fights in the Season 2 Featherweight Tournament: former pro soccer player Georgi Karakhanyan versus fomer NCAA all-American wrestler Joe Warren and a match-up of two Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts, Wilson Reis and Patricio Pitbull. The evening also features another Bellator “Super Fight,” with reigning Bellator Middleweight Champion Hector Lombard taking on Paulo Filho.

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