On Friday, March 23, Bellator's season six lightweight tournament got underway with a bang when Lloyd Woodard submitted Patricky Freire via kimura at 1:46 of round two. Woodard joins Thiago Michel, Brent Weedman, and Rick Hawn in the tournament semi-finals.
Here is a look at the evening's main card:
Thiago Michel via split decision over Rene Nazare
Thiago Michel controlled much of this match by using his kicks to keep Rene Nazare at a distance. I think Michel took the first round as Nazare struggled to get inside on his opponent, but it was a close enough round that either fighter could have earned it.
At the three minute mark in the second round, Nazare managed to get Michel to the ground. Nazare kept fairly busy while holding Michel down, but the referee still stood them up. It was a poor decision on the referee's part, and it changed the course of the entire round. Michel dominated the rest of the rest of the round with his superior striking to win the round 10-9.
The third round was a different story. Michel was the aggressor in the first two rounds, but he seemed to back off in the final frame. He stopped trying to engage Nazare and just sat in the pocket letting his opponent take the fight to him. That strategy almost worked against Michel. Nazare earned a takedown and utilized his ground and pound for the last half of the third round to take it 10-9. Michel earned the split-decision victory 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28, but I hope he learns never to take his foot off the gas again.
Brent Weedman via submission over J.J. Ambrose
J.J. Ambrose was never really in this fight, even though he managed a couple D'Arce choke attempts. Both men are Muay Thai fighters, but Weedman's striking was much more refined and it showed early in the match when he dropped and nearly stopped Ambrose. He eventually mounted Ambrose before transitioning into a body triangle, but Weedman was unable to finish the fight before the bell sounded.
Weedman continued his dominance in the second round and forced Ambrose to tap out with a Von Flue choke. I'm not sure how much further Weedman will advance in this tournament, but he made Ambrose look like an amateur.
Rick Hawn via knockout over Ricardo Tirloni
Ricardo Tirloni was competitive early, but Rick Hawn proved his dominance rather quickly in the first round. Hawn took control of the fight when he landed a power counter right hand after Tirloni took a chance on an overhand right of his own. From that point forward, Hawn's aggression was the difference. He got inside on Tirloni and nailed him with a huge right hand followed by some ground and pound before the referee stopped the fight. Hawn looked extremely impressive, and I think he's a favorite to win the tournament right now.
Lloyd Woodard via kimura submission over Patricky Freire
This was the clear fight of the night. Both men went back and forth throughout the first round with explosive striking and some of the best ground work on the main card. Each fighter rocked the other at some point in the first five minutes, but they each recovered before it was too late. I gave the round to Freire due to takedowns and the attempted kimura as time ran out, but it was so close that Woodard could easily have been judged the winner.
The second round was similar to the first with some powerful blows being exchanged between the two men. The fight turned when Woodard was able to avoid Freire's armbar attempt. Woodard locked in a kimura and dislocated Freire's elbow, which forced him to tap out.
Words can't express how entertaining this fight was. Hopefully, Freire recovers quickly from his injury and resumes his career soon. He deserves a quick return to the cage. Woodard is another favorite to win this tournament. I hope he isn't matched up with Hawn in the semi-finals. I think it's clear that Hawn and Woodard are the two best fighters remaining in the lightweight tourney.
Derek Ciapala has been following MMA since the days when Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie fought in the octagon. You can follow him on Twitter @dciapala.
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