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Bellator 36 Preview

March 12, 2011 Leave a comment

The biggest MMA story of the day, of course, is the start of Bellator’s Lightweight Tournament!  Oh, and Zuffa bought some company called Strikeforce.  That might be important.  Okay, so that’s a pretty big deal.  I’ll definitely be going over that soon, though it sounds like there won’t be any immediate changes.  I have some thoughts on what this will mean for MMA.

In the meantime, we have some great fights tonight on MTV2 for Bellator.  I’m sure this makes MTV2 happy, as Bellator was a huge success for them last weekend.  I’m glad that this is so much of an improvement for MTV2, since that hopefully means they can continue to be the home of Bellator beyond 2011.

I’ll just do a quick breakdown of the four tournament fights, since between the Zuffa/Strikeforce story and the lovely wedding shower I attended today, I’m pretty wiped out.  Must…save…energy…for…Bellator.

Lightweight Tournament Quarterfinals: Rob McCullough (19-6) vs. Patricky Freire (7-1)

I’m looking foward to this fight the most, though Kheder vs. Imada was probably my favorite until Kheder pulled out of the event.  McCullough has strung a couple of good wins today since leaving the WEC.  Freire is a talented prospect who still has a lot to prove and is making his U.S. debut.

McCullough is still very talented, though he’s a long way from the WEC Lightweight Title he held in 2007.  He’s a very well-rounded fighter and should be able to take this fight.  I see Freire struggling with such a big step up in competition.

Lightweight Tournament Quarterfinals: Carey Vanier (10-3) vs. Lloyd Woodard (10-0)

Vanier last beat UFC veteran Rich Clementi to gain entry into this tournament, with a sole Bellator loss to fellow tournament participant Toby Imada.  The undefeated Lloyd Woodard will be making his Bellator debut, but he doesn’t have a ton of big wins to his record.

Vanier has a pretty good track record and has been training with Greg Jackson since the fall.  That’s just the type of boost a fighter like Vanier needs to get to the next level, and that will begin tonight with a win over the less experienced Woodard.

Lightweight Tournament Quarterfinals: Marcin Held (10-1) vs. Michael Chandler (5-0)

Marcin Held, a Polish fighter, will be making his U.S. and Bellator debuts.  He’s a talented Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner taking five out of ten wins by submission.  Despite only five professional fights, Michael Chandler has spent time in Strikeforce and Bellator.  Chandler is the newest name in a string of University of Missouri wrestlers moving to MMA.  Bellator’s Ben Askren and Strikeforce’s Tyron Woodley are two other former Mizzou wrestlers.

Chandler has been really impressive to date, flashing both submission ability and knockout power.  I doubt that Held has seen a wrestler like Chandler in his career, so it’s possible the skills of the undefeated Chandler might confound the Polish veteran.  I look for Chandler to continue his winning ways en route to the Lightweight Tournament semifinals.

Lightweight Tournament Quarterfinals: Josh Shockley (6-0) vs. Toby Imada (28-15)

In a surprising twist, Ferrid Kheder was forced to pull out of this fight as he apparently didn’t make the 156 lbs. weight limit.  Josh Shockley will be the very late replacement, and that doesn’t bode well for Shockley.  He has nothing to lose since it seems he’s playing with house money, but Toby Imada is a tough opponent.

Imada is a talented submission artist with good striking.  His only two Bellator losses are in previous Lightweight Tournament Finals to Eddie Alvarez and Pat Curran, a fight many thought Imada won.  Imada, the judo blackbelt, will win this fight.  It would be a stunning turn if Shockley went from fighting on the prelims to defeating Toby Imada in 24 hours.  I can’t see that happening.

Middleweight: Kelly Leo (3-1) vs. Chad Leonhardt (7-2)

Catchweight (150 lbs.): Matt Hunt (1-0) vs. Kevin Aguilar (0-0)

Catchweight (150 lbs.): Javon Duhon (0-1) vs. Booker Arthur (0-0)

Categories: Event Preview