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By Rich Hansen, MMA Torch Columnist
Bellator is back tonight on MTV2 for the third event of season 6. Tonight's show takes place at the Laredo Energy Arena in Laredo, Texas and will feature the entire opening round of Bellator's lightweight tournament.
Not to be seen tonight is the conclusion to the season 5 heavyweight tournament between Eric Prindle and Thiago Santos. The fight was scrapped last night when Santos tippes the scales at 277.8 pounds. Prindle was awarded the tournament championship, $100,000, and a title shot against Cole Konrad.
The prelims for tonight's show begin at 7 PM Eastern on spike.com, with the main card airing on MTV2 at 8 PM. We'll be here tonight for live coverage of the main card.
FIGHT ONE: THIAGO MICHEL VS. RENE NAZARE
- Michel is a world class kickboxer, who was the #1 lightweight prospect on Bloody Elbow’s scouting report for the year 2011. He has not only fantastic striking, but fantastic head movement and footwork. Nazare is yet another Brazilian with a black belt in jiu-jitsu. Nazare trained with Nova Uniao for years, and now owns his own gym in Massachusetts. Nazare is a slight favorite, with lines ranging from -115 to -160. Michel closed anywhere from +130 to even money.
ROUND ONE: Jacob Montalvo is the referee tonight. Nazare fires a double jab and leg kick right away. Nice counter right by Michel, and Nazare didn’t like that one bit. Nazare grabs Michel and backs him into the fence, but can’t get the inside trip takedown. Ref was about to split them apart, so Nazare threw a couple knees to the thigh. Michel’s throwing a couple high knees here. 2 minutes in, and Montalvo breaks them apart. Michel is throwing push kicks, and one of them landed to the upper chest area. Nazare presses forward, looking to get Michel back to the fence. Nazare doesn’t like the standup game, but can’t get Michel down. Separated, and back ot the middle. Both fighters exchange head kicks, and a spinning backfist by Michel. Big knee by Michel, caught by Nazare, who caught the kick. Nazare is desperate for the takedown, but nothing doing. Montalvo is quick with the warnings, which this time I’m ok with because Nazare is doing nothing with the position. And as I say that, he gets the first takedown of the round with 50 seconds left. Closed guard. Good wrist control from the bottom by Michel. The round ends. 10-9 Michel
ROUND TWO: Jimmy Smith gave the first round to Michel. Michel lands a straight left. Nazare almost catches a Michel push kick, but lost it. Snap front kick to the head by Michel. Nazare shoots a double from the outside, gets Michel into the fence, but Michel reversed and has the shorter Nazare against the fence. Right and left, and he separates. Michel’s striking is creative and crisp. Nazare shoots a single, and gets the takedown. Michel’s on his butt against the fence. He briefly gave up his back, but scrambled back to that same seated position. Nazare’s not going to pass guard as long as Michel is seated. Nazare rotates Michel, and now he’s on top in guard, parallel to the fence. Montalvo stood them up. That was too fast; he thinks he’s Herb Dean. Nice combo by Michel that ended with a head kick. Nazare charged in and couldn’t get the takedown. Jumping knee by Michel caught. He landed an enzuigiri, but there was no power, and he landed on his back. Nazare on top, but Michel gets back to his feet. Nazare unloading against the fence with punches. Too cocky, Michel missed with a spinning backfist, and Nazare is out of danger with 30 seconds left. Nazare is cut on his forehead. That was a nice flurry by Michel. Nazare gets another takedown with about 5 seconds left. Good round. 10-9 Michel
ROUND THREE: Jimmy Smith scores the fight the same as I do, but the refs might have preferred Nazare’s hollow takedowns in the 1st round. Nazare is aggressive, but missing with most of his strikes. Not much landed in the first full minute of the 3rd round. Nazare with a weak shot, wasn’t even able to commit to it, he’s either tired or frustrated. Nazare with a couple leg kicks, but that’s not going to win him the round. Michel’s landing leg kicks with increasing frequency now. Michel’s fighting as if he knows he’s up two rounds to none. 2:30 left. Nazare’s throwing lots of kicks too, but they aren’t landing. Nazare gets a takedown, near the cage. He’s done nothing for 20 seconds, which means this ref might stand them up soon. 90 seconds left. Michel’s defending well, Nazare cannot get anything off. He’s trying to stack Michel, but no success. This round is the dullest of the three, unfortunately. 30 seconds left. Kind of surprised this wasn’t stood up, considering the itchy trigger finger the ref had earlier. The fight ends. 10-9 Michel, 30-27 Michel Michel spent a lot of time on his back, but didn’t eat anything resembling a significant strike during that time.
WINNER: Thiago Michel by split decision, (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
STAR RATING: (**) Meh. Michel was fun to watch, but Nazare did his best to bore the fight up as much as possible.
