Rafael Lovato Jr. fought back the tears after beating Gegard Mousasi in the fight of his life, winning the Bellator Middleweight title

Twitter / Bellator MMARafael Lovato Jr.
  • Rafael Lovato Jr. is the new Bellator Middleweight champion after outpointing former titleholder Gegard Mousasi in London on Saturday.
  • Lovato Jr.’s ground game bettered Mousasi, who only ever had success in the fight when it was stand-up.
  • After the fight, Lovato Jr. said through tears that the crowd were sharing the best moments of his life with him.
  • “This is a dream come true,” he said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s home page for more stories.

LONDON, The SSE Arena in Wembley – Rafael Lovato Jr. told Business Insider this week that he felt “amazing” and “ready to fulfil destiny.”

On Saturday in London, he did just that by wresting the Bellator Middleweight championship belt away from Gegard Mousasi’s waist with expert ground game.

Lovato Jr. told us Thursday that he had spotted flaws in Gegard Mousasi’s fighting style, that though the Dutchman was a terrific striker, there were gaps in his groundwork that he could exploit.

Read more: James Gallagher earned a slim win at Bellator 223 – just don’t ask him about his Straight Blast Gym teammate Conor McGregor like we did

And the American, a jiu jitsu expert, took the fight to the ground after he struck an elbow through Mousasi’s guard, flooring the champion before controlling the ebb and flow of the fight on the mat. Lovato Jr. hit Mousasi with knees to the midsection and elbows to the face, winning the opening round in comfort.

In the middle rounds, Lovato Jr. barely gave Mousasi any time to engage a striking fight, wrestling him against the fence, and completing takedowns and transitions.

The first time the power balance truly swung to the champion’s favour was with 90 seconds left on the clock in the third, when Mousasi gained top positions, landed elbows and thudding punches, while Lovato Jr. scrambled for control, attempting to bat Mousasi off of him with his gangling legs.

Lovato Jr.’s slipperiness continued in the fourth, when he evaded Mousasi’s jabbing and lead punch shots with evasive head movement. When he spotted opportunities, Lovato Jr. attempted takedowns, but Mousasi did all he could to keep the fight stand-up.

Gegard MousasiBellator MMAGegard Mousasi.

Striking was always going to be Mousasi’s strength in this bout, and he sent Lovato Jr. to the floor with a hellfire upprcut. Lovato Jr. was slow to recover, even after getting back to his feet, sending limp kicks at Mousasi’s head.

With the fight seemingly tied two rounds apiece, the fifth was a deciding round. Mousasi’s stand-up versus Lovato Jr.’s ground game. And the American quickly went to work, taking Mousasi down, and attempting locks before finishing the fight on top.

“We did it,” Lovato Jr., fighting back tears, said after the fight. “This is the dream … It’s an honour. London, you guys are sharing the best moments in my life with me. This is a dream come true.”

Read more: Everything you need to know about the bareknuckle grudge match between Artem Lobov and Paulie Malignaggi – the bloodiest show in town

Earlier in the night, Melvin Manhoef decisioned Kent Kauppinen with three scores of 29-28 in a light heavyweight brawl, after former reality television star Aaron Chalmers extended his professional MMA record to five wins against one loss, by submitting Fred Freeman with a triangle choke.

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