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Corey Anderson Claims Vacant Title, ‘Pitbull’ Defends at Bellator Champions Series

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Ten years after winning “The Ultimate Fighter,” Corey
Anderson finally accomplished his life dream and claimed a
world title after outworking Karl Moore
over five rounds to win the vacant Bellator
Championship Series light heavyweight title Friday in the

Bellator Champions Series Belfast main event at the SSE Arena
in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

For Anderson (18-6, 1 No Contest), the victory was emotional and
long-awaited. After falling short of the
Ultimate Fighting Championship title, Anderson signed with
Bellator in 2020 to get a fresh start. Four years and two
disappointing cracks at Vadim
Nemkov’s title later, Anderson finally claimed his shot at
gold.

Moore (12-3) wouldn’t make it easy, however. In the first round,
the Belfast native ignited the crowd after he cracked Anderson with
a left hand, which was followed by a head kick that made his legs
buckle. Anderson staggered back to the fence but the vet recovered
calmly and won the round with dominating wrestling.

Anderson avoided Moore’s heavy hands by pressuring him for the rest
of the fight. There was little Moore could do to keep Anderson off
him. There were moments where he looked like he might sneak away
and engage in some striking with Anderson, but the new champ put
those hopes to rest quickly.

While the fight wasn’t necessarily a slugfest, Anderson couldn’t
have worked harder for a win if he tried. Moore threatened
scrambles and submissions and did everything he could to try to
force Anderson to engage, but the Rockton, Illinois, native stayed
disciplined and maintained his dominance on the ground. When the
dust cleared, there was zero doubt left on who the new king of the
light heavyweight division was as Anderson was awarded the
unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 50-45).

Patricio
Freire waited a long time to return to the cage after suffering
the worst year of his career, but he reminded everybody that he was
still a dog.

The Brazilian mauled Jeremy
Kennedy en route to a third-round TKO finish in the Bellator
Belfast co-main event. With Freire’s featherweight belt on the
line, the 36-year-old legend wasted little time taking control of
the fight.

Freire (36-7) punished Kennedy with calf kicks and showcased his
speed advantage early. But after being rattled by a headbutt and a
low blow, Freire started to slow down in the third round. Kennedy
(19-4) used his superior reach to push Friere back and even dropped
the champ with a right hand.

Freire bounced back up and immediately clinched, looking to ride
out the storm. Kennedy furiously fought free and looked for an
opportunity to elbow but left himself open to a flush right hand
that staggered him back into the fence. Pitbull went on the hunt
and threw everything in his arsenal at Kennedy before referee
Kevin
MacDonald stopped the fight 4:07 into the third stanza.

With the win, Pitbull snapped a two–fight skid and ended Kennedy’s
three–fight win streak. Following the bout, Freire called out UFC
featherweight champion Ilia
Topuria.



Fabian
Edwards has had his eyes locked on a rematch with middleweight
champion Johnny
Eblen since he was knocked out last September. But in order to
get his shot at redemption, Edwards had to get past Aaron
Jeffery’s never-ending motor.

Jeffery pushed Edwards (13-3) around the cage and stayed in his
chest all fight, but Edwards’s slick striking and three takedowns
were the most memorable moments of the fight. Physically, the fight
was a grinding affair as both men struggled to garner some
momentum. All three cards were close but in favor of the Englishman
(29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

Leandro
Higo has wanted to face James
Gallagher since 2019, and he made the most of his
opportunity.

In a showcase of two of the best featherweights in the promotion,
the 35-year-old Brazillian outpaced Gallagher in front of his fans
en route to a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

Higo (23-6) jumped out to a lead early after catching Gallagher
with a spinning backfist that he followed up with a double-leg
takedown. Higo wanted to go for a finish, but Gallagher kept him
honest by threatening with a leg lock.

Round 2 was slower-paced and even tighter. As Higo looked for his
opportunities, Gallagher opened up and landed a flashy spinning
heel kick. Both had their moments and could’ve felt the fight was
tied heading into the third round.

Higo put the doubt to rest with his best round of the fight. After
taking Gallagher to the ground, Higo impressed the judges with some
steady ground and pound that kept the Irishman on the defensive.
With the win, Higo picked up his second straight win, while
Gallagher must go back to the drawing board after losing two of his
last three.

