Pep Talk: Thomas Gets Rematch, Hornbuckle Serves Notice

(Thomas pounds out McClintock. Photo by Joe Zuidema.)

When Ryan Thomas got submitted by Ben Askren last week at BFC 14 he asked Bellator President Bjorn Rebney for a rematch this week. Thomas’ wish was granted, sort of, when Jim Wallhead’s Bellator dreams were vanquished by the Icelandic volcano that prevented him from getting a flight out of his native England. That left welterweight tournament competitor Jacob “Tick Tock” McClintock without an opponent and Thomas got the call and a shot at redemption.

The controversial stoppage occurred at Bellator XIV when Thomas was being choked by Askren and failed to respond to two requests by the referee for a sign that he was alright, he, and many observers, claim that he wasn’t in trouble and simple couldn’t hear the ref.

With a win last night, Thomas would be back in the Welterweight tournament and possibly on track for a rematch with Askren. McClintock came in undefeated in six MMA fights with a reputation as a very talented Jiu Jitsu specialist. He’d won all his fights in the first round, four coming by (T)KO and two by submission. Neither he nor Thomas had ever gone the distance in 20 fights between them.

Make that 21 fights.

Jacob came out strong, taking Ryan’s back and looking for a rear naked choke in the first minute of the opening round. Thomas weathered the submission storm, got on top of McClintock and dished out a relentless dose of ground and pound that included a slick guard pass that saw him stand, spin and nail Jason with a beautiful right hand as he went back to the ground into side control. From there, Bellator’s new king of second chances got “Tick-Tock” in the crucifix position as time began to run out on his undefeated record. McClintock had no answer and the fight was stopped at 4:11 of the first.

Thomas advances to the semifinals and hoped to complete his road to redemption in the next round as he begged for a rematch against Askren in his post-fight interview. Askren Tweeted, “Good job Ryan. Glad you called me out. Now I can choke you again, it will be my pleasure.” At the post-fight press conference, Rebney revealed that the rematch would take place in the semifinals, causing Askren to do something he says he has never done before. “I’ve never tweeted twice in the same night before but I feel this is necessary. Bjorn, thank you for making my road to the final so easy.” Thomas can’t wait. “I’m really getting a distaste for that man. He didn’t beat me the first time, he didn’t even hurt me. He’s got nothing for me and I’m going to smash his face.” Game on.

Closing Shots

The “0” Must Go…Will Romero came into his featherweight quarterfinal with a 5-0 record and years of experience as a paratrooper in the Canadian military. His opponent, Fabricio Pitbull, a Team Nogueira Brazilian Jiu Jitsu blackbelt, had never tasted defeat in twelve fights nor had he tasted American competition as BFC 15 marked his first combat competition outside of his native Brazil. Once the fight hit the canvas, Pitbull worked for a heel hook that Romero was able to survive until the Brazilian switched his focus to his other ankle and locked it up tight, putting the Canadian in a tap or snap situation. Romero tapped and will live to walk another day while Fabricio will take his 13-0 record into the semifinals against fellow BJJ stud Wilson Reis in what should be an absolute jits clinic.

Hornbuckle continues his ascent. Who can forget welterweight favorite Dan Hornbuckle’s 2009 highlight reel headkick KO of Akihiro Gono at Sengoku last August? The well-traveled Native American fighter says he chose Bellator because it means “warrior,” a word that resonates in his culture. His opponent, Tyler Stinson, topped a field of 79 fighters who showed up for open tryouts to secure a spot in the welterweight tournament and wasn’t the least bit bothered to be cast in the underdog role. “Ever since I started I was the underdog,” he said, “I take that role pretty well.” After seeing highlights of Hornbuckle almost decapitate Gono with that headkick, Stinson might have felt that he was out of danger when the fight went to the ground and he was looking down at Hornbuckle. Seconds later, he found the long legs of his opponent wrapped around his neck in a tight triangle that Stinson somehow managed to survive for a solid minute before he had to tap or nap. He chose the former at 2:03 of the first round, upping Hornbuckle’s record to 20-2 and moving him one step closer to a title fight against division champ, Lyman Good.

Cooper stumbles. Brett Cooper started his MMA career fast out of the blocks, going 10-2 before hitting the skids with only two wins in his last five fights. His opponent, Steve Carl, has a back story reminiscent of former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir. The Iraq veteran shattered his leg three years ago in a car accident and was told that he would never fight again and might have to walk with a cane for the rest of his life. Instead, he was fighting 18 months later and was 7-0 since the accident coming into his Bellator debut. Carl used a clear wrestling edge to win the first round while Cooper clearly dominated the third round with some solid ground and pound and an overall striking edge. The second round was extremely tight and could have been scored for either fighter. In fact, it was. Two of the three judges gave it to Carl, earning him a split decision that was met with a vocal round of boos from the crowd. Carl now gets tourney favorite Hornbuckle in the semifinals.

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