Ryan Bader’s first punch as a heavyweight was enough to put the rest of the division on notice — and moved the 34-year-old fighter one step closer to getting a second championship belt wrapped around his waist.
It certainly got King Mo’s attention.
Bader made a quick and impressive debut in the heavyweight division, stopping Muhammed ‘King Mo’ Lawall 15 seconds into the first round of the main event at Bellator 199.
Bader (25-5, 11 knockouts) sent Lawall sprawling to the mat with a crisp left hook – the first punch of the fight. Bader quickly pounced and landed repeated right hands before referee Mike Beltron stepped in to stop the fight, the last of the quarterfinal matches of the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix.
“I just saw him duck and I knew where his head was going, so I met him with that hook,” Bader said. “I was surprised, but I thought that result was going to come at some point. I thought there would be more trading. It just happened to be the first punch.”
The abrupt end capped a card that was lacking in action most of the night until Bader’s big left landed on Lawall’s chin, bringing the SAP Center crowd to its feet for one of the few times.
“I found the sweet spot,” Bader told the crowd afterward.
The 34-year-old Bader, who holds the light heavyweight crown, is attempting to become the first fighter in Bellator to hold two belts simultaneously in Bellator. Conor McGregor holds two championships in UFC.
To do it, Bader will have to win two more fights.
Matt Mitrione awaits in one semifinal match while heavyweight legend Fedor Emelianenko takes on Chael Sonnen in the other, with the winners advancing to the finals later this year.
“It gets real now,” Bader said. “I’m looking forward to that fight. Matt’s a buddy of mine, too. It’s a good relationship. My plan is to win this belt and defend both.”
Some questioned how well Bader would do in his first heavyweight bout. One punch was all it took to answer.
Lawal (21-7) never recovered. Fighting for the first time since undergoing hip surgery in May 2017, ‘King Mo’ got crowned early and didn’t get back to his feet until the bout was over.
The two men had a history together, having gone against one another when both were in college.
“I competed against him way back in the day and it’s crazy to think that 16, 17, 18 years later we’re doing it again at a huge stage,” Bader said.
The fight attracted some of the biggest names in the sport, including former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, Daniel Cormier and Nate Diaz. Rapper 50 Cent and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo were also among those in attendance.
On the undercard, 42-year-old Cheick Kongo knocked out Javy Ayala with a short right hand to the chin midway through the first round to win in the heavyweight division. Kongo could be in line to fight the winner of the Grand Prix.
Jon Fitch outlasted Paul Daley to win a welterweight bout in the semi-main event by unanimous decision.
“He only caught me with one punch,” Fitch said. “I was able to keep moving.”