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Distractions have no place in the heat of combat -- a cold reality to which Matt Mitrione can now personally attest.
His attention diverted by a faulty mouthpiece, Mitrione could not withstand a ferocious offensive barrage from Sergei Kharitonov in the Bellator 225 main event on Saturday at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Kharitonov drew the curtain on “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 quarterfinalist 1:24 into the second round, as he followed a right uppercut with a clean knee strike to the face before mopping up what was left with standing hammerfists.
Still going strong at age 39, Kharitonov has not lost since Javy Ayala spoiled his Bellator MMA debut with a shocking knockout nearly three years ago. The Golden Glory mainstay has established himself as one of the sport’s most dependable heavyweight finishes, as he has delivered 27 of his 29 career victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission.
In the aftermath of Bellator 225 “Mitrione vs. Kharitonov 2,” here are four matches that ought to be made:
Sergei Kharitonov vs. Ryan Bader-Cheick Kongo winner: Despite all he has accomplished across a remarkable career that now spans more than 19 years, Kharitonov has somehow never fought for a major mixed martial arts championship. Perhaps the time has finally come to rectify that injustice for a man who owns wins over Roy Nelson, Andrei Arlovski, Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, Pedro Rizzo and Semmy Schilt. Bader will defend his heavyweight title in the Bellator 226 headliner on Sept. 7, though his status as a two-division champion -- he also holds the promotion’s light heavyweight crown -- could complicate matters if he defeats Kongo.
Vitaly Minakov vs. Josh Barnett: Minakov returned to form after suffering the first setback of his career in a lackluster decision loss to the aforementioned Kongo in February, and he did so at the expense of Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Timothy Johnson. The former Bellator champion buried Johnson with punches 1:45 into the first round of their co-main event, improving to 22-1 as a professional. Minakov, 34, boasts 20 finishes among those 22 victories, 14 of them having been authored inside one round. Barnett signed with Bellator as a free agent in April but does not yet have a dance partner for his promotional debut.
Alejandra Lara vs. Valerie Letourneau: Though Lara’s forward progress stalled after consecutive defeats to Ilima-Lei Macfarlane and Juliana Velasquez, the promising Colombian prospect steadied herself with her latest performance -- a first-round technical knockout of recent Heather Hardy tormenter Taylor Turner. The 25-year-old Combat Training Club export dominated from start to finish, eventually pivoting to Turner’s back and assaulting her with punches from both hands. Lara prompted the stoppage 3:44 and reclaimed her place as a person of interest in the women’s flyweight and bantamweight divisions. Letourneau last competed at Bellator 213, where she became the latest victim of Macfarlane’s reign at 125 pounds on Dec. 15.
Yaroslav Amosov vs. Andrey Koreshkov-Lorenz Larkin winner: Even though he competes in what most view as Bellator’s deepest division, Amosov stands out. The undefeated Ukrainian welterweight moved to 22-0, as he submitted David Rickels with a brabo choke 4:05 into the second round of their featured encounter at a 175-pound catchweight. Amosov softened “The Caveman” with takedowns and ground-and-pound throughout a one-sided first five minutes, then made his move in Round 2. There, he executed another takedown, settled in half guard and ensnared Rickels in the choke, becoming the first man to ever submit the Derby, Kansas, native. The 25-year-old Amosov has finished 18 of his 22 opponents, 10 of them by submission. Koreshkov will tangle with Larkin at Bellator 229 on Oct. 4 in Temecula, California.