Bellator kicked off its lightweight tournament in Shreveport, La. on Saturday night, and Michael Chandler, Lloyd Woodard, Toby Imada and Patricky Freire all punched their tickets to the semifinal round of their tournament.
Chandler, an All-American wrestler at the University of Missouri, withstood several submission attempts by Marcin Held early in their fight. Chandler worked out of the submissions to throw vicious ground and pound. With his nose bleeding, Chandler applied a triangle choke and choked Held unconscious at 3:56 in the first round.
With unquestionably the best mustache in MMA, Woodard made a statement with his fighting on Saturday. His opponent Carey Vanier was able to get takedowns early, but Woodard's defense stopped Vanier's best weapon. Throughout the first round, Woodard was effective in the clinch. Woodard came out strong in the second round, knocking Vanier down with a short left hook. Vanier made it back to his feet, and after a scramble, Woodard followed up with ground strikes. The referee stopped the fight 0:46 into the second round.
As a largely unknown fighter, Woodard scored a big upset over Vanier, a Bellator veteran who trains at Jackson's MMA, the training home to several UFC and Strikeforce stars. Woodard wears his love for his home state of Montana on his face, and will now take that amazing facial hair to Bellator's semifinals.
Toby Imada, a two-time Bellator finalist, won with a technical submission over Josh Shockley. Imada locked on an armbar early. Shockley tried to slam Imada off his arm, but ended up getting his arm twisted. He verbally submitted at 1:19 in the first.
Shockley was a last minute replacement after Ferrid Kheder refused to to weigh in and wasn't allowed to fight by Louisiana fight officials.
Patricky Freire dominated former WEC champ Rob McCullough in the first round, knocking him to the ground before applying a rear naked choke. McCullough slammed his way out of the RNC, but was cut-up and bloody. McCullough avoided a triangle choke and an arm bar before gaining dominant position and throwing strikes as the round closed out.
The pace slowed in the second, with McCullough finding his rhythm in stand-up. Each fighter had a round going into the third, but Freire didn't leave it in the hand of the judges. He countered a McCullough leg kick with a well-timed right hand, knocking McCullough out 3:11 into the third round. It was a flash knockout, but still a clear loss for "Razor" Rob.
Next week, Bellator will head to Oklahoma to kick off their featherweight tournament.