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Ireland’s Gallagher earns narrow win on comeback


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James Gallagher had not won a fight since 2020 and had been injured since 2021Ireland’s James Gallagher narrowly beat James Gonzalez via split decision after a 21-month injury lay-off at Bellator 298 in South Dakota.Gallagher was overcome with emotion by his first victory since October 2020, climbing on top of the cage to celebrate despite loud boos.The 26-year-old was not at his best, but did enough to convince two judges of a 29-28 points win at featherweight.”Do you hear all those boos? I love it,” Gallagher said.”Winners win. That was a sloppy performance. But guess what, they tried to keep me out of the game. “They tried to come for me. They tried to stop me from ever getting back in here [to fight]. Nobody can stop me.”A close fight in Sioux Falls swung on a second round that could have gone either way, with Gallagher in top position but American Gonzalez landing more punches in response from his back.Gallagher uncharacteristically did not call out any specific fighter after his win, but insisted he wanted to be active after such a long spell on the sidelines.”I want a quick turnaround. I want to get back,” he said. “They tried keep me out and now I’m back. I’m fresh, healthy, my mindset is different. That was just a warm-up.”Gallagher was fighting at featherweight for the first time in Bellator after deciding to move up in weight following defeat by Patchy Mix in his previous fight in November 2021.After almost two years out of the cage, Gallagher was given an unkind welcome back to fighting as Gonzalez landed a hard spinning backfist on the Strabane native in the opening seconds.Gallagher rode the collision brilliantly and immediately took the fight to the ground.Gonzalez, 33, was able to make bottom position work for him as he forced Gallagher to fight off a few submission attempts, including a heel hook.But Gallagher eventually regained control and finished the round strongly, raining down elbows and punches on his opponent as the bell rang.Gallagher moved up to featherweight for his comebackThe second round played out much the same as the first, Gallagher in top position, but unable to do anything with it as he failed to break down Gonzalez’s resistance.Gonzalez came flying out of the traps in the final round after a telling off from his corner, firing off at will at Gallagher.But Gallagher was able to circle away from trouble and produced a takedown on his opponent. Gonzalez, though, did brilliantly to reverse position and put Gallagher on his back for the first time in the fight.The American dominated the rest of the round, and did enough to convince one judge, and the crowd, he had won the fight.But it was Gallagher who announced as the winner, prompting an outpouring of emotion from the Irishman who dedicated the victory to his parents and son.Bellator returns to Dublin on 23 September for Briton Fabian Edwards’ middleweight title tilt, but that date may come too soon for Gallagher.Highlight reel moment evades impressive DavisAlfie Davis picked up the 16th win of his pro careerLightweight Alfie Davis picked up an impressive win on away soil against Aalon Cruz in one of the Briton’s best performances in the Bellator cage to date.Davis, 31, outclassed his American opponent over three rounds, with all three judges scoring it a wide 30-27 points win.The Englishman trains with the Michael ‘Venom’ Page at London Shootfighters and like his team-mate often does, Davis tried multiple times to produce a highlight-reel finish.One such moment was when Cruz was advancing in round two and Davis countered with what at first glance appeared a perfectly timed jump knee.But Cruz’s chin was up to the task as he recovered quickly and he was able to avoid a spinning wheel kick attempt from Davis moments later.A left hook from Davis stunned Cruz in the third and he landed another jump knee shortly afterwards, but again Cruz stood firm in front of some excellent striking.The victory extends Davis’ record to 16 wins, one draw and four losses.

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