Tonight, Bellator begins the second round of their tournament on MTV2. If you haven't been keeping up to date on the first round of their tournament, don't feel bad, Bellator has been getting crushed by bigger and better news in the MMA world.
Its season four debut went head-to-head with Strikeforce: Henderson vs Babalu. The following weekend, the first round of the lightweight tournament was dominated by coverage of the Zuffa purchase of Strikeforce earlier in the afternoon. Lastly, Bellator's featherweight and light heavyweight tournament debuts were stymied by UFC 128 and UFC Fight Night 24 respectively.
After the jump, I'll go event-by-event with highlight videos of the first round of each of Bellator's season four tournaments.
The much-hyped first round of the welterweight tournament was a bit of a disappointment. Dan Hornbuckle and Brent Weedman surprisingly went to a decision in a fight that was more about top control than the aggressive striking many had predicted. Weedman took a razor-thin decision.
The judo battle between Jim Wallhead and Rick Hawn turned into a mediocre kickboxing match and Rick Hawn showed improved boxing technique en route to winning an easy decision. Wallhead was especially frustrating to watch, never showing a sense of urgency despite being down two rounds.
The only finish of the evening was marred by controversy as referee Josh Rosenthal stopped the fight between Jay Hieron and Anthony Lapsley, believing Lapsley to be unconscious from Hieron's rear naked choke attempt. Immediately after the stoppage, a furious Lapsley glared at the ref and protested but to no avail.
The final match between undefeated striker Chris Lozano and former Bellator champion Lyman "Cyborg" Good turned out to be the most entertaining. Good beat Lozano to the punch and nearly forced his eye shut from swelling as well as taking Lozano down and avoiding his submission attempts. Lozano made it a fight in the third by pushing the pace and throwing with reckless abandon but it wasn't enough as Cyborg took a unanimous decision.
The actual highlight of the night was an undercard match between Waachiim Spiritwolf and Jaime Jara in an enthralling bloodbath which was so entertaining, Bellator tacked it onto the end of its following week's show.
The upstart promotion had its most exciting event of the young season with the lightweight tournament as all four fights ended in the types of stoppages that put Bellator on the map in the first place.
All-American wrestler Michael Chandler weathered a constant attack of submissions from European prospect Marcin Held including a deep kneebar attempt but he rebounded to choke Held out with an arm triangle in the first round of a very competitive match.
Relative unknown lightweight Lloyd Woodard showed impressive takedown defense against Bellator veteran and Greg Jackson fighter Carey Vanier and dropped the wrestler with a beautiful short left hand to advance via TKO. Woodward was also rocking some bitching facial hair and he quickly became a fan-favorite.
Former two time tournament finalist Toby Imada withstood an early barrage from late replacement Josh Shockley and slapped on an armbar. When Shockley attempted to slam his way out of the submission, he injured his arm and cried out in pain which was enough for the referee to stop the fight.
In the final lightweight tournament match, former WEC champion "Razor" Rob McCullough and Patricky Freire left it all in the cage in a very entertaining back-and-forth brawl. Freire dropped McCullough early and threatened with submissions early but Razor Rob rebounded by outstriking the Brazilian to take the second round and even the scorecards. McCullough was on his way to stealing the third round when Freire landed a beautiful right hook to score a flash knockout in what would be Bellator's youtube highlight of the week.
Bellator 36 Highlight: Patricky Freire TKO of "Razor" Rob McCullough (via BellatorMMA)
Bellator kept up the momentum with a thoroughly enjoyable first round of the featherweight tournament. Getting things started was a major upset as the unheralded Kenny Foster submitted tournament favorite Eric Larkin. Larkin was a four time All-American wrestler but Foster opened him up with a perfectly timed knee during Larkin's first takedown attempt. Foster aggressively put the pressure on Larkin and pulled guard with a tight guillotine that forced the formerly undefeated wrestler to tap in the first round.
