Bellator 62 Preview

March 21, 2012

This Friday Bellator Fighting Championships presents the Season 6 lightweight tournament, as eight fighters enter the cage for the quarterfinals. The action begins Friday, March 23rd live at 7 p.m. ET on and continues at 8/7c on MTV2 and in HD on Epix2 with Bellator 62 from Laredo, Texas.

Fans of Bellator know the lightweights are one of the most dynamic weight classes in the organization, and are guaranteed to produce fireworks. The tournament gets underway featuring a mix of familiar faces, hot prospects and welterweight vets looking for a fresh start down a weight class. If finishes are up your alley, look no further than Lloyd Woodard vs. Patricky "Pitbull" Freire. Woodard is a wildman in the cage, relying on a solid mix of kicks and short punches. Usually favoring the striking game, "Cupcake" is equally competent at getting back to his feet from his back, as he showed in his Season 4 quarterfinal fight against Carey Vanier. Before he was eliminated by future champ Michael Chandler, the Montana-based fighter asked for someone to bang with so he could give the crowd a show. Set to face Freire, he's unquestionably getting his wish. "Pitbull" went from an unknown Brazilian to a YouTube sensation in just two Bellator appearances, knocking out former WEC champion Rob McCullough in his promotional debut before devastating Toby Imada with a flying knee; the latter was a 2011 Knockout of the Year nominee. Though Freire fell short in the finals against Chandler, he responded emphatically last November and finished UFC veteran Kurt Pellegrino in less than a minute. Living up to his nickname, all three of Freire's Bellator wins are knockouts.

In a battle of once-beaten grapplers, Ricardo Tirloni takes on Rick Hawn. Tirloni enters his first Bellator tournament on a hot streak. A well-rounded fighter with a balance of knockout and submission finishes, Tirloni has a rare blend of destructive, effective striking and an aggressive submission game. The last time the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt tasted defeat was in 2008 to current UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson. Tirloni has been on a tear ever since, rattling off 11 straight wins with only two opponents hearing the final bell. The Brazilian completely controlled and mentally broke Steve Gable before submitting him in the second round of his Bellator debut. Against Hawn, Tirloni faces a fellow grappling expert with valuable tournament experience. Hawn made it to the Season 4 welterweight finals before dropping a razor-close split decision to Jay Hieron. Expected to compete last season, Hawn was injured and forced to withdraw just weeks away from his fight. When Hawn returns for the first time in nine months, he'll be 15 pounds lighter. The Olympic judo player is making the drop to lightweight, stating he felt undersized throughout his previous tournament run. With powerful throws, solid ground and pound, and one of the best bases in the game, Hawn has all the tools for tournament success.

Hawn isn't the only fighter coming down in weight, as Bellator veteran Brent Weedman is making the drop to meet J.J. Ambrose in another quarterfinal fight. A longtime welterweight, Weedman's already lanky frame will suit him nicely down at 155. The Midwestern is no doubt at a crossroad, as he's dropped consecutive bouts for the first time in his career. Though both defeats were exciting fights, especially his three-round battle with Chris Lozano last September, Weedman knows the importance of a win. The impeccably conditioned Kentucky native has already made a test cut down to 155, so the drop shouldn't hinder his gas tank. Ambrose finds himself in the opposite spot as Weedman, as he enters Bellator with a wave of momentum behind him. Though he's posted 13 finishes in 17 wins and has only one loss in his last 17 fights, Ambrose's last trip to the big show saw him get submitted by vet Mike Pyle. The So-Cal native is the first to admit he's taking a step up in competition, and he's poised to ditch his self-proclaimed journeyman label with a win over Weedman.

Rounding out the quarterfinals is a battle of two highly touted prospects Thiago Michel and Rene Nazare. "The Brazilian Bomber" Nazare has only tasted defeat once, in a bout where he was outwrestled and unable to get off his back. It was a rare sight for the usually dominant jiu-jitsu black belt, but unquestionably a learning experience. Despite his grappling credentials, Nazare prefers to keep fights on the feet. His heavy hands and constant short, straight and accurate punches torched Juan Barrantes last August, and against Michel he'll have an opponent with a similar approach. Michel enters Bellator widely recognized as one of the top lightweight prospects in the world. A phenomenal striker with a wide variety of kicks at his disposal, all nine of Michel's wins are knockouts. His lone hole in his ground game is being plugged at a remarkable rate, as he showed considerably improved takedown defense in his recent fights. His last outing against Rodrigo Cavalheiro saw him stay patient and avoid significant strikes before getting a trip takedown and sealing the deal with ground and pound. Against Nazare, he faces the toughest test of his promising career.

Before the lightweight tournament kicks off, brings you the prelims live. The inspirational Rad Martinez, who was featured on ESPN's Outside the Lines, enters the Bellator cage on the heels of a big win at Bellator 50 and meets Douglas Frey in a featherweight bout. Also, two Bellator vets Dave Jansen and Jacob Kirwan clash in a lightweight affair. Check out the full Bellator 62 lineup right here.

Prelims start Friday, March 23rd live at 7 p.m. ET on
Main card is live at 8/7c on MTV2, in HD on Epix2 and on
Live fights continue at 10 p.m. ET on