Lisa Ward, Jose Vega, Raphael Davis also victorious before sold-out crowd

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (June 17, 2010)Bellator Fighting Championships crowned its second Season 2 champion Thursday night as former NCAA wrestling superstar and U.S. Olympian Ben Askren put on a grappling clinic to neutralize knockout artist and rising MMA star Dan Hornbuckle in a dominating and well-rounded performance.

The 25-year-old University of Missouri product drew from the vocal support of an adoring crowd at the Kansas City Power & Light District to win a unanimous decision victory and complete the metamorphosis from highly touted prospect to full-fledged MMA star that many experts had predicted.

With his new wife Amy watching cageside, Askren (6-0) controlled the fight from the start, taking the veteran Hornbuckle to the mat early on in all three rounds and holding him at bay with his world-class wrestling skills. Hornbuckle tried to stop the momentum a few times, attempting a triangle choke mid-way through Round 2 and a kimura mid-way through Round 3, but Askren was able to escape both submissions.

“This is exactly the kind of performance we had hoped Ben would put on when we signed him six months ago,” Bellator founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney said. “He showed some great talent in his first two Bellator fights but saved the best performance for last. It was a tremenously impressive night for Ben all the way around.  As an MMA fan, I cannot wait to see his World Title fight against Lyman Good this fall. ”

Afterward, Askren told Bellator color commentator Jimmy Smith that he has already shifted his sights to reigning Bellator Welterweight Champion Lyman Good, who he’ll face in a title fight later this year.

“Lyman, keep my belt warm,” he said as his hometown crowd egged him on. “Shine it up once a week and enjoy it while you can because it’s mine, baby.”

Joining Askren in the winner’s circle was Lisa Ward, the 27-year-old Seattle-based submission artist who improved her pro record to 13-3 and gave fans a sneak preview of what they’ll see when she enters the cage as part of Bellator’s upcoming Season 3 Women’s Tournament beginning in August.

Ward wasted no time locking 19-year-old MMA up-and-comer Stephanie Frausto (2-2) into a tight rear-naked choke, putting her to sleep and ending the fight via technical submission just 2:01 into Round 1. Ward said after the fight that she is hoping for tournament matchup with Megumi Fujii, the world’s No. 1 pound-for-pound female fighter, who handed Ward one of her three losses during a 2007 showdown in Canada.

“I would love another shot at Megumi,” Ward said. “We definitely have some unfinished business.”

Earlier, 24-year-old Missouri native Jose Vega delivered yet another Bellator “YouTube moment” with a highlight-reel knockout of North Carolina-based jiu-jitsu specialist Jarrod “The Wild Card” Card just 39.8 seconds into the first round of their “Bantamweight Feature Fight.”

After setting it up with a pair of stiff leg kicks, Vega (8-3) connected with a left hook to Card’s jaw, knocking him unconscious and dropping him to the canvas, bringing Vega’s many hometown fans to their feet.

“I’m lost for words,” an emotional Vega said afterward. “I’ve never had a KO before, but my hands have improved – [former Bellator fighters] Brian Davidson, James Krause and Tyler Stinson have been helping me with that. I saw the opening and I just went for it.”

In the first televised fight of the night, IFL and M1 veteran Raphael Davis improved his record to 9-1 by dominating Arena Football League veteran and one-time Nebraska state high school wrestling champion Demetrius Richards (5-3). Davis took the fight to the ground early on and quickly took Richards’ back, wearing him down with hammer fists and a flurry of knees to the body before Richards submitted to punches just 2:51 into Round 1.

The event also played host to five Local Feature Fights:

–       Tyler Stinson def. Leonardo Pecanha via rear-naked choke (1:42)

–       Rudy Bears def. Brian Green via rear-naked choke (3:49)

–       Cole Konrad def. John Orr via unanimous decision

–       Jared Downing def. Chad Vandenberg via rear-naked choke (11:35)

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 Thursday night from the Fourth Street Live entertainment district in downtown Louisville, Ky., where Bellator will conclude its second season with the championship rounds of its Middleweight and Featherweight Tournaments.

The two championship fights and the rest of the Bellator 23 featured card will again be televised live on FOX Sports Net.

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