Curran decided to stand and bang with one of the world’s top 10 lightweights, but wouldn’t wilt under a hailstorm of body shots. Alvarez landed more punches and the harder shots throughout to roll to a unanimous decision win, 50-45, 50-45 and 49-46, in the main event of Bellator 39.
Curran, whose cousin Jeff is a former WEC champion, sent a message by going the distance with Alvarez. The Philadelphian moved to 22-2 with the win. It was just the third time he’d been taken past the second round. Alvarez came in riding a six-fight win streak and was fresh off a complete destruction of former UFC lightweight Roger Huerta.
"That guy’s got a hard, hard head. He can take a shot," Alvarez told Bellator color voice Jimmy Smith. "I was starting to find my rhythm. He just stuck in there. I wish I had the heart he has at his age. Pat’s gonna be a champion, no doubt."
Curran’s overall game was impressive. Alvarez, is a very solid MMA wrestler, but anytime he got Curran down, the 23-year-old was able to quickly scramble to his feet. On the feet, Alvarez’s movement made it tough for Curran (13-4) to land punches.
Curran is tough as nails. He absorbed dozens of nasty body shots and never went down.
Hawn takes narrow split decision from Good
Rick Hawn’s effort won’t make any "Best of" highlight tapes, but he fought to a gameplan that scored with the judges. He got a takedown early in the second and one more with 15 seconds left in the fight. That may have been the difference in gaining a split decision win, 29-28, 28-29 and 30-27, over Lyman Good to advance to the Bellator Season 4 welterweight tournament final.
Hawn will face the winner of Jay Hieron and Brent Weedman. They fight next week at Bellator 40.
"He hits hard. I started off a little slow and I should’ve pushed harder at the end," Hawn said. "[I have] a lot of confidence. [Good’s] won the tournament before. Whoever it is, I’m ready for them."
Good cost himself the fight with his inability to get off the mat in the second round. He was taken down at 4:42 left in the round and didn’t try a single submission or commit to escaping. Hawn landed nothing of significance, but maintained top control and most times that’s enough to win over judges.
In the first and third round on the feet, Good landed some effective jabs, but was hesitant to really commit with big shots or flurries.
Hawn, a 2004 Olympian in Judo, is dangerous in the clinch and Good was clearly avoiding tight spaces.
Toby Imada has been a handful for everyone in Bellator, but Patricky "Pitbull" Freire showed he’s at a different level. Imada, a dynamic submission specialist, chose to stand with Freire. Pitbull landed a super-athletic flying knee, Imada froze in place and then ate a left hook before falling to his back. Pitbull gots the TKO win at 2:53 of the first round in the Bellator Season 4 lightweight semifinal.
Pitbull, 25, looks like a super prospect and may be the only guy under contract with Bellator, who can give the champ Alvarez, a dangerous challenge. Freire (10-1) will face the winner of Lloyd Woodard and Michael Chandler. That semi goes down next week at Bellator 40.
Freire and his younger brother, Patricio have combined to go 25-2 to start their MMA careers.
Saunders makes Lee a bloody mess
Matt Sung Lee was looking for one last shot at some big fights, but he ran into the wrong guy on the feet. Lee had to face last second fill-in Ben Saunders and after 11-plus minutes of fighting he was left looking like a horror flick victim. Saunders’ elbows opened cuts over both of Lee’s eyes, and blood was flowing from the South Korean’s nose forcing a doctor’s stoppage at 1:24 of third round.
Saunders, an "Ultimate Fighter" alum, was cut after losing lost two straight with the UFC. He was 3-3 with the UFC, mainly because of poor takedown defense.
At 6-foot-3, he’s gigantic for weight class and knows how to use that height and length advantage. Lee, a smallish, doughy looking welterweight tried to stand with Saunders and was in trouble from the opening seconds.
Saunders (10-3-2, 3-3 UFC) closed spaced early and looked to work along the cage. The big guy crushed Lee’s nose in the first and ripped open a good-sized cut next to his right eye in the second. So much blood was flowing that it appeared Saunders, who had it all over the side of his head and down his chest, must’ve been cut too. But it wasn’t the case.
Lee’s corner begged the physician in attendance to let the fight go into the third round. The doctor relented, but when Saunders landed a huge right elbow out of the clinch with four minutes left in the fight, it was less than 20 seconds later that the doc waved off the fight. The cut over left eye spurted blood quickly and that side of Lee’s face was almost covered in crimson 10 seconds later.