Bellator Fighting Championships’ sixth season rolls along on Friday, as the Chicago-based promotion holds Bellator 62 in its inaugural visit to the Laredo Energy Center in Laredo, Texas.
Take Two for ‘Pitbull’
Like so many promising prospects, if and when Patricky Freire puts everything together, he will be one of the scariest dudes in the world at lightweight.
Possessing punching power that would make most welterweights blush, the elder of the “Pitbull” brothers has followed his younger sibling to the Bellator cage with great success thus far. Freire fought his way to a runner-up finish in Bellator’s Season 4 tournament, finishing “Razor” Rob McCullough and Toby Imada with devastating knockouts in the first and second rounds before running into Michael Chandler in the final.
Has Freire tightened the weaknesses in his striking and wrestling defense prior to his second tournament go-around? Several names in this field promise to test him on both fronts, including his first round opponent, Lloyd Woodard.
Return of the ‘Cupcake’
One of Montana’s finest exports, Woodard looks to correct the mistakes that saw him eliminated from the Season 4 lightweight bracket. Just like his Season 6 opponent, Woodard was bounced from the tournament by Chandler, the man who would go on to submit Eddie Alvarez and capture Bellator’s lightweight championship.
Woodard will have his work cut out for him against Freire. Standing with the Brazilian is probably a bad idea, and it is up for debate whether the American can physically manage to take “Pitbull” to the floor. One thing “Cupcake” certainly has going for him is his heart. Though clearly outgunned against Chandler, Woodard showed some serious courage by fighting until the final bell. Can Woodard make it over the hump and prove he belongs among Bellator’s elite 155-pounders?
Tirloni’s Coming Out Party
Unlike the two aforementioned competitors, Ricardo Tirloni will make his first tournament appearance at Bellator 62. Beaten just once as a professional, the Brazilian has won 10 straight contests, most recently smoking fellow jiu-jitsu black belt Steve Gable in October.
Tirloni’s victory over the American exhibited everything exciting about his game. The well-rounded lightweight continually beat Gable to the punch at Bellator 55, landing sharp punch combinations interspersed with cracking kicks to the body and legs. Gable fared no better in the clinch, where Tirloni easily defended all of his takedowns and put the American on his back multiple times. The ground game also belonged to the Brazilian, who showed off some sweet ground-and-pound before sinking a rear-naked choke to finish the fight in round two.
Can Tirloni repeat the trick against Rick Hawn, a former welterweight tournament finalist and Olympic judoka making his first appearance at 155 pounds?
Welterweights No More
For Hawn, moving to lightweight could be a huge step in the right direction. Undersized as a welterweight, the onetime Olympian should find his strengths enhanced at 155 pounds, provided he opts to use them.
Following an impressive Bellator debut in October 2010 that saw him set up his finish of LeVon Maynard with a beautiful shoulder throw, Hawn relied mostly on a kickboxing game plan to earn two wins en route to a Season 4 tournament final appearance against Jay Hieron. No longer suffering from a size disadvantage, it should be interesting to see if Hawn comes out with an aggressive clinch attack in Season 6.
Joining Hawn as a lightweight debutant will be Brent Weedman, a two-time welterweight tournament veteran. Weedman rattled off 10 straight wins between 2008 and 2011, edging veteran Dan Hornbuckle in the Season 4 quarterfinals before dropping a decision to eventual tournament winner Hieron in the semis. The Kentuckian followed that defeat with a loss to Chris Lozano in September. Coming off back-to-back losses for the first time in his career, will Weedman impress in his lightweight debut?
Bellator has truly taken a liking to Brazilian strikers, and Thiago Michel Pereira Silva could prove one of the promotion’s most exciting imports.
Joining the likes of Carlos Alexandre Pereira and Genair da Silva, he is a fighter who throws first and asks questions later. The muay Thai specialist is well-schooled at launching combinations and mixing up his hands and feet to catch opponents off guard. Once the fight hits the floor, Silva is less spectacular but has shown good defense from the bottom and a mean streak with his ground-and-pound from the top.
The unified rules should work against the Brazilian on Friday, as he will be unable to utilize the grounded kicks and knees that have aided him in some prior victories. Will the wiry Silva show off the stellar striking that brought him nine career wins? If he does, he could find himself both a quick fan favorite and a Season 6 tournament semifinalist.