Bellator heavyweight king Cole Konrad needs a challenger, so tonight’s Bellator 52 event on MTV2 was all about the quarterfinals of the latest heavyweight tournament – step one in providing Konrad with someone worthy.  As with any field of eight “big boys”, there was hugging and there was slugging.  How did the night unfold?

Both Mark Holata and Ron Sparks entered into the Bellator cage with reputations for hitting hard, and they wasted no time reinforcing those beliefs.  Once the referee said “go”, the two lumbered toward each other slinging leather, Spark knocking his younger opponent’s head back first and putting Holata on notice that he needed to be wary.  Holata put caution aside, though, and a short time later the 258-pound behemoth stood in front ofSparksand began trading.  That was all the openingSparksneeded, and a pair of left hooks sent Holata crashed to the canvas like a felled oak tree.  The official time of the knockout was 1:24 of the first round.

The scrum between TUF veteran Abe Wagner and US Army veteran Eric Prindle played out a bit differently, due in no small part to Prindle’s shockingly developed ground game.  A takedown by Wagner put the obviously bigger man on his back, and from there it seemed as if boxing specialist was doomed.  But he wasn’t, as Prindle inexplicably escaped Wagner’s mount and began raining down punishment from above.  The round ended with the duo on their feet and trading furiously, with Wagner miraculously getting the better of it.  Prindle came out for Round 2 in a higher gear, and he began tagging Wagner and stumbling him.  Even when it went to the ground it favored Prindle, as the bigger man maintained top position and tried to finish with a keylock.  Round 3 saw more dominance by Prindle – for about two minutes he sat in mount bombing Wagner’s face – and when the round ended Prindle was awarded the well-deserved unanimous decision.

Blagoi Ivanov, the Bulgarian sambo specialist credited with defeating Fedor Emelianenko in the Russian sport, got the chance to show his technique against TUF veteran and late-replacement Zak Jensen, nailing a sweet hip throw against the larger fighter in the first round and easing into mount to deliver punishment.  But it was his massively superior boxing technique that really shined, as he pretty much used Jensen’s face as a speedbag and hit him with anything and everything he wanted.  Miraculously, Jensen survived to the second round, yet Ivanov made his adjustments and began the sequence that would mark the end for the TUFer.  First came the takedown, then came the onslaught from the mount, and when they regained their feet, Ivanov cinched on a guillotine and pressed Jensen against the fence.  In seconds, Jensen slumped to his knees unconscious, and the technical submission victory for the Bulgarian came at 2:35 of the round.

Based on experience against tough competition, Mike Hayes was far and away the underdog going into his bout against British MMA circuit exponent Neil Grove.  He didn’t seem to care.  The first round had Hayes respectful of his opponent’s striking while he absorbed leg-kicks from the outside.  He grew a bit bolder in the second, lunging in to land a punch or two to the body, while Grove seemed content to let the American’s confidence grow.  That contentedness evaporated sometime in between Rounds 2 and 3, for Grove came out in the final frame like gangbusters, trying to put Hayes away – to which Hayes responded by taking him down and working him over on the ground.  There were punches and hammerfists from above, an attempted keylock, and just overall aggression from Hayes, and when Grove got on top and flubbed a leglock attempt, Hayes continued to smash.  It paid off.  When the round ended, Hayes was awarded the split decision.


-Mike Hayes def. Neil Grove viaSplitDecision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

-Blagoi Ivanov def. Zak Jensen via Technical Submission (Guillotine) at 2:35 in Round 2

-Eric Prindle def. Abe Wagner via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

-Ron Sparks def. Mark Holata via KO (Punches) at 1:24 in Round 1