FIGHT TWO: J. J. AMBROSE VS. BRENT WEEDMAN
- This is Weedman’s fight at 155. He lost his last 2 fights, both at 170, prompting the decision to drop. Despite the 2 fight losing streak, he’s a massive favorite, ranging between -275 and -400. Remember boys and girls, shop for the best line. Ambrose ranges from +320 to +235. Ambrose is a traditional muay thai stylist, who has trained extensively in Thailand. Weedman has 3 inch height and reach advantages.
ROUND ONE: Kerry Hatley is the referee for this fight. Both guys come out throwing. Weedman drops Ambrose with a straight left, but inexplicably backed off and let Ambrose get up. Ambrose got back up, clinched, and took Weedman down. What a giant mistake. Ambrose is looking for a D’Arce choke, it’s tight, but he doesn’t have leverage, and Weedman escaped. That was really close. And all in the first minute. Weedman on top now, and Ambrose has a guillotine. Loses it, and Weedman is back on top, in full guard. I still can’t explain Weedman. Nice sweepby Ambrose who got back to his feet. Massive upkick by Weedman, and that knocked Ambrose silly, with his mouthpiece flying. Weedman is in side control, and landed two big knees., and now full mount at 2:30. Ambrose gives up his back, and Weedman has a tight body triangle. Weedman is looking for the choke, but Ambrose is curling up and using the cage to assist his defense. Weedman attempts to straighten him out, but can’t get there yet. Hatley just warned Weedman for strikes to the back of the head. Weedman is ladning lefts to the cheek of Ambrose. Weedman going for the rear naked choke with 45 seconds left, but it looks like he’s too high on the torso of the shorter Ambrose. Weedman almost lost Ambrose, but got full mount. 10-9 Weedman. Close to a 10-8, but not quite.
ROUND TWO: Ambrose catches an immediate kick and dives into Weedman’s guard no more than 4 seconds into the round. Weedman is looking for an arm from the bottom, which is keeping Ambrose’s offense at bay. Ambrose is looking for another D’Arce choke, but if he doesn’t get it he’ll be on bottom. He lost it, and Weedman is on top in side control. Knee to the ribs by Weedman. And another. Weedman trying hard for full mount, but only achieves half-guard. Full crucifix with 2:45 left. Hatley tells Weedman to watch the back of the head. Weedman looking for a key lock, couldn’t get it, and lost the crucifix. He’s still sitting on Ambrose’s right arm, and is landing knees again. Ambrose almost swept and got on top, but Weedman fought it off and stayed on top. Ambrose has head control on Weedman, and the ref stops the fight. Ambrose tapped? What? Was he injured? I can’t tell. Waiting for replay. He wasn’t hurt. Weedman has his shoulder buried into the neck of Ambrose. Jimmy Smith has no idea why Ambrose tapped, saying it’s not a submission you ever see in high level MMA. Ouch, babe.
WINNER: Brent Weedman by submission (um, Shoulder pressure choke?) at 3:26 of round 2.
- It’s been identified as a Von Flue choke. Holy crap! Thank @DukeRoufus for identifying that one!
STAR RATING: (***) The first round was bonkers. And the second round featured a choke you, well, you just don’t see guys tap to Von Flue chokes very often.
FIGHT THREE: RICK HAWN VS. RICARDO TIRLONI
Rick Hawn was a 2004 US Olympian in judo. He carries an 11-1 record in MMA, with his only loss coming in his last fight, to Jay Hieron. Hawn is making his debut at 155 with this fight, and he is a betting favorite, ranging from -170 to -200. Tirloni was the #2 lightweight prospect on Bloody Elbow’s scouting report for the year 2011, behind only Thiago Michel. The lines on Tirloni closed from +171 to +140.
- Cagy betters will realize that if the placed equal $100 bets on Tirloni at +171 and on Hawn at -170, that’s a guaranteed profit no matter the outcome of the fight. Of course, said profit would be minimal, and they charge you to withdraw from your account, so I wouldn’t blow your retirement on that get-rich-quick scheme.
- Hawn is an inch shorter, and their weights are identical
ROUND ONE: Kerry Hatley is back in the cage to referee this fight. Tirloni with a flying knee early, but nothing comes of it. Head kick missed by Tirloni. Leg kick by tirloni. Body kick by Tirloni. Hawn throws a couple punches, clinches, and gets the fight to the cage. Nothing comes of it, nice struggle by both guys. Hawn lands a nice right hand. Tirloni looks loose, Hawn comes straight forward. Hawn presses Tirloni into the fence, Tirloni escapes and lands a knee as he pushes off. Hawn lands a big right, Tirloni is damn near unconscious, unleashes hell on the ground, and this fight is done. That came out of nowhere, and Hawn has lethal power for 155
WINNER: Rick Hawn by KO at 2:36 of round 1.
