ONTARIO , Calif. – Joe Soto has just put the featherweight division on notice.
Soto dominated Yahir Reyes to capture the first ever Bellator Fighting Championships title and with it a $100,000 bonus at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario .
Bellator founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney said that Soto has just proven himself to be a top-10 featherweight in the world.
And FUnews.net will be the first to back him up on his claim.
Not bad for a fighter who was a virtual unknown just three months ago and had just one victory heading into the 2008 calendar year.
“Its been a really amazing year, Soto said. “I feel blessed to get this opportunity. It went by so fast since I’ve been in the game.
“ … This year has gone by so fast. This tournament style has made me better really quick.”
Soto dominated the competition from day one.
At the inaugural Bellator show, Soto dismantled Ben Greer in 3 minutes, 40 seconds to advance to the semifinals. At Bellator V, Soto dominated tournament favorite Wilson Reis and was awarded a unanimous-decision victory over the Brazilian.
And in the championship bout, it really proved to be no contest.
Soto jumped all over Reyes in the first round and took it to the Mexican fighter with over four minutes of ground and pound dominance.
The second round was more of the same. Soto took Reyes down and pounded on him for about three minutes before locking in a rear-naked choke and forcing him to tap out 4:11 into the second.
“Bellator gave me this chance to come out and show my skill set and gave me the opportunity to compete for a title in this beautiful tournament,” Soto said. “I’m blessed to come out the champion. I’m glad to be a part of this organization. I plan on keeping the title for a long time and plan on staying undefeated for a long time.”
Entering the Bellator tournament, Soto had a 4-0 record and dismantled his opponents. The only downside was their 11-17 combined record. The jump in competition made no difference to Soto. His last three opponents have a combined record of 33-12 and Soto proved to be just as dominant against them.
At 7-0, Soto will await the winner of Bellator’s challenger tournament, which should start in mid-September.
Soto’s rise toward the top of the featherweight division might be a surprise to some, but not for those that follow mixed martial arts in the Central Valley .
Soto was a California State champion in wrestling in 2005, and was a two-time NJCAA All-American wrestler.
He certainly has the wrestling background to keep on winning at this level, and with his recent success and a little bit of time off, he has the chance to further improve on his stand-up game, which should put strike some fear into future challengers.
Wilson Reis vs. Roberto Vargas
Wilson Reis and Roberto Vargas put their jiu-jitsu skills on display in a three-round 145-pound special attraction bout.
The match was tightly contested and each fighter had his moments on the ground.
In the end the decision was awarded to Reis, who appeared to be the fresher fighter at the end.
Reis won via unanimous decision, 29-28, 28-29, 29-28.
FUnews.net also scored the bout 29-28 in Reis’ favor.
Vargas appeared to be gassed toward the end of the third round and Reis managed to steal the round in the final minute by simply forcing the issue and being the busier stand-up fighter.
Reis dominated the first half of the second round. He quickly took the fight to the ground and had Vargas’ back. He had his back for about 2 ½ minutes and almost locked in a rear-naked choke. Vargas had his moment, peppering Reis with about a multiple-punch combination, but did not do enough damage to take the round.
Vargas easily took the first round. Reis shot in for the early takedown, but Vargas found himself in favorable position as he looked for a reverse triangle choke hold. Both fighters went back and forth in the round, but Vargas kept finding himself in the favorable ground position scoring enough points to win the round.
Vargas showed to have superior standup skills, but neither fighter was too eager to keep the fight standing up.
Reis bounced back from his first loss at Bellator Fighting Championships V against Joe Soto. He improved to 8-1 in his career.
Vargas was handed his first professional loss (6-1).
Bryan Baker vs. Matt Horwich
Bryan Baker and Matt Horwich were going to have trouble following the fight that took place before them.
Diego Garijo and Saad Awad had an epic first round and it was going to take a lot to even come close to matching.
Then a clash of styles took place, lending to a very tame bout between Baker and Horwich.
