Ben Askren maintained his undefeated record, though he wasn't the least bit satisfied with his performance. Askren emerged on the right side of a hard-fought split decision (48-47, 48-47, 47-48) over Jay Hieron on Saturday night, successfully defending the Bellator welterweight belt at the main event of Bellator 56 in Kansas City.
The result looked to be in doubt early, as a slow start almost doomed the 27-year-old. From the opening bell Hieron (22-5) was the aggressor, fighting off takedowns while setting the pace with his peppering stand-up. But the momentum would be short-lived as Askren (9-0) soon settled into his Olympic wrestling base and dominated the fight on the mat for the next fifteen minutes.
Hieron stormed back strong with a gutsy fifth round, even finding his mark with a spinning back kick that briefly put his opponent on the floor, but by then the damage had been done and the judges ruled in the champion's favor. The narrow victory highlighted Askren's first title defense and sixth win overall under the Bellator banner.
While Askren and Hieron battled for the 25 grueling minutes, the four heavyweight semi-finalists shared a much different fate. Eric Prindle (9-1) punched his ticket to the finals in just 40 seconds, knocking the previously undefeated Ron Sparks (8-1) out cold with a thunderous counter left hook.
The stunning victory was impressive, but would immediately be outdone by Thiago Santos (10-1), who needed just 38 seconds to blast through Neil Grove (11-5-1). After dodging an early overhand right the Brazilian landed his own looping right to crumple Grove, before jumping to the ground and snatching a fight-ending rear-naked choke.
With the quick victories, Prindle and Santos are set to square off in the Bellator Season 5 heavyweight tournament finale at Bellator 59 on November 26th. The winner will receive $100,000 and an automatic title shot against heavyweight champion Cole Konrad.
Bellator 56 results:
Main Card (MTV2 & EPIX):
Ben Askren def. Jay Hieron via split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)
Thiago Santos def. Neil Grove via submission (rear-naked choke) at 0:38 of Round 1
Eric Prindle def. Ron Sparks via KO (punch) at 0:40 of Round 1
Preliminary Card (Spike.com):
Jeremy Spoon def. Adam Schindler via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Marcio Navarro def. Rudy Bears by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Kelvin Tiller def. Dan Spohn via split decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28)
Emanuel Brooks def. William de Souza via unanimous decision (29-27, 30-26, 30-26)
Jacob Aiken def. Jeimeson Saudino via submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:26 of Round 1
Aaron Ely def. Owen Evinger via submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:45 of Round 1
Daniel Gallemore def. Derrick Ruffin via TKO (retirement) at 5:00 of Round 2