Lightweights deliver in a big way
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.
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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.
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.
Bellator 62 grades
Rick Hawn was a short but good-sized welterweight, so I was curious to see how he'd look cutting to 155. The Olympian handled the water drop well and carried plenty of power with him into the cage against Ricardo Tirloni. Hawn (12-1) fought as if he had nothing to fear from Tirloni (14-2) and stalked before landing a clubbing right behind the Brazilian's ear. The American was merciless, and slammed down a handful of hard shots before referee Kerry Hatley jumped in to end it at 2:36 of the first round. Hawn looks primed at 155, though it's impossible to say for sure because he wasn't pressed.
Brent Weedman, like Hawn, impressed at his new weight, choking out J.J. Ambrose (17-4) midway through the second round. Weedman doesn't stop moving, and he's very difficult to catch. His size paid off during scrambles, and it didn't seem to hurt his stamina at all. Weedman (19-7) finished with a Von Flue choke, or, as it's known around his gym, "that crazy s--- Brent likes." He'll need to rely on that ground game against Michel.
A character. One of the few Bellator has on its roster. If Lloyd Woodard (12-1) can work his way to that fight against Chandler, he'll turn some heads. It doesn't hurt that he's a mauler. The Montanan went toe- to-toe against Patricky Freire (10-3) before snapping the BJJ black belt's arm early in Round 2. Woodard gets Hawn next -- two physical dudes that don't move backwards. Woodard is capable of taking a shot. He was hurt by Freire but showed composure. He has Clay Guida-like qualities about him, which is a high compliment.
Can Thiago Michel (10-2) stay on his feet? That's the only question that matters because he's going to beat a lot of people in just a striking contest. The kickboxer was successful against a pretournament favorite, Rene Nazare (10-2), by shutting down most takedowns and lighting up his fellow Brazilian from a distance with clean punches and kicks. He'll have to mimic that path for the near future, at least until other parts of his game improve. He's shown that ability already, especially with takedown defense. Michel could be a sleeper to win the $100,000 prize and title shot.
Josh Gross covers MMA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at JoshGrossESPN.
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