Bellator Belfast: Corey Anderson beats Karl Moore to become new light-heavyweight champion

Karl Moore is punched by Corey Anderson
Karl Moore was fighting in his hometown of Belfast

Karl Moore's bid to become Ireland's first Bellator champion ended in heartbreak at the hands of American Corey Anderson in Belfast on Friday.

Anderson, 34, cruised to an unanimous points victory to claim Bellator's light-heavyweight title.

Moore's chances hinged on a stoppage victory but the local fighter was largely dominated over five rounds.

All three judges scored it for Anderson, who ended a near 11-year wait to win a world title in MMA.

Anderson joined Bellator in 2020 in search of world honours after six years in the UFC and in Belfast was competing in his second world title fight in the promotion.

The Illinois native has often shied away from the spotlight, but thousands of miles away from home he finally grasped the prize he has reached for since he turned pro in 2013.

Anderson did it relying on his strengths, wrestling and cardio, relentlessly and methodically crushing the fight out of Moore.

"Coming home finally, we finally did it," said Anderson as the belt was wrapped around his waist.

For Moore, it marked a disappointing juncture in the rapid rise of a fighter who three years ago was sleeping on a mattress in his gym and earning just £170 a week.

The wait for Ireland's next MMA world champion goes on, with Dubliner Conor McGregor the last fighter to hold a major world title in 2016.

Moore's fairytale falls short at final hurdle

With only four Irishmen on the card, the Belfast crowd saved much of their voice for the emergence of Moore just after 22:00 GMT inside the SSE Arena.

With half the 11,000-capacity arena closed off, the atmosphere had dwindled as the main card's only Irish fighter James Gallagher underperformed.

But Moore, a Belfast native, immediately raised spirits by entering to a crowd favourite, The Cranberries' Zombie.

But Moore was so quickly in the cage, the crowd weren't given the chance to belt out the chorus that has become synonymous with Irish MMA in recent years.

It was perhaps an omen for a fight that never truly got going for the hometown fighter.

Anderson came flying out of the traps, setting a ferocious pace and visibly worrying Moore.

Moore was roared on as he stepped forward for the first time after a jittery start, glancing Anderson with a high kick.

But he quickly found himself on the ground, where he stayed for the rest of the round.

The second round saw little joy for Moore as he was forced to spend much of it defending against Anderson's superior wrestling.

It was the same in the third before a moment of sudden jeopardy for Anderson as he found himself trapped in an armbar attempt from Moore.

The crowd's decibel rose but Anderson produced a brilliant escape, twisting out of danger. Just as the fight seemed to be slipping away from Moore he found himself back in it.

But the toll of three rounds of defensive work was taking its toll as Moore struggled to get off his punches with any speed or power.

Anderson cruised through to the final round, taking Moore down twice in quick succession.

The referee's decision to stand Anderson up in the final stages gave Moore one more chance to steal what would have been a famous victory, but he was unable to deliver.

The final scores read 50-45, 49-46 and 49-46 in Anderson's favour, who picked up his 18th career win.

"We got it, but 'Overtime' is not satisfied," Anderson said.

"We've got more work to do and more names to beat."