UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Expectations were high for Gegard Mousasi's debut with Bellator MMA.
On Friday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena, he didn't disappoint.
Despite a swollen right eye for most of the fight hindering his ability to see properly, Mousasi controlled his bout with Alexander Shlemenko primarily on the ground and won by unanimous decision. All three judges scored it 28-27.
The victory was Mousasi's sixth consecutive and first with his new promotion since leaving the UFC as a free agent earlier this summer.
Mousasi (43-6) took an overhand right hook to the face by Shlemenko (56-10) early in the first round. His right eye immediately started to swell, and at the intermission the doctor on site almost stopped the contest. But Mousasi battled through it and did his best work on the mat after multiple successful takedown attempts over the first 10 minutes.
The third round, though, was in favor of Shlemenko. The Russian was able to land a few heavy strikes, but none of them did serious damage. He also showed better cardio, as he was the clear aggressor in the final stages while Mousasi tried to hang on.
Mousasi told ESPN earlier this week he expects to get a middleweight title shot against the winner of Rafael Carvalho and Alessio Sakara, who compete for the belt in December.
Gracie continues Bellator rise
Neiman Gracie vowed to continue his family's illustrious MMA history, and Friday night he did just that. Gracie improved his professional record to 7-0 by submitting Zak Bucia via neck crank in the second round. Gracie took the fight to the mat early and controlled the entire way through with his elite Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills. Bucia was able to defend multiple attempts at rear naked chokes but eventually succumbed to the neck crank and tapped midway through the second.
Bucia, 18-9, had won his three previous matchups.
Hardy KO'd by vicious leg kick to face
Heather Hardy, coming off an impressive debut win at Madison Square Garden last June, looked primed to be a future star for Bellator. That all changed on Friday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena as Hardy took constant punishment from Kristina Williams and lost by TKO in the second round. A vicious leg kick that landed squarely on Hardy's nose with two minutes remaining in the round resulted in blood streaming down her face and forced the ref to end it early.
While Hardy was expected to be the aggressor due to her background as a professional boxer, it was Williams who provided most of the early action. A barrage of powerful leg kicks and punches by Williams to Hardy had her face red and bloody after the first round. The second was more of the same, proving that Williams' future could be just as bright.
Williams, a native of Edmond, Oklahoma, earned her first professional victory. Hardy dropped to 1-1.
Former boxing champion Julaton loses in Bellator debut
Ana Julaton, a former WBO and IBA super bantamweight champion in boxing, was upset in her Bellator debut at the Mohegan Sun Arena, losing by split decision to Lisa Blaine. Blaine (2-0) controlled the fight in the clinch and on the ground and was able to take the fight by a 29-28, 28-29, 29-28 score. It was Blaine's second career victory in as many fights.
Julaton (2-3) failed to utilize her superior striking ability and found herself either in the clinch or on the ground with Blaine for most of the fight. Blaine, who hails from nearby North Haven, Connecticut, spent a majority of the third round raining shots down from top position on the ground. With 30 seconds left, both fighters got up and traded punches and knees to the body.