Will Brooks repeatedly put Saad Awad on his back, smothering the fighter over three rounds in route to a unanimous decision that avenged the only loss of his career. The win earns Brooks a fight with Tiger Sarnavskiy in the Bellator lightweight tournament final on November 22.
Brooks clearly won each round in the fight, and would not give into Awad’s taunts to make it a brawl. He used his speed, athleticism and powerful wrestling to keep Awad off his game.
After Brooks had Awad in the crucifix position to end round one, Awad’s frustration began to boil over. Brooks landed several leg kicks to start round two, and Awad showed his frustration by taunting Brooks, barking at him “Come on!” while waving him in. Brooks smiled wide, and also waved Awad in. But he didn’t fall for the tactic.
Awad did cinch up a guillotine with 3:45 left in round two, but Brooks pushed down Awad’s right knee and stepped over into half-guard. Action got back to standing and with 2:15 left, when Brooks threw a jab and followed it with a double-leg that got Awad down again. Awad was laboring to breathe at that point.
Brooks got himself into a bit of trouble late in the round. He was trying to avoid up kicks from Awad and went to take top position. He instead jumped right into a triangle, but had both arms free and was able to survive the round.
Brooks scored yet another takedown on Awad early in round three, but Awad immediately swept him and ended up in his half-guard. Brooks was able to explode out, evaded a straight-right from Awad and took him right back down.
Brooks backpedaled away after a few of Saad’s strikes connected with about two minutes left. Awad slapped his own face with both hands and implored Brooks to fight. Brooks again just smiled at Awad, then shot in with a lightning-fast double-leg that put Awad on his back again.
“This ain’t Rocky,” analyst Jimmy Smith said of Brooks’ decision to go for the takedown rather than get in a slugfest with Awad. “I’m going to change level, hit the double-leg, finish out on top,” Smith said.
With just over a minute left in the fight, referee Jason Herzog called for a standup. Brooks actually helped Awad off the canvas.
Play-by-play announcer Sean Wheelock asked, “Is that sportsmanship or is that sending a message of domination?”
“Maybe a little bit of both, hard to tell right now,” Smith replied.
Again Awad barked at Brooks to engage. Again Brooks shot in and put Awad on his back, ending up in side control. Awad continued to complain from the bottom, then the bell to end round three sounded.
“That’s exactly the fight Will Brooks talked about,” Smith said. “A three-round domination, 15 minutes, I’m going to drag him into deep water and drown him — that’s exactly what he did.”
Brooks again helped Awad off the canvas and raised both of their hands up. But only Brooks got his hand raised after the scorecards were read, winning via unanimous decision, 30-27 on all cards.
“I’ve been through a lot to get to this point in my life, man. Me, my family, my friends…we’ve all made extreme sacrifices, just so I could chase one dream that every other fighter in here has chased,” Brooks told Jimmy Smith in his post-fight interview.