In a battle of impressive winning streaks, Daniel Straus put his ten fight streak on the line against19-0 Argentinian Nazareno Malegarie. The Argentina fighter controlled the first round, taking Straus' back but the American rebounded in the second and dropped Malegarie early with a left hook. Malegarie recovered and threw multiple submissions at Straus but the Ohio native avoided them and controlled much of the round on top and in the clinch. Both men traded big strikes in a huge third round flurry that brought the Oklahoma crowd to its feet and Straus ground his way to a unanimous decision victory 29-28 on all the scorecards.
Wilson Reis returned to the featherweight tournament for the third time and he absolutely dominated Zac George. Reis was not known for his striking but he cut off George along the cage and clipped him with repeated left hooks. Reis took the stunned George down and passed his rubber guard with ground and pound. When George turned away from the punches, Reis snaked his arm in and finished the fight with a rear naked choke.
In the final bout of the evening, Bellator season two veterans Georgi Karakhanyan and Patricio "Pitbull" Freire battled for the right to advance to the semi-finals. Pitbull took advantage of Karakhanyan's openings and took the Armenian down repeatedly while mixing in strikes to keep him off balance. Karakhanyan tenaciously attempted takedowns but was denied time and time again by Freire who clinched and took him down when the Armenian threw ill-advised flying attacks. Patricio joined his brother Patricky by advancing to the semifinals after blasting Karakhanyan with a big left hand and finishing the fight with ground and pound.
Bellator 37 Highlights: Reis, Patricio Pitbull, Straus, and Foster Move onto Semifinals. (via BellatorMMA)
Bellator 38 featured the light heavyweight division. Since this was Bellator's first light heavyweight tournament, the winner will be crowned the inaugural Bellator champion rather than the number one contender like the other three tournaments. The fighters didn't have much hype behind them but their actions in the cage made waves.
In the opening bout, American wrestler Chris Davis relentlessly worked for takedowns against the undersized M-1 veteran Christian M'Pumbu. Davis controlled the fight in the first two rounds from on top and fought through multiple submission attempts. The tide turned in the third round when Davis gassed and M'Pumbu turned up the heat with big punches and knees from back side control to earn a comeback TKO victory.
In a fight that would get people talking about Bellator again, Richard Hale and "The Machete" Nik Fekete turned heads with a stunning finish. Hale, the former pro boxer and body builder was taken down by Fekete's All-American wrestling but he would turn the tides in highlight-reel fashion. With his back on the canvas and Fekete in side control, Hale curled his body backwards and wrapped his legs around Fekete's head with an inverted triangle. Fekete tried to stand reminiscent of Jorge Masvidal's defense against Toby Imada and Hale choked him unconscious.
Bellator 38 moment Richard Hale locks in an incredible inverted triangle submission on Nik Fekete (via BellatorMMA)
It was a tough act to follow but "The Protégé" DJ Linderman and Raphael Davis put on a spirited performance. Davis came in as the tournament favorite and he pounded Linderman with knees from the clinch early but a resilient Linderman hurt Davis in the end of the first round with a flurry of punches. The Protégé rocked Davis again in the second but the experienced grappler wisely took the fight to the ground to recover. In the third, Linderman wobbled Davis with a heavy combination and finished him off with ground and pound when he fell to the canvas.
With his family name behind him, Daniel Gracie was the most recognized fighter in the tournament but Tim Carpenter was not intimidated. Carpenter dropped Gracie with one of his first punches and controlled the Brazilian from above, latching on several armbar attempts. Gracie rebounded in the second round using his grappling more offensively but Carpenter again started the third round by knocking the Brazilan down with his first punch. Gracie swept Carpenter with an omaplata but did not sway the judges enough as Carpenter took a split decision.
Now that you're caught up, you have no excuse to skip out on the second round of the Bellator tournament tonight (April 2) on MTV2 starting at 9 p.m.