But Baker managed to pull out a unanimous decision victory, 30-27, 30-27, 29-28.
Baker clearly had the advantage in the stand-up game, continuously beating Horwich to the punch. Horwich made up for his shortcomings, by keeping the two fighters locked up in the clinch and taking away Baker’s effective punching.
Still, Baker was able to dictate the fight and took the victory in the 185-pound bout.
Baker, fighting out of Victorville, improved to 10-1. Horwich, of Portland , dropped to 22-13-1.
Diego Garijo vs. Saad Awad
Diego Garijo got his butt kicked for 3 ½ minutes of the first round. He suffered a cut over his left eye, a gash on the side of his nose, and appeared to be knocked out on his feet.
But somehow Garijo managed to stay in the fight and rallied for an improbable victory against Saad Awad in a 155-pound bout.
Garijo locked in a rear-naked choke and forced Awad to tap out 4:45 into the first round and, capped a remarkable comeback to win his first fight in about 22 months.
It didn’t take long for Garijo and Awad to stand in the middle of the ring and exchange punches. But it was Awad who gained the advantage in the early portion of the fight, causing Garijo to be a bloody mess.
Awad did his best to try and finish the fight, but Garijo found a way to survive the flurry.
Garijo mounted a comeback and inflicted some damage with his ground and pound before eventually getting into position for the choke.
Garijo, who fought out of Guanajuato , Mexico , improved to 4-1 in his MMA career. Awad, fighting close to his hometown fans of San Bernardino , dropped to 7-3.
Israel Giron vs. Phil Brown
Israel Giron managed to overcome a vicious low blow early in the first round to add to his impressive record.
Giron locked in a rear-naked choke 2:42 into the first round, forcing Phil Brown to tap out.
The Mexican Fighter improved to 10-1. Brown dropped to 2-2.
Following the fight, Giron dazzled the crowd with a pair of backflips off the top of the cage.
The fight ended quickly, but Brown did manage to show some of his skills and that he could have a bright future in the sport.
But at 19-years-old and just the fourth fight of his career, the 35-year-old Giron brought too much to the table for the Riverside fighter.
Travis Browne vs. Mychal Clark
Travis Browne kept his undefeated record in tact with a very close unanimous-decision victory over Mychal Clark in a heavyweight bout.
All three judges scored the bout 29-28 for Browne.
The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Brown was able to win the first two rounds, but appeared gassed at the beginning of the third round.
Clark dominated the third round, but was not able to finish the fight and Browne escaped with the victory.
Browne, fighting out of Honolulu , improved to 5-0. Clark dropped to 6-8.
Jesse Juarez vs. Mikey Gomez
Jesse Juarez took it to Mikey Gomez for three rounds and pulled off a unanimous decision victory.
All three judges scored the bout 30-27, but the fight was more competitive than the score would indicate.
Juarez dominated with his ground and pound, but Gomez had some dangerous Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and almost locked in a couple of submissions.
But each time, Juarez found a way to escape and continued to inflict punishment.
Juarez, fighting out of Torrance , improved to 14-4-1. Cerritos ’ Gomez dropped to 9-7.
Nick Moghaddam vs. Lamar Jiles
The first bout of the night really got the crowd into the show.
Newport Beach ’s Nick Moghaddam got the victory, but not the fans’ approval.
Moghaddam was clearly losing his 205-pound bout against Victorville’s Lamar Jiles, but Jiles landed a knee to Moghaddam’s head with both fighters grounded, forcing the referee to stop the fight.
Moghaddam got the victory via disqualification.
Jiles made the entire crowd aware of his game plan, making sure to keep the fight off the ground and away from Moghaddam’s Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.
Jiles outpointed Moghaddam for the first round and even opened up a cut under his left eye.
Still, Moghaddam walked out with the victory and improved to 4-3. Jiles dropped to 2-3.
Both fighters had to be restrained following the fight.