Monday, March 26, 2012
Lightweights deliver in a big way
By Josh Gross
This is the third straight week the Report Card features Bellator-promoted action. Zuffa has kept it quiet in March, save the start of "The Ultimate Fighter Live" on FX, so Bellator has a chance to give the uncorked bottle that is Season 6 a chance to breathe.
Following two solid events, the promotion delivered a violent night of fights Friday in Loredo, Texas, and it's no coincidence the bill featured lightweights. The 155-pound class is the deepest in mixed martial arts, which means great fights can be had virtually anywhere.
At the top of Bellator's class sits Michael Chandler, who emerged from a tournament last year to upset Eddie Alvarez in one of the best bouts of 2011. Judging from what I saw this weekend, don't be so quick to rule out something similar happening to Chandler.
Advancing to the semifinals are former welterweights Rick Hawn and Brent Weedman, technical Brazilian striker Thiago Michel, and Montana wild man Lloyd Woodard. All were impressive in victory, particularly the recent lightweight converts.
There wasn't much messing around, a fact punctuated by the way the fighters went about their business. Really, you could call Bellator perpetually lucky, especially in light of what went down in Texas.
Fighters are less than a month away from their next round of fights, and it's quasi-amazing they advanced without injury or medical suspension, as they often do. (I take no responsibility if that suddenly changes.)
Set for Cleveland on April 20, Hawn meets Woodard and Weedman takes on Michel. Middleweights also step in the cage, and the headliner offers a rematch between Eddie Alvarez and Shinya Aoki. As good as this card appears to be -- dare I say it's the best lineup the promotion has put together -- it won't get much coverage considering the next night in Atlanta, Jon Jones defends his UFC light heavyweight title against Rashad Evans.
|Reason to celebrate: Rick Hawn looked as good as ever in his new weight division.|
Bellator's ratings through the first two weeks have lagged against TUF. So what's your reason for not tuning in, MMA fans? It's not like you're out on Friday nights. More than a million of you (roughly 10 times as many as those who tune in to MTV2 for Bellator) watch TUF a couple of hours later.
Anyhow, if you only caught Justin Lawrence's money stoppage of Cristiano Marcello on the back end of the weekly doubleheader, you missed a scrappy decision, two subs (including one with a snapped elbow) and a vicious knockout.
Regardless of who's watching, moments continue to be made -- and uploaded to the Internet. The night lightweights go at it again, Brian Rogers will face Bruno Santos thanks to a flying knee KO that so far has been watched more than 423,000 times on YouTube.
By the way, I'm not going to grade TUF fights even though they're live. The UFC is treating them as exhibitions, not official contests, so no need to discuss them alongside pro bouts. But I'll say this: I like Lawrence. He has room to grow, and looks like a fast learner.
Next week's fight between Myles Jury and Al Iaquinta stacks up to be a good one.
Again, the lightweight division delivers.
|Lyle Woodard, top, should make for more fun fights in Bellator's lightweight tournament.|
Josh Gross covers MMA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at JoshGrossESPN.