Yes, this was a lazy choice for the leading picture. Suck it, Trebek.
Sometimes when major news breaks, there’s news that falls through the cracks. So while everyone and their brother is talking about middle eastern uprisings, Japanese earthquakes and #tigerblood, can we point out that we’re watching two major MMA organizations initiate their melodramatic death scenes? If you had Dream/FEG in your office MMA org death pool, well, we compliment your good sense, and sympathize with your loss.
Anyways, with yesterday’s seismic changes in the MMA scene (and if you believe the “business as usual” line, we have a used space shuttle to sell you), it’s possible you forgot about Bellator XXXVI. This was the kind of show that Bellator built its rep on: an eclectic mix of journeymen and young prospects competing in a field in which your predictions are about as solid as a coin toss, seasoned with the best undercard fights to round out the show. Bellator continues to stay on the cutting edge of free agent acquisition, and the tournaments are only becoming more compelling.
If you DVR’d the Louisiana show last night, go watch it right now. Don’t worry, we’ll wait. If you can’t– DUDE you missed an awesome show. Of the seven fights last night, exactly zero went to decision, although the Spiritwolf-Jara bloodbath from last week, broadcast this week by popular demand, did actually make it to the judges. Come on in and we’ll tell you about it, without rubbing it in too much.
First matchup of the evening features Michael Chandler (5-0) versus Marcin Held (10-1). Former Div I wrestling All-American Chandler competed at 170 and 165 last season, but he looks solid at 155 and he’s part of the wrestler’s invasion of Bellator’s ranks. With the success of guys like Joe Warren and Ben Askren, you know Chandler merits watching. One humorous note: Chandler’s official website is billed as “The Official Website of Michael Chandler, professional UFC Fighter”, so we know that he tranes UFC.
His opponent is a guy that you cannot Google without tripping over the word “prodigy”. Poland’s pride in MMA, Held has been competing professionally since we was sixteen. Go ahead and read that again slowly: Marcin Held was fighting grown men with fists when most of us were losing battles against acne. Held brings an aggressive submission game, and he’s confident in his abilities, but is he ready for a big step up in competition?
Well, not really. Chandler engages quickly, and both fire off some punches before he bulldozes Held to the mat. Held is active and aggressively looking for subs, and looks to have a kneebar irrevocably sunk on Chandler at one point. Chandler somehow pushes through the hyperextension of a very important joint, and manages to get free as Held switches for a heel hook.
Chandler drops rights like a Wisconsin governor as Held continues to look for the submission button that will make Chandler just stop hitting him, transitioning between arm and leg and waiting for something to work. Chandler’s in half guard, and he hits the go-to move for all collegiate wrestlers: the arm triangle choke. He tightens his hold on Held’s head and arm, patiently works free of half guard, and begins rotating to tighten the technique. Held defends by wrapping both arms around his own leg, using his whole body to create space around his neck. It’s an intelligent response, and completely in vain. Held strains, starts to tap, but he doesn’t make it. Michael Chandler defeats Marcin Held via technical submission (arm triangle choke) at 3:56 of the first. Chandler says that his motivation and desire are second to none, and he *promises* he’ll win the tournament.
Next up is Bellator vet Carey Vanier versus some scrub you’ve never heard of. Vanier lost to Toby Imada in the semifinals of the Season 2 lightweight tourney, then took a split decision over Rich “No Love” Clementi in a tournament qualifier bout. Since that win, Vanier went to train with Greg Jackson’s team in New Mexico, and it looks like he’ll cruise into the next round: Vanier is athletic, well-conditioned, and he’s got Yoda in his corner. No contest, right?
Across the cage from him is some cat named Lloyd Woodward. What? Oh, sorry Lloyd Woodard. Whatever, his nickname is “Cupcake“, how can we take this dude seriously? Well, pay attention class. Woodard is from Missoula, Montana, and he’s repping the 406 with a moustache so manly it only drinks protein shakes and bourbon. Really, scroll back up there and look at it. Makes you want a big hat and a thick steak, doesn’t it? If that hometown sounds familiar, it’s because Old Dad also calls it home. (Plus that other guy.) Woodard claims he too has been fighting grown men with fists since he was sixteen, and he’s here to put the 155ers on notice.
Vanier starts with takedown attempts early, with Woodard fending off the first few attempts impressively. When Vanier finally lands a decent slam, Woodard pops to his feet with the quickness. Standing, Woodard stings Vanier with an overhand right, then defends the retaliatory takedown attempt. Vanier stays aggressive, but Woodard is doing an impressive job getting his licks in. The two end the first against the cage, and it’s on to the second.
Woodard continues to put out offense in the second, rocking Vanier with a short left hook and jumping at the chance to put him away. Scrambling, Woodard uses a kimura setup to flip Vanier onto his back, then gets back to his feet for another flurry of fists and knees, and the ref jumps in to call it. Lloyd “Cupcake” Woodard defeats Carey Vanier via TKO with 46 seconds left in the second, and he pulls off arguably the greatest Rocky impression ever in his post fight interview.
