Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney revealed the lightweight semifinals Saturday. | Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com
The four men who advanced to the semifinals of Bellator's lightweight tournament on Saturday in Shreveport, La., were all impressive enough that Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney couldn't possibly design poor semifinals.
The combination that Rebney settled on will see a battle of unbeatens, as 6-0 former All-American wrestler Michael Chandler takes on 11-0 Lloyd Woodard and two-time Bellator tournament runner-up Toby Imada tries to clinch his third finals appearance against once-beaten Brazilian Patricky Freire. The two semifinal bouts will take place on April 9 at Bellator 40 at First Council Casino in Newkirk, Okla.
"People ask, 'What kind of bullets do you have in the gun for Eddie Alvarez?' That was answered tonight," said Rebney at the Bellator 36 post-fight press conference. "There are some spectacular, talented 155-pounders fighting for this organization. I had a blast watching these fights."
All four lightweight semifinalists stopped their quarterfinal foes in Shreveport. Woodard and Freire knocked out Carey Vanier and Rob McCullough, respectively, while Imada and Chandler forced stoppages via submission over Josh Shockley and Marcin Held. With the most well-known fighter in the tournament, former WEC champion McCullough, out of the running, it now sees the lone veteran Imada alongside three bright up-and-coming prospects.
"I'm back for the third time. Hopefully this time I take everyone out hoping to beat me by decision," Imada mused, perhaps commenting on his contentious decision loss to Pat Curran in the second-season tournament final last June. "I don't feel like celebrating a whole lot yet."
"It's the biggest chance of my life, and a chance you only have one time," Freire added. "I know that I'll be fighting another tough guy, I've seen many of his fights. I know it will be a war."
However, given how closely matched the final four are, Missoula, Mont., native Woodard perhaps explained the semifinal draw the best. "All these guys are tough. I want a tough fight," said Woodard. "It's an honor for me to fight Mike, but if it was one of these other guys, it would be just as high an honor."
Bellator 40 will be headlined by the promotion's welterweight champion, Ben Askren, taking on Nick Thompson in a non-title affair. Featherweight prospect Ronnie Mann will also make his promotional debut on the card against Josh Arocho.