The bad blood between Noad Lahat and Jeremiah Labiano was evident during their pre-fight staredown.
Given the Israeli Lahat (12-3 MMA, 3-1 BMMA) was competing in front of an adoring crowd, it would’ve been easy to ditch his game plan to put on a show. But he kept his composure, even as Labiano (11-5 MMA, 2-1 BMMA) tempted him.
The result? Lahat grinded out a clean-sweep decision despite a point deduction in the main event of Bellator 188, which took place at Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv and aired Friday on Spike via tape delay.
Right off the bat, Lahat complained about Labiano’s fingers being open in defense. Lahat dared Labiano to come to him, and he responded with a quick exchange. Labiano missed with a high kick, which threw him off balance, and Lahat was able to knock him down. Lahat jumped on Labiano, who pulled guard and locked it down. Labiano made it difficult for Lahat to get separation, which kept the ground-and-pound at bay.
Labiano came out firing in Round 2 and taunted Lahat to meet him in the center of the cage. During the ensuing exchange, Lahat caught Labiano with a knee to the groin, which halted action for a few moments. When they restarted, the action was fast, with each landing clean shots. Lahat decided to put some pressure on Labiano up against the fence until he successfully took him to the mat with a trip. Lahat held top position for about 90 seconds until the referee called time after Lahat hit Labiano with an elbow to the back of the head. The referee deducted a point from Lahat for the two fouls. When the action restarted, the two fighters got tangled as they went to the mat. Lahat had a leg lock in deep briefly, but Labiano managed to get himself free.
Lahat and Labiano opened the final round with the same intensity as the first two, slinging punches at each other. About a minute into the round, Lahat found himself against the fence for the first time but reversed the position within seconds. Lahat pulled Labiano away from the cage and took him down, falling into half guard. From the dominant position, Lahat got to work with ground-and-pound, dropping lefts to Labiano’s face. Lahat continued to smother Labiano near the cage and attacked the body with his right hand. The referee stood the fighters up in the final 15 seconds, but by then Lahat had dominated the round.
It proved to be good enough for Lahat, with all three judges scoring the fight 29-27 in his favor.
“I’m the best in the world everything grappling,” Lahat said. “I feel comfortable there. It was a hell of a fight. Tough dude. Hard to kill. Man, it was fun.”
With the win, Lahat rebounds from a loss in August and now has won three of his last four fights since joining Bellator.
Haim Gozali made his way to the Bellator cage with style, complete with Israeli musical group The Shadow performing a song specifically for him.
To be clear, Gozali entered with style and finished his fight the same way.
Arsen Faitovich made the big mistake of shooting for a take down in the opening moments, and Gozali (8-4 MMA, 2-1 BMMA) made him pay, transitioning to a triangle choke and putting Faitovich (4-2 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) to sleep in his promotional debut.
The referee stepped in 45 seconds into the first round, and just like that the 44-year-old Gozali scored his second win in Israel with Bellator.
“I know he’s going to take me to the ground, and he took me to the ground,” Gozali said. “When I’m on the ground it’s like a shark in the water. I don’t care.”
A little bit of an added bonus for Gozali? This marked the first time his mother came to see him fight in his nearly 20-year professional career.
Complete Bellator 188 main-card results include:
- Noad Lahat def. Jeremiah Labiano via unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-27)
- Haim Gozali def. Arsen Faitovich via technical submission (triangle choke) – Round 1, 0:45
- John Salter def. Jason Radcliffe via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 1:55
- Denise Kielholtz def. Jessica Middleton via submission (scarf hold armlock) – Round 1, 1:16
For complete coverage of Bellator 188, check out the MMA events section of the site.