Douglas Lima entered Bellator's fifth-season welterweight tournament a surging prospect known only as "The Phenom". On Saturday night, he left a star. The heralded 23-year-old delivered yet another thunderous performance, ending Ben Saunders' tournament run via brutal knockout in the second round of Bellator 57's main event. The win netted Lima $100,000 in prize money and, perhaps most importantly, the next shot at undefeated welterweight champion Ben Askren.
After a back-and-forth opening five minutes spent in the clinch, Lima (21-4) struck first, catching a kick and slamming the UFC veteran to the canvas. However the advantage would be a brief one, as Saunders (12-4-2) immediately snatched a body triangle and scrambled into top position. With thirty-seconds remaining in the round, Lima was forced to hold on as his opponent rained down elbows from full mount until being saved by the horn.
The second frame opened similar to the first, with the two welterweights closing the distance and working knees from inside the clinch, until the action abruptly turned on its head. Just moments after a referee separation a minute in, Lima capitalized on a sluggish left hand and blasted over the top with a right counter that landed flush and floored Saunders. Sensing the tourney title within his grasp, the Brazilian pounced on his opponent, unleashing a barrage of hammerfists until the victory was secure.
"I knew it was there. He's left handed, so it was something we'd been working on," Lima gleefully explained afterward. "Throwing that left hook, coming back with the right straight. It's great when it works."
Meanwhile, in the night's co-main event, Russian kickboxer Alexander Shlemenko (43-7) captured his second consecutive Bellator middleweight tournament title by claiming a hard-fought unanimous decision over Vitor Vianna (12-2-1). Despite being dropped early in the first frame, Shlemenko battled back and dominated much of the ensuing ten minutes through a furious array of ranged punches and kicks that kept his opponent off-balance.
The victory is the 27-year-old's sixth in the row and earns him the $100,000 grand prize along with a rematch against Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard. The pair fought once before at Bellator 37, as Lombard seized the unanimous decision after 25 minutes of work to deliver Shlemenko the only loss of his last twelve bouts.
Bellator 57 results:
Douglas Lima def. Ben Saunders via Knockout (Punches) at 1:21 of round 2
Alexander Shlemenko def. Vitor Vianna via Decision (Unanimous)
Roger Hollett def. John Hawk via Decision (Split)
Alexandre Bezerra def. Douglas Evans via Submission (Heel Hook) at 4:04 of round 1
Chris Horodecki vs. Mike Corey ruled a Draw (Majority)
Matt Van Buren def. Shawn Levesque via Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) at 4:38 of round 1
Dave Jansen def. Ashkan Morvari via Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) at 2:47 of round 2
Denis Puric def. Chuck Mady via TKO (Corner Stoppage) at 5:00 of round 2
Josh Shockley def. Eric Moon via Submission (Guillotine Choke) at 0:35 of round 1
Taylor Solomon def. Mike Sledzion via Knockout (Punches) at 1:10 of round 1