Melvin Manhoef wanted to make a good first impression in his Bellator MMA debut.
That, he did, and it wound up getting him a middleweight title shot. Manhoef knocked out Doug Marshall in the Bellator 125 main event with a brutal right hand behind the ear. Then he was told that President Scott Coker had granted him the winner of the Bellator 126 main event between 185-pound champion Alexander Shlemenko and Brandon Halsey.
Bellator 125 took place at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., with a main card on Spike TV following prelims on Spike.com.
Manhoef was a ball of energy during the introductions, but came out patiently before throwing a big left hook 25 seconds in. Marshall answered back, but Manhoef threw a high kick that just missed and then one that was way too low.
Marshall got a break for the low blow, but when they restarted, it was Manhoef trying to put together heavy shots as Marshall circled outside. Marshall took a chance to push forward, backing Manhoef up with a combo. But then Manhoef landed a right, followed by three straight kicks.
Then an over-the-top right hand put Marshall on the canvas, flat on his face. Manhoef’s right hand was just behind Marshall’s left ear, and that was all it took. A quick left hand on the ground was inconsequential, as Marshall already was out.
“I couldn’t ask for anything better,” Manhoef said of his debut. “He’s a great fighter. He had the short end of this fight, but I’m very happy to be in Bellator.”
Manhoef, who has fought for Strikeforce, DREAM and ONE FC, then was even happier to be in the promotion when he was told Coker had given him a title shot for his second fight in the company.
Manhoef (29-11-1 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) won for the second straight time after a pair of 2013 losses. Marshall (18-8 MMA, 4-2 BMMA) lost for the second straight outing after starting his Bellator career 4-0.
Bellator 125 results include:
MAIN CARD (Spike TV, 9 p.m. ET)
- Melvin Manhoef def. Doug Marshall via knockout (punch) – Round 1, 1:45
- Rafael Carvalho def. Brian Rogers via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 3:03
- Javy Ayala def. Raphael Butler via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 1:03
- Goiti Yamauchi def. Martin Stapleton via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 4:37
PRELIMINARY CARD (Spike.com, 7 p.m. ET)
- Joe Neal def. Paul Ruiz via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Matthew Ramirez def. Oscar Ramirez via submission (armbar) – Round 1, 0:42
- Chris Honeycutt def. Aaron Wilkinson via TKO (strikes) – Round 2, 4:45
- Julio Cesar Neves def. Poppies Martinez via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 2:16
- Jonny Bonilla-Bowman def. Art Becerra via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Jesse Juarez def. Ron Keslar via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- George Zuniga def. Granson Clark via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 0:34
- Nate James def. Anthony Ruiz via split decision