The kickoff to Bellator’s fourth season lightweight tournament started off with a bang on Saturday night with four fights taking place, all of them resulting in finishes.
Former WEC champion “Razor” Rob McCullough looked to fight his way back to top status starting with Bellator 36, but his plans crashed down at the hands of Patricky Freire.
Freire entered the fight with a heavy heart after his longtime friend and manager Ivan Canello passed away last week, but he would have made him proud with his performance on Saturday. Freire took McCullough down early in the first round and almost finished the California based fighter with a rear naked choke.
Freire dominated the entire round, but let McCullough slip back into the fight in the second session. The young Brazilian put a stop to that in the final round.
Cracking McCullough with a huge shot, the former WEC champion crashed to the mat and Freire followed up with a quick strike before the referee rushed in for the save. Freire moves on, while it’s back to the drawing board for McCullough.
Toby Imada had to switch opponents at the last minute when Ferrid Kheder failed to make weight, but the two-time Bellator tournament veteran didn’t seem to mind. He submitted replacment fighter Josh Shockley with a nasty armbar in the first round.
Imada grabbed a hold of Shockley’s arm just moments into the fight. He didn’t let got until Shockley screamed out in pain as the fighters slammed to the mat together. The referee called the fight due to verbal submission and Imada gets one step closer to his ultimate goal of a second fight against Eddie Alvarez for the Bellator lightweight title.
In what had to be considered an early upset in the Bellator lightweight tournament, Lloyd Woodard put Carey Vanier away by TKO in the second round of their bout on Saturday night.
Woodard spent the majority of the first round fending off takedown attempts from Vanier, and doing a very good job along the way. It seemed once he got comfortable defending the takedowns, Woodard found his timing on the feet in the second round.
Catching Vanier with a short left hook, Woodard dropped him and opened up a blitzing attack. Vanier recovered momentarily until he was dropped again. As he rolled to his side, Woodard continued the barrage of strikes until the fight was stopped.
Woodard now moves on to the semifinal round of the lightweight tournament after the impressive showing against Vanier.
Heralded prospect Michael Chandler battled his way out of early trouble against Marcin Held to snatch a submission of his own, finishing the fight in the first round.
Chandler, a former All-American wrestler from Missouri, came into the bout 5-0 and an early favorite to make it to the finals of the Bellator tournament. It almost came to a crashing halt when Held grabbed hold of Chandler’s leg, sinking in a deep kneebar.
Chandler continued to battle until he got free of the submission, then continued his onslaught. He got on top of Held relentlessly pursuing a head and arm choke. Chandler cinched up on the choke. Held didn’t have a chance to tap out because he passed out.
Chandler now moves on in the Bellator lightweight tournament and he promised to continue his dark horse run towards the title.