STAR RATING: (***) It was a fun fight even before the KO. Since we’re fast to crap on the referee, I want to make sure to point out that if all KO stoppages were as smooth as Hatley’s stoppage of this fight, we would never have to bitch about stoppages ever again. But what fun would that be?
- So as to guarantee that they run long, they showed the prelim fight between Rad Martinez and Douglas Frey. Martinez won by TKO in the first round.
FIGHT FOUR: PATRICKY FRIERE VS. LLOYD WOODARD
- Friere made it to the finals of the season four lightweight tournament. After two massive KO victories, he lost in the finals to eventual lightweight champion Michael Chandler. Pitbull followed that loss with a KO of UFC veteran Kurt Pellegrino. While warming up in the back earlier tonight, Patricky accidentally punched his younger brother Patricio right in the kisser.
- Woodard is 4 inches taller, but gives up almost 2 inches in reach to Pitbull. The line on Pitbull closed from -210 to -357. That’s just a massive difference. Woodard closed from +260 to +186
ROUND ONE: Jacob Montalvo returns to referee the main event. Nice staredown, Woodard is one intense cat. Pitbull ate a knee to the groin less than 20 seconds in, which will remind him of the Chandler fight when he ate 3 shots to the testicles. Pitbull took a couple minutes, and we’re back. Woodard caught Pitbull with a straight punch as Pitbull was ththrowing a kick, but Pitbull gets a quick takedown. Woodard back up fast, and we’re clinching in the middle. Big right hand by Pitbull. Split apart. If they keep throwing like this, either we’re looking at a first round KO, or a 3 round gasfest. The pace is crazy. Woodard lands a left jab as Pitbull was throwing a flying knee, and Woodard dives into guard. Up against the fence, and Woodard is trying to stack him up against the cage. Woodard’s trying to take Pitbull’s back. Pitbull explodes to his feet and gets a takedown of his own. Well done. As soon as I say that, Woodard exploded to HIS feet, and they’re clinching against the cage. This pace is nuts. I’ve hit pause and rewind like 42 times already. Full mount by Pitbull! Woodard escapses, and now Woodard is on top, in guard. Big right hand. Sam Caplan, I love you. Woodargd is on his feet, still in guard. Dives back in, misses with a hammerfist. Cue Gwen Stefani, because this pace is bananas. I absolutely can’t keep up with this pace. 90 seconds left, but I’m like 5 minutes behind live TV now. Pitbull powers out of bottom position, and lands a big right hand with his back against the cage. Woodard felt all of that one, and Woodard retreats. Pitbull chasing him down, misses with a looping hook, but lands a big left. Woodard grabs Pitbull, and pushes him into the cage. Woodard with the plum, and lands a nice knee to Friere’s jaw. Friere pushes Woodard back into the cage with 75 seconds left. This is the best round of the year, period. Double leg by Pitbull, into half-guard. Woodard has Pitbull’s head controlled. Lets it go to try to hook an arm, but there’s nothing there. Pitbull throwing hammerfists to Woodard’s leg. 10-9 Friere That was a toss-up, and just incredible pace and violence.
ROUND TWO: Smith gave the first round to Woodard, but it was a coin flip. Pace has slowed down 30 seconds into the 2nd. Left hook and a straight right by Friere. Clinch, to the cage, Woodard lands a knee as they disengage. Right hooks by both fighters land, and then both lands immediate lefts. Jesus Christ Monkeyballs! Pitbull lands a huge right hand, and finally Woodard backs up a little. Friere lands heavy against the cage, but Woodard presses forward and grabs another muay thai plum clinch. Huge knee by Woodard grazes Pitbull, who ducked under for a single as the knee was being thrown. Pitbull gets Woodard down, but Woodard wound up on top. That knee might have landed harder than I first thought. Woodard unloading against the fence, starting to stack him up and landing hammerifsts. Pitbull went for an arm, and Woodard immediately changed positions. Woodard is looking for a kimura. HE’S GOT IT! BIG UPSET! Pitbull is injured, he didn’t tap until it was too late. Oh, he dislocated Pitbull’s elbow. It looked like he popped it not once but twice.
WINNER: Lloyd Woodard by submission (kimura) at 1:46 of round 2.
STAR RATING: (****+) This is just a great, great, great, buy a thesaurus Rich, great fight. This is the first fight I ever covered where I paused and rewound more than once. And I am literally five full minutes behind now. Unreal action, it just never freaking stopped. This fight was better than Chandler vs. Alvarez, which means it’s the best fight in Bellator history. And I have a new favorite fighter.
- I think covering Bellator this season has been the best part of my job so far.
Follow Rich Hansen on Twitter @MMATorchRich
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