Expectations were fairly low for Bellator 188, especially after it lost its main event fight between Patricio Freire and Daniel Weichel just a few days beforehand, but the unheralded card ended up being an enjoyable affair with a plethora of first-round stoppages and a main event which saw Noad Lahat pick up a win over Jeremiah Labiano in his hometown of Tel Aviv, Israel
After a tepid first round that saw Lahat control the action with his top game, the second round played host to some controversy when Lahat secured another takedown but then landed a pair of illegal elbows to the back of Labianos head. Lahat argued that the elbows were to the ear, but the referee disagreed, breaking the fighters up and deducting a point from Lahat.
Perhaps feeling the pressure of losing the point, Lahat came out for the third round with increased urgency, quickly securing a takedown and dominating Labiano for the majority of the round. In the end, the point deduction did not matter as Lahat took home a unanimous decision victory with 29-27 scorecards from all three judges.
In the co-main event of the evening, Haim Gozali wasted no time rebounding from a his last loss, submitting Arsen Faitovich with a triangle choke only 45 seconds into the first round. Faitovich went for an early takedown and fell immediately into the choke. A quick adjustment later and Faitovich was going limp and the Israeli MMA pioneer was celebrating in front of a raucous crowd.
John Salter staked his claim for a middleweight title shot, finishing Jason Radcliffe with a rear-naked choke at 1:55 of the first round. It was a simple affair for the grappling standout who quickly secured a takedown, moved to the back, and sunk in the choke quickly. Salter is now 5-0 inside the Bellator cage with all of his wins coming by way of stoppage, four of them in the first round.
In the main card opener, Denise Kielholtz impressed in her Bellator MMA debut, submitting Jessica Middleton with a scarfhold armbar at 1:16 of the first round. Kielholtz is the Bellator flyweight kickboxing champion but she also has a black belt in judo and it was her grappling that decided this bout quickly, tossing Middleton to the ground with a head-arm-throw before eventually securing the tap out.