Bellator Fighting Championships returned for round three on Spike TV last night (Jan. 31, 2013) with the season eight lightweight tournament which featured just about everything on a very entertaining main card.
Woodard had the upper hand early, going on his typical crazy offense, backing Rickels up throughout the first round and also shooting in for takedowns. While Rickels had a pretty dangerous guard, "Cupcake" shrugged off his submission attempts and pounded away from top position for a majority of the frame.
By the end of the round, however, Rickels secured top position after a heel hook attempt went awry and dropped some nice punches.
The second round was extremely close as Woodard began to fade. Rickels took control of the stand-up portion but was thwarted by takedown attempts from the Montanan who repeatedly put him on his back. It was a battle of heavy strikes and submission attempts from Rickels compared to one good shot from Woodard and his top control (without doing much damage).
By the final frame, Woodard was completely spent and Rickels took control. "The Caveman" attacked with a solid lead left hook and some leg kicks, but didn't really go for it despite his opponent nursing a sore knee and clearly being exhausted. Rickels' patience was enough to win him the round easily, but he might have been able to finish if he'd really gone for it.
In the end, the judges sided with Rickels unanimously with 29-28 scores across the board.
The co-main event featured hotshot prospect Will Brooks against top Brazilian Ricardo Tirloni. Brooks looked sharp throughout the bout and, although raw, he was able to physically dominate the veteran of two tournaments with his wrestling.
Brooks took Tirloni down at will and despite the Brazilian throwing up occasional triangle chokes and guillotines, he was able to escape danger and go back to dropping punishing blows. By the time the fight was nearing a close, Tirloni was too tired to get any significant offense in and turn the fight around.
The judges easily awarded Brooks a 30-27 unanimous decision when it was all said and done.
In the quickest bout of the evening, late tournament replacement Saad Awad knocked out Guillaume DeLorenzi in just 31 seconds. DeLorenzi pressed forward early, but ate a heavy left hand which rocked him. Once he saw his opponent hurt, Awad didn't let up, pushing the action and really punishing the Canadian with powerful strikes, eventually knocking him silly against the cage and forcing the stoppage.
Lastly, in the opening bout of the main card, Russian prospect Alexander Sarnavskiy took on Brazilian kickboxer Thiago Michel in a very interesting lightweight tournament bout. While Michel was known as the more accomplished striker, Sarnavskiy rocked him with one of his first punches, hurting the former semifinalist with a solid overhand right.
"Tiger" continued to attack with the overhand right, but after potentially injuring his hand, he changed tactics in the second round and shot in for a takedown, putting the Brazilian on his back. When Michel tries to scramble and then attack with a sloppy reverse armbar, he left a huge opening on his neck which gave the Russian an opening to pounce. The Rusfighter standout locked in a rear naked choke and it Michel was forced to tap moments later.
So what did you think of last night's Bellator event?
Who had the most impressive performance of the evening? Did you see anyone who would be able to give champion Michael Chandler a run for his money?