In his first appearance for Bellator MMA, Phil Davis might have saved its light heavyweight tournament.
Davis (15-3) recorded two first-round finishes against Francis Carmont and Emanuel Newton to win Bellator’s first-ever one-night tournament. The bouts took place at SAP Center as part of Bellator: Dynamite 1.
A former UFC contender, Davis easily advanced to the tournament finals by submitting Newton (25-9-1) at 4:39 of the first round via kimura. He was originally supposed to fight Muhammed Lawal in a second fight, but Lawal (16-4) was forced to withdraw with a rib injury. Tournament rules called for Linton Vassell (15-5), who lost to Lawal in the tournament’s opening bout, to take Lawal’s spot, but ringside physicians also ruled him ineligible to compete.
That cleared the way for Carmont (24-11), a tournament alternate who defeated Anthony Ruiz by decision earlier in the night.
Davis and Carmont traded kicks to the legs and body in a feel-out process that quickly produced boos from the California crowd. Then Davis, who came into the bout with just two career knockouts, landed a perfect left hand that dropped Carmont along the fence. Referee Jason Herzog gave Carmont an opportunity to recover, but Davis followed him to the floor and threw follow-up punches until the bout was called.
The win sets up Davis for a title shot against Liam McGeary (11-0), who defended his title for the first time by submitting Tito Ortiz via triangle choke in the night’s main event.
Davis, who fights out of Alliance MMA in San Diego, improved to 6-2 in his past eight fights. He parted ways with the UFC following a split-decision loss to Ryan Bader in January.