If you haven’t checked out the fourth season of Bellator Fighting Championships on MTV2 yet, you’ve been missing out. This was especially true of last night’s broadcast, which featured great fights across the board as the promotion’s lightweight tournament kicked off with some excellent action.
No judges necessary
Not only did all four televised fights finish before the scheduled three rounds concluded, but the three non-televised bouts also featured finishes, to boot. It was definitely a welcome change from the week before, which featured competitive fights, but weren’t quite as dynamic (for the most part) as what we saw last night.
The funny thing is that the long-standing (and ridiculous) perception has always been that lighter fighters do not finish one another as often as their heavier counterparts. That seems counter-intuitive considering that the speed and conditioning of lighter fighters means that they do far more in five minutes than, say, heavyweights do, and last night gave plenty of evidence to the contrary.
From a technical submission to a verbal tapout to a great back-and-forth fight between Patricky “Pitbull” Freire and “Razor” Rob McCullough, the latest Bellator offering certainly puts the company in a position to keep building on all the positive buzz from their MTV2 debut the week before. Also, with all of the suspect, strange and just plain awful decisions in MMA over the last few years, it’s always good to see fighters take matters in their own hands like they did last night.
Freire has all the tools to win it
I was very impressed by Patricky “Pitbull” Freire’s performance against Rob McCullough last night. Freire not only has great jiu-jitsu, but is also the rare jiu-jitsu specialist to have very good standup, as well. While you could tell that Freire was not on par with McCullough in areas that require a lot of refinement, such as footwork, he threw a nice mix of punches with great technique, and was resilient and smart in the pocket against the veteran.
While Freire should have been more willing to go to the mat in the later goings as McCullough started to get the better of things in the latter two rounds, it ultimately didn’t matter as Freire landed an absolute bomb when McCullough left an opening as he threw an inside leg kick in the third round. Freire shows power, good technique and heart, as his manager and long-time friend recently passed away at age 32. Freire, who once pondered quitting the sport because it was so hard to support his family on what he was making in Brazil, felt the right way to honor his fallen friend was to fight and win.
Freire faces a tough road ahead, but I think there could be a lot more winning in his immediate future, and he definitely could take the entire tournament if he continues to improve and doesn’t allow himself to get drawn into fighting his opponent’s fight the way he did for awhile last night.
Chandler and Held put on a great show
Another candidate for the best fight of the night was the short, but dynamic bout between Michael Chandler and Marcin Held. Held was in control early on and slapped on a deep and painful-looking kneebar that Chandler was somehow able to survive. Not much later, the comeback was on as Chandler showed his strength and positioning on the mat before locking in one of my favorite submissions, the arm-triangle choke. As it so often goes with this particular choke, Held waited too long to tap and passed out, forcing the technical submission stoppage.
Held definitely showed some great offensive jiu-jitsu, sticking with the kneebar and torquing it however possible, but there was just no way to coax the tapout from the determined Chandler. He’ll be even better as he grows, gets stronger and improves his defensive wrestling and all-around game further. Chandler has a similarly bright future, but I’m not sure how either fighter would fare against the likes of a veteran like Toby Imada right now.
Next round features Freire-Imada, Chandler-Woodard
Speaking of Imada, he will face Freire next round in what should be a fantastic fight and a good test for both men. Imada, of course, is famous for his inverted triangle on a standing opponent in Bellator a couple of years ago, and has been a runner-up in two previous Bellator lightweight tournaments. My gut tells me that Freire is the better all-around fighter, but Imada is extremely experienced and a tough matchup for anyone, especially a fighter who is relatively early in his career, such as Freire.
I’m interested to see Chandler face off against Lloyd Woodard, as Woodard showed some superb takedown defense in his quick fight against Carey Vanier on Saturday night. Chandler’s reaction, should Woodard be successful in keeping the fight standing up, should also be interesting. Will the young grappler get flustered or continue to work hard to get to the mat if Woodard stuffs his first few takedowns? This lightweight tournament is shaping up to be a very good one and is definitely not to be missed by MMA fans.