They say late is better than never, so with that in mind here’s this week’s look at Bellator.
As you are likely aware of by now, the heavyweight tournament final scheduled for last week was cancelled due to an illness to Eric Prindle.
Fortunately, the goliath of a man seems to be back on track and the heavyweight tournament championship is scheduled to go down this week.
For my look at that fight, check out last week’s Bellator story.
Last weekend’s card featured the middleweight quarterfinals and they were explosive to say the least. The most shocking was of course the miraculous flying knee knockout from Brian Rogers over Vitor Vianna. He showed excellent takedown defense in the short bout definitely may have made him a favourite with the impressive performance.
Vyacheslav Visilevsky as well had a great performance against the biggest name of his career. The Russian dominated on the feet and on the mat and Victor O’Donnell’s face was soon swollen beyond recognition because of nice movement and combinations from the Russian.
The quarterfinals, as announced by Bellator will put Maiquel Falcao against Vasilevsky and Brian Rogers against Bruno Santos.
Now we look forward to arguably the most stacked tournament this season. The lightweights have always delivered in Bellator and looking at this season’s quarterfinals, it doesn’t look as if things are about to change.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the quarterfinals.
J.J. Ambrose(17-3-1) vs. Brent Weedman (18-7-1)
Althought Brent Weedman was 3-0 under the Bellator banner when he entered took on Dan Hornbuckle in last year’s quarterfinal bout, he was a heavy underdog. To an extent, it made sense. Hornbuckle, a former champ, was known for his vicious knockout power and Weedman seemed to be just another well rounded wrestler. That was until 15 minutes later when Weedman put the MMA world on notice, dominating Hornbuckle en route to a unanimous decision.
Although he has since gone 0-2, including a narrow decision loss to eventual tournament winner Jay Heiron, Weedman is definitely among the names to watch in this year’s tournament. He has surprising power on his feet and is good at mixing his strikes up to keep the opponent off his game.
J.J Ambrose will be making his debut for Bellator this weekend. If the name sounds familiar, it’s likely from a one off performance in Affliction, losing by first round submission to Mike Pyle. Since then, the Lakewood, California native has gone 7-0 and will be looking for the upset against Weedman.
Unfortunately for him, I don’t see it happening. Weedman is solid all around and has no glaring holes in his game. Ambrose has shown improved hands in his last few bouts, but I still do not think he’s on the level of Weedman.
Thiago Michel (9-2-0) vs. Rene Nazare (10-1-0)
Nine wins, nine knockouts.
That’s the story on Bellator’s latest talent from Brazil, Thiago Michel. Oh yeah, and seven of those came in the first round. To say this man comes to finish would be an understatement. Michel has been a staple of the Brazilian underground scene since 2006 and has fought all over the county.
Now he’ll bring his killer instinct state side to see if it can stand up against the best Bellator has to offer.
Standing in his way is another Brazilian with skills, Rene Nazare. The Rio de Janeiro native, who now fights out of Ithaca, New York, is a gold medalist in the world jiu-jitsu championships and twice won gold in the jiu-jitsu world cup. Saying he’s well equipped on the mat would be a slight understatement.
To top that, Nazare has been putting together a solid boxing game. Although he lost a decision to Jacob Kirwan in his last outing, Nazare has the skills to put together a solid run in this tournament.
Michel has two losses on his record, both of which were by submission. If the fight goes to the ground, expect Nazare to finish the bout with ease. However, if Michel can keep it standing he should have a field day picking apart Nazare. This is a fun style matchup that could prove to be a sleeper fight of the night option.
Rick Hawn (11-1-0) vs. Ricardo Tirloni (14-1-0)
For those of you who read my fights to watch in March piece, you’ll remember that Rick Hawn against Ricardo Tirloni was high on the list, with Woodard versus Freire not far behind.
Rick Hawn is judo Olympian for the United States, and was a welterweight finalist for the welterweight tournament final in season four losing a narrow split decision that many still question today. The knockout power he’s been able to acquire compliments his judo and submission game well and he has proved unshakeable in the cage.
Now, he’s decided to cut down to lightweight with hopes of using his size advantage to bully opponents around the cage and implement his will.
Ricardo Tirloni of course has different plans. The well rounded Brazilian has shown lethal ground skills as well as knockout power. With only one loss on his record, to Benson Henderson of all people, Tirloni comes in as the tournament grenade that could go off at anytime. He has walked through almost every opponent he has faced, and now he’ll face his toughest test in a long time.
If Tirloni walks through Hawn the way he has everyone else, he’s a sure favourite for the tournament, and a potential showdown with Pitbull would be explosive.
Unfortunately for him, Hawn is not just another fighter. He has been as solid as they come so far in his career and I expect the same from him here. This is an ultra interesting fight and my pick for fight of the night.
Lloyd Woodard (11-1-0) vs. Patricky Freire (10-2)
If career records told the story, these two would match up rather well. Unfortunately for Woodard, they don’t.
Patricky Freire has lit the Bellator world on fire since his debut, finishing all his opponents except for tournament winner and eventual champion Michael Chandler. His ability to produce explosive knockouts seemingly out of nowhere makes him a fan favourite among the Bellator faithful and he’d love to do the same thing to Woodard here.
Woodard has shown solid skills against a mild level of competition, although he did look impressive against Chandler in their quarterfinal bout in season five.
For Woodard to win this bout, he needs to make the fight boring. He has to summon his inner Jon Fitch and stick to Freire like gum to hair. If he gets in a firefight with Freire, expect him to burn. If Freire can keep from being put on his back for three rounds, he should find a way to knock Woodard out.