Oklahoma gets a second dose of Bellator Fighting Championships when the organization returns to the Sooner State for Bellator 40 tonight with a main event superfight between welterweight champion Ben Askren (7-0) and UFC, bodogFIGHT, Strikeforce, Sengoku, and Elite XC veteran “The Goat” Nick Thompson (38-12). Askren will have his hands full with this seasoned fighter, and Thompson is coming to fight for the 15 minutes that three of Askren’s four Bellator bouts have lasted. Opening the night for the champ will be the second pair of semi-final tournament bouts. Welterweight semi-finalists step in first as Brent Weedman (18-5) takes on former UFC and Strikeforce fighter and former IFL Welterweight Champion “The Thoroughbred” Jay Hieron (17-4) with the winner moving on to face undefeated Judo Olympian Rick Hawn (11-0) in the tournament finals. Then former semi-pro boxer and heavy handed striker Lloyd Woodard (11-0) takes on Strikeforce veteran and quick finisher Michael Chandler (6-0) in the lightweight semi-finals with the winner slated against ”Pitbull” Patricky Freire (3-0). Overall the night should promise another evening of excellent Bellator action for the fans.
Michael Chandler vs. Lloyd Woodard: Coming off of a TKO win over Carey Vanier (8-3) at Bellator 36, Woodard is riding high with a lot of momentum coming into his bout with Chandler. Chandler defeated Polish import Marcin Held (10-2) via first round submission to earn his place and is riding an 11-fight win streak of his own. Both men are undefeated and have their strong points in the MMA game. Woodard likes to stand and box and has a fist full of submission wins to back them whereas Chandler uses his wrestling to overpower his opponents and finishes them by strikes or Jiu-Jitsu from the safety of the top position. Woodard is a slight favorite in this bout due to his win over the tough and experienced Vanier, while Chandler defeated an unknown fighter and is still young and inexperienced. Chandler, however, is game to stand or take the fight wherever it goes and has the wrestling to do that. Woodard wants the fight on the feet and will use his takedown defense to stuff Chandler’s wrestling and punish him on the way out, but his takedown defense is largely untested and he has never faced a wrestler with the pedigree of Chandler. Chandler is a strong lightweight and as a Div. I All-American wrestler, the chance of Woodard stopping the early takedown is very slight. To win, he will have to survive the early onslaught and use whatever tricks he’s learned to wear Chandler out and go for a late finish. Woodard is the more experienced fighter in this bout and has a lot of momentum coming into this fight, but the likelihood of him being able to outlast the blitzkrieg offense of Michael Chandler is very slim. Chandler via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2.
Brent Weedman vs. Jay Hieron: Weedman is coming back after sitting out to let a cut on his eye heal that he received in his fight with “The Handler” Dan Hornbuckle (18-4). A hard fought Split Decision victory that some fans believe should have gone to Hornbuckle, it was Weedman’s submission attempts at the end of the rounds that won him the fight in the judges’ eyes. Hieron won his bout over Anthony Lapsely (15-6) by technical submission where the referee stopped the bout when Lapsely didn’t respond to his commands despite still being more than able to continue. Hieron dominated the fight since the opening bell, using his strength and wrestling and was obviously the better man despite the highly controversial stoppage. Weedman will have his hands full and perhaps be over matched by Hieron – there are simply too many factors against him. Weedman had a much longer, more damaging first round fight than Hieron and also suffers from distinct disadvantages in the level of competition he has faced up to this point in his career. Riding an eight-fight win streak that covers IFL, Affliction, and Strikeforce, Hieron has consistently faced, and defeated better fighters than Weedman.
Weedman is on a 10-fight win streak of his own with only one decision and seven first round finishes, so he does have the power to finish Hieron early. Weedman’s best bet is to get the fight to the mat and work Hieron over from the top position, as Jay has been weak off his back in the past, but he also needs to win early. Hieron has gone the distance with several tough nosed fighters in Strikeforce including “Diesel” Joe Riggs (33-13) and “JT Money” Jesse Taylor (13-5) so he can clearly handle himself for a full 15 minutes which isn’t good for Weedman who was visibly gassed in the third round against Hornbuckle. Hieron is the favorite to win the tournament and many fans believe he will destroy Askren with ease, but first he has to get pass Weedman. Weedman has everything to gain with a win over the dangerous Hieron, and a man with nothing to lose is very dangerous. Unfortunately, Hieron fights on another level than Weedman and that should be painfully obvious from the opening bell. Hieron via TKO, Round 1.
Ben Askren vs. Nick Thompson: Well traveled MMA veteran Nick Thompson has fought all over the world and has racked up some solid wins over fighters such as Bellator Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez (20-2) and current Strikeforce top welterweight contender in “Semtex” Paul Daley (23-10). Thompson has not won a fight since defeating Daley in 2009 and is currently on a three fight skid that has called his chin into question. Askren himself has not fought since winning the title over “Cyborg” Lyman Good (11-2) in October and is hoping to add a win over a seasoned veteran to his undefeated record. Although a one-dimensional fighter, Askren is undefeated due to his extremely high level of wrestling. Askren doesn’t receive much love from MMA fans for his lay-and-pray style, but he wins matches by taking no risks on the feet and using his Gold Medal winning wrestling to completely control the fight.
But Thompson has all the tools to shut down the wrestler in Askren and the hands and kicks to stop him and, while it is hard to say that any fighter has a pure wrestling game to rival Askren’s, Nick has faced and defeated several fighters who have more complete and efficient fight games than Askren and has competed at a much higher level. Thompson is taller and larger than Askren as well, giving him a reach advantage that will allow him to stay on the outside where Askren will have to shoot long distances against a heavier target, a tall order even for an Olympian. Askren has only his wrestling to count on since he has no punching power or submission skills and this fight will be a tough one. He has powered through the likes of Hornbuckle and Good to win the title, but has never faced a fighter with the experience of Thompson. A win over Askren can kick start Thompson’s career and end a two-fight skid and would also earn him much love from MMA fans for defeating the so called “Most Boring Wrestler”. Askren is a one-trick pony and while he is the absolute best at that trick, Thompson has ridden that horse before. Thompson via TKO, Round 3.
Bellator 40 Local Feature Fights:
* Nate James vs. Tyler Stinson
* Josh Burns vs. Eric Prindle
* David Rickles vs. Dylan Smith
* Cody Carrillo vs. Michael Osborn
* Mike Winters vs. Ryan Quinn