Lesson learned: don’t sleep on anybody that Bellator sticks into the brackets. Didn’t you learn that with Pat Curran? Woodard will move on to face Michael Chandler at Bellator XL.
The third lightweight fight matches Toby Imada (28-15) and Ferris Kheder, or it would have, except Kheder bizarrely opted to not even try to make weight. Reportedly well over the tournament weight, Kheder did not even step on a scale Thursday, and designated alternate Josh Shockley (6-0) gets his shot at all the marbles.
Toby Imada will forever have a home at Bellator by virtue of his ridiculous come-from-behind submission win over Jorge Masvidal in season 1, even if he weren’t the kind of guy that will take any fight at any time. He’s always competitive, having only lost to tournament champions while fighting for Bellator, and you cannot blink when the guy fights, since his opponents start tapping with enthusiasm at the damndest times.
Josh Shockley is, well, some guy that was on the brink of being invited to the tournament. Considering the depth of the lightweight field, that’s not a shameful thing, but Shockley has pulled a tough fight with 24 hours notice.
Too tough, it turns out. Shockley lands a few nice rights in the standup, but he apparently forgets he’s fighting the LA Sub Machine, as he goes to the ground with Imada early in the first. Imada being Imada, he applies an armbar immediately, and holds on that arm as Shockley tries to posture, slam, and wiggle free. Shockley tries for a powerbomb escape, but winds up actually increasing the pressure on the joint Imada was attacking, and cries out in pain, which is enough for referee Gary Copeland to stop the fight. Toby Imada defeats Josh Shockley, officially due to verbal submission (armbar) at 1:19 of Round 1, and advances to the semifinals once again.
Next up is an undercard scrap featuring Kevin Aguilar and Matthew Hunt at a catchweight 150. I’d give you their records, but comparing Sherdog and The Underground’s databases just gives us a headache. They’re both rookies, ok? Anyways, Aguilar dominated the entirety of the fight, but Hunt was a game dude that punched and pried his way out of a pretty tight triangle before giving up his back and turtling; the ref called it shortly after. Kevin “The Angel of Death” (no, we didn’t make this one up) Aguilar defeats Matthew “Call me Mike” (we made this one up) Hunt at 3:02 of the first round.
Rounding out the tournament action for the evening is one of those matchups that looks explosive on paper: “Razor” Rob McCullough (19-6) versus Patricky “Pitbull” Freire (7-1). Actually, we’re told that the paper itself spontaneously burst into flames, and everyone in the room laughed and high-fived.
Razor Rob curiously didn’t make the cut for the WEC-UFC transition, despite being 8-4 with WEC and holding the 155 belt back in 2007. Now the thirty-three year old vet moves on from two wins at Tachi Palace, back to the national stage, looking to add another championship to his collection.
Patricky Pibull is being introduced as this BJJ wizard, like that’s all he does. If you’ve seen his brother Patricio fight, or happen to remember that the Brothers Pitbull came up training with Team Black House, or you take the time to look at his record, you’ll probably expect Patricky to be no slouch on the feet, either.
It’s another thoroughly entertaining bout. Freire dominates the first, but is unable to put McCullough away with a rear naked. Razor Rob escapes and finishes the first round kicking at the legs of a recumbent Freire, then picks it up in the second, scoring with technically sound boxing and hard low kicks. Freire looks a little slower in the second, probably from his try-hard with the mata leone, and he catches a few good combos from McCullough before answering and taking it to the mat again. McCullough works from being mounted to being on top and throwing leather to take round two.
Round three starts with McCullough confident and comfortable–perhaps too comfortable. He continues with low kicks and short combos, staying busy and looking to outwork Pitbull in the last frame. Freire answers one of McCullough’s leg kicks by unleashing a right hook that unhinges all the joints in Razor Rob’s body–he collapses and the ref quickly calls it. Patricky “Pitbull” Freire defeats “Razor” Rob McCullough at 3:11 of Round 3 via TKO (punches), and just like that, another veteran favorite is eliminated in the tournament While Freire moves on to Toby Imada . McCullough v. Huerta, anyone?
To really cap the evening, Bellator serves up the three round slobberburner from last week featuring Waachiim Spiritwolf and Jaime Jara, which you didn’t see unless you were in Lemoore, California for the event, or you knew a guy who knew a guy (thanks, you know who you are). It’s fifteen minutes of aggression, heart, and blood–not a technical battle, but holy shit these guys beat the hell out of one another, you guys. In case you forgot, Waachiim Spiritwolf took a split decision win over Jaime Jara.
Not awesome enough to make the broadcast (yet):
Chad Leonhardt defeated Kelly Leo via TKO (corner stoppage) at 5:00 of round 2.
Booker Arthur defeated Javone Duhon via verbal submission (elbows) at 2:31 of round 2.