Results and Analysis From Bellator 36’s Lightweight Tourney

On Saturday afternoon the world of MMA entered a whole new landscape thanks to the purchase of Strikeforce by Zuffa. That left little ole Bellator as the new #2 independent mixed martial arts company in North America and they ushered in the new era with Bellator 36 that saw the quarterfinal round of their Lightweight Tournament. Below are results and analysis from that card.

Preliminary Card Results
Booker Arthur def. Javon Duhon via submission- Round 2 (2:31)
Kevin Aguilar def. Mark Hunt via TKO- Round 1 (3:02)
Chad Leonhardt def. Kelly Leo via TKO- Round 2 (5:00)

Main Card Results
Michael Chandler def. Marcin Held via submission- Round 1 (3:56)
Lloyd Woodard def. Carey Vanier via TKO- Round 2 (0:46)
Toby Imada def. Josh Shockley via submission- Round 1 (1:19)
Patricky Freire def. Rob McCullough via TKO- Round 3 (3:11)

*Perhaps the biggest non-merger storyline to emerge from this card is the failure of Rob McCullough and the continuing trend of Bjorn Rebney’s free agents falling to his home grown talent. Some of those, of course, were by design. Everybody knows that Josh Neer was supposed to lose to Eddie Alvarez, that Jay Silva was supposed to get smashed by Hector Lombard and that Eddie Sanchez was just filling a slot in the heavyweight tournament.

However, with McCullough and back in season 2 with Roger Huerta Rebney went on a hype offensive declaring both the favorite in their tournament despite their limited success coming into the promotion. Between the two of them they have compiled a rank 1-3 record in Bellator with that one victory being Huerta’s over the now retired, now 39 year old Chad Hinton. This must be a bittersweet pill for Rebney’s because on the one hand he looks foolish for all the love he lavished on them but on the other hand it proves his tournament format. Eddie Alvarez is now within sniffing distance of pound for pound top 10 lists after dismantling Huerta and Patricky Freire is probably considered the favorite in his bracket thanks to his win over McCullough.

In the post-fight press conference Rebney went after Strikeforce for the way they booked Dan Henderson, essentially handing him a title shot just for signing a contract, and rightfully so. Even Jake Shields had to gasp his way through three rounds against Martin Kampmann before he got a title shot, not so for Henderson, and not so in Bellator. The only problem is making sure he actually wins a few of his bets.

*I would like to take a moment and call out Rebney for his on-camera performance this week. I, along with everybody else who was watching, was anxious to hear what he had to say about the game changing news that had come down earlier in the day. But instead of talking about that he had Sean Wheelock and Jimmy Smith toss his softballs about the tournament format (we get it, we like it, now move on) and last minute replacement Josh Shockley. He did, to his credit, address the situation later but it was sad to see someone who has always acknowledged the MMA universe in which he exists suddenly play the isolation card.

*It has always been a half-baked theory of mine that Bellator is most proud of their foreign finds, but that theory took a hit when I heard that they had booked 19 year old Polish sensation Marcin Held up against All American wrestler Michael Chandler. As we could have seen coming the strong, stocky body of Chandler allowed him to bully and over power Held in what was the best fight of the night. Considering Held’s age and body type a matchup against a Toby Imada or a Carey Vanier would have been much more likely to have provided him with a chance to win. That said, even though Chandler opened the tourney by beating up on a kid he is my pick to win it all after accessing the opening round. Imada has had a lot of success in Bellator but I’m just not buying what he is selling and I look for him to get stomped by Freire in the next round. Woodard looked good against Carey Vanier. . .but I’ve never really been bullish on Vanier. That should set up Chandler vs. Freire (what happened to “Pitbull” this season?) in the finals in what has the potential to be a classic. I like Chandler because of his expert wrestling base and freakish power and we should all look forward to his fight against the winner of this season’s only title fight Eddie Alvarez vs. Pat Curran.

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