What was supposed to be the first step back to redemption for Ferrid Kheder turned into a nightmare for Bellator.  The lightweight tournament will go on, with one slight modification.

The fighters stood and waited to get on the scale for Bellator 36, the first round of the Lightweight Tournament.  All the fighters made weight; at least those of which that elected to weigh in.  Ferrid Kheder, who was scheduled to meet Toby Imada in one of the main card tournament fights, opted to not weigh in and simply walk out of the arena.  Apparently he was extremely overweight and didn’t want to face whatever humiliation or fines would be associated with that.  Bellator was able to scramble and moved Josh Shockley to the main card from the undercard to face Imada. 

So as we look at the first round matchups here, we’ll be including Josh Shockley (6-0).  For Kheder who was making his first appearance since his debacle with Hermes Franca in Costa Rica, expect there to be a fine and suspension perhaps from the Louisiana commission.

Lloyd Woodard (10-0) against Carey Vanier (8-2)

For Lloyd, this is his first big fight for a large-scale promotion on National TV.  The Montana native trains with The Dog Pound and has a well-rounded style, including outstanding hands, wrestling and submissions. Lloyd will look to stand with Carey as long as he can and avoid the shot.  Carey is a remarkable wrestler and will look for the takedown and control on the mat Saturday night.  Carey got into this fight with a victory over UFC veteran Rich Clementi via split decision in September in a Bellator elimination match.  In the final round, Carey illegally kneed Rich and it opened a cut on his eye.  Had he lost a point for the foul, he’d be watching this round at home.  He will be looking to make the most of his second chance.

This can be categorized as a striker facing a grappler, but at the end of the day, both fighters are well-rounded and the fighter who avoids making mistakes should walk away the winner.

Mike Chandler (5-0) against Marcin Held (10-1)

Mike Chandler is a fresh up and coming fighter from Missouri who already has two wins from Strikeforce and two wins from Bellator under his belt, despite his only having five professional fights.  He finds himself competing in this tournament against the tough Polish fighter, Marcin Held who sports an impressive 10-1 record.  For Held, this is only his first fight outside of his native Poland.  He is tremendously respected in his home country and brings a lot to the table.  He has very dangerous submissions and good takedowns as well.  Chandler also is good wrestling so those two categories could cancel each other out and we could have a stand up fight.   The edge in submissions could make it dangerous territory for Chandler either way, and standing could be his best bet.  This could be a very enjoyable fight where the fans are introduced to Held and see the continued growth of Mike Chandler.

If you’re looking for an edge, Chandler’s experience on bigger stages could be the difference.

Toby Imada (28-15) against Ferrid Kheder Josh Shockley (6-0)

Toby Imada has been around for a very long time.  He really made a name for himself with his unbelievable submission of the year winning performance against Jorge Masvidal when he locked on a standing, inverted triangle choke.  Youtube it, you won’t be sorry.  Saturday night he faces Josh Shockley who is stepping up from the undercard to replace overweight and last seen running across Louisiana, Ferrid Kheder after Kheder decided to pull the run when they aren’t looking rather than step on a scale Friday afternoon.  For Shockley, it’ll be a step up in talent and notoriety when he faces Imada on the main card.  Shockley has an undefeated record, against a veritable “who’s that” of MMA competition.  He’s coming off of an injury that forced him from a scheduled meeting with Mark Miller at Bellator 25.  He and Duneland Vale Tudo training partner Darren Elkins had a mishap that ended with Shockley having a “clavicular dislocation.”  The result is he hasn’t fought in over a year and Toby is game and will be dangerous if Shockley has ring rust.  Imada is 12-2 in his last 14 fights with losses coming to Bellator Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez and Pat Curran who he dropped a split decision to.  He’s very game and dangerous and will be looking to make young Shockley pay for Kheder’s mistake.

If you are putting money down, take note of the huge experience advantage Toby Imada has as well as the ring rust associated with Shockley’s 18 month layoff from active competition.

Rob McCullough (19-6) against Patricky Freire (7-1)

Former WEC lightweight Champion “Razor” Rob McCullough signed on with Bellator for this tournament and immediately became the man to beat.  The most well-known and highly touted fighter in the tournament, Rob will face a stiff test in the opening round when he faces Brazilian Patricky Freire.  Freire sports an admirable 7-1 record and brings an exciting stand up game which should mesh well with McCullough’s and produce fireworks.  Both men have crisp striking and both men have well-rounded mixed martial arts skills.  The winner of this fight could have the inside track to winning the entire tournament.  Rob McCullough has said he stopped caring a little and his performance suffered, but now he’s 100 percent back and ready to go.  If he comes in ready and so does Freire, expect fight of the night type fireworks.

Like any other fight, the experience and big stage experience is key.  That falls in favor of McCullough.  However, if he slips up at all, Freire is more than capable of finishing him.

Tune in to MTV 2 Saturday night March 12th, 2011 to see these fights unfold.  Check your local listings for times.


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