Gegard Mousasi secured a Bellator debut win after a gruelling encounter with Alexander Shlemenko at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville in Connecticut.
The former UFC middleweight contender was aiming to make a statement introduction to the Bellator ranks, but only just edged by Shlemenko.
An overhand left busted Mousasi’s eye that needed the attention of doctors at the end of round one.
Mousasi was cleared to continue, but spent the remainder of the fight taking Shlemenko to the ground to avoid further striking damage.
The Netherlands fighter’s ground control and grappling skills went down well with the judges, who scored the bout 29-28 in his favour.
Shlemenko was disappointed with the result and is now considering appealing the razor thin decision.
Elsewhere on the night there was disappointment for boxing champion turned MMA star Heather Hardy.
Coker on UFC vs Bellator
‘Here’s how I feel about it: When I owned Strikeforce and we were doing fights back in the day, we had some of the best fighters on the planet, and it was like, ‘Well, the UFC guys are better than the Strikeforce guys,”
‘Then look what happened. Tyron Woodley, Luke Rockhold, Daniel Cormier – those are all (Strikeforce) guys. It’s just that people when they come over here feel it should be easy, but Shlemenko is a guy that had 55, 60 fights. That’s going to be a guy that’s dangerous.
‘To me, I think the people that have come over here from other leagues, they’ve had a hard time. I just say, ‘Hey, welcome to Bellator. This is going to be a tough going for everybody.’
The New York-native was fighting in just her second MMA fight up against debutant Kristina Williams.
Hardy was the overwhelming favourite heading into the fight, but she was reduced to a bloody mess when Williams threw a high kick that landed straight on her nose.
With blood pouring from Hardy’s face, the doctors stepped in to stop the fight in the second round.
Bellator 185 results
Gegard Mousasi def. Alexander Shlemenko – UD
Neiman Gracie def. Zak Bucia – Sub (neck crank, R2)
Kristina Williams def. Heather Hardy – TKO (Doctor stoppage, R2)
Lisa Blaine def. Ana Julaton – SD
Ryan Quinn def. Marcus Surin – UD
John Lopez def. Billy Giovanella – UD
Kevin Carrier def. Jose Antonio Perez – UD
Vovka Clay def. Frank Sforza – Sub (guillotine choke, R2)
Don Shainis def. Matthew Denning – TKO (punches, R1)
Jordan Young def. Alec Hooben – Sub (triangle choke, R1)
Costello van Steenis def. Steve Skrzat – TKO (Elbows, R1)
Joaquin Buckley def. Vinicius de Jesus – SD
Pete Rogers def. Timothy Wheeler – Sub (guillotine choke, R1)
Dean Hancock def. John Beneduce – TKO (strikes, R1)
In the co-main event Neiman Gracie kept up his undefeated streak by submitting Zak Bucia in round two.
Gracie moves to 7-0 as his expert Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills were too much for Bucia to handle.
A neck crank in round two finally ended the contest after Bucia had suffered three previous submission attempts.