It only takes one punch to win a fight, just ask Manoel
Sousa.

After struggling to contain the elusive Tim Wilde for
4:50, the undefeated Brazilian kept his perfect record intact with
a devastating left hook that put Wilde to sleep on impact.

Sousa (11-0) looked like an amateur in the opening minutes of the
fight. Wilde countered his shots with ease and gracefully glided
around the ring. It was early but it looked like Wilde (17-5-1) was
going to easily box his way to a fourth-straight win.

But Sousa had other answers. After just missing with a right cross,
Sousa followed up with a left hook that planted Wilde flat on his
face out cold. The 26-year-old was ecstatic to prove capable
against an experienced vet like Wilde while coming away with one
for the highlight reel.

Ciaran
Clarke (9-0) played with Darius Mafi
for two rounds before eventually submitting the heavy-handed
Manchester native 43 seconds into the third with an arm-triangle
choke. After cruising to a ninth straight win, the SBG Ireland
prospect looked ready for a step up in competition.

Clarke has submitted three of his last four opponents and wasn’t in
danger against Mafi. He toyed with Mafi on the mat before
overwhelming him for good in the third round. Since signing with
Bellator in 2019, Clarke hasn’t fought more than twice a year.

Alfie
Davis has been plagued by inactivity, but “The Axe Man” hasn’t
forgotten how to win. In his first fight since August 2023, Davis
held off scrappy late replacement Oscar
Ownsworth (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).

Davis (17-4-1) dropped Ownsworth early and looked primed to secure
his first stoppage in six years, but Ownsworth (8-3-1) was stubborn
in his Bellator debut. The Wakefield, England, prospect pushed
forward and forced Davis to unload his arsenal. Davis threw knees,
elbows and a flurry of spinning attacks to keep Ownsworth back, but
he was in a firefight. By the third round, Ownsworth had slowed
enough for Davis to reclaim dominance and cruise to his third
straight win.

Light heavyweight prospects Grant Neal
(9-2) and Luke
Trainer (8-1) crossed paths with both parties looking to
continue their momentum. Trainer used every bit of his 6-foot-6
inch frame to pick Neal apart on the outside and stifle his
wrestling. After two cautious rounds, Trainer put this icing on his
third straight win by cutting Neal open with a slicing lead elbow.
With the win (30-27, 30-27, 30-27), Trainer continued his ascension
up the ranks and stayed on the path to a light heavyweight title
shot.

Nathan
Kelly has been on a tear since losing his first two
professional fights. After taking a three-year hiatus, the SBG
Ireland featherweight has refocused, matured and developed into a
dangerous prospect.

Kelly (10-2) won his 10th straight fight Friday after starching
Vikas
Singh Ruhil (11-8) 40 seconds into the first round. Kelly
wasted little time backing Ruhil to the cage before turning out the
lights with a helacious standing elbow.

England’s Abraham
Bably squared off against the pride of Charleston, South
Carolina, Isaiah
Pinson, a battle of unbeaten heavyweights. Despite outweighing
Pinson (242) by 15 pounds, Bably (257.4) was the faster and more
fluid fighter and set a pace the American couldn’t contest.

Bably’s shifty head movement made him tough to hit while hiding his
takedown attempts. He went 5-for-5 on the night and smothered
Pinson on the ground with punches. Forced to carry Bably’s weight
for 15 minutes, there was little Pinson could do to turn the fight
in his favor. He would suffer his first career loss by unanimous
decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).

Bellator Belfast opened its card with a 130-pound amateur
catchweight bout between Jordan
Elliott and 19-year-old SBG Ireland prospect Nate Kelly.
Elliott is nearly a decade older than Kelly but stood no chance on
the ground against the former European amateur grappling
champion.

Kelly stormed out and quickly dropped Elliott with a sidekick
before setting himself up in half-mount. Elliott squirmed into
different positions and even reversed positions but couldn’t keep
up with Kelly’s submission attempts. The teenager threatened with a
guillotine, rolled into an arm triangle, then switched to a
traditional triangle before finishing the fight with an armbar 1:48
into the first round.

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