Photo by Keith Mills for Sherdog

Patricky Freire, fighting with a heavy heart after mourning the loss of his manager, mustered a picture-perfect counter right hand in the third round that led to a stunning TKO victory over Rob McCullough in the main event of Saturday’s Bellator 36 event.

Freire wasn’t the only lightweight to impress tonight as Bellator kicked off their $100,000 lightweight tournament. Toby Imada, Lloyd Woodard, and Michael Chandler also finished their fights with stoppages, and all 4 take another step closer to a shot at current champion Eddie Alvarez.

Freire, who is known as a submission specialist, showed off his stand up prowess early, catching McCullough with a short left hook that dropped the former WEC champion. Once the fight hit the ground, Freire put McCullough in immediate danger, easily moving to full mount, and then threatening with a rear naked choke after McCullough rolled to escape punishment from the top.

Much to his credit, McCullough survived the ground assault, but was bloody and beaten as he made his way to his corner after the bell sounded on the opening frame.

McCullough came out quickly and reversed his fortunes in the second, putting together effective punch-kick combinations and beating Freire to the punch throughout the round. Freire would manage a take down, but McCullough rolled out of trouble and ended up on top, and then delivered some nice ground-and-pound from the top.

After two rounds, it looked like the third would determine who would advance in the tourney.

In the third, McCullough picked up where he left off, scoring with combinations, and punishing the lead leg of Freire with snapping leg kicks. He doubled and tripled up on jab keeping Freire guessing, but it would be a leg kick that would be his undoing. Freire had done a remarkable job countering throughout the bout, but mostly with his left hand. This time, as McCullough scored with an inside leg kick, Freire delivered a right hand that found it’s mark perfectly, dropping McCullough where he stood. Freire would follow up with a couple of more shots before the referee could step in and intervene.

The official time of the TKO was 3:11 of the final round.

Freire (8-1 MMA, 1-0 BFC), has now won four straight, and has not lost since 2007.

Imada makes short work of Shockley

Known for his submission prowess, Toby Imada showed his strength off once again in the first round against late replacement Josh Shockley.

Shockley started off quick, landing some nice punches before shooting in and putting Imada on his back. Shockley quickly learned that just a little space against Imada is not a good thing. Imada secured an arm and swung his hips, locking up a quick arm bar on the lanky and long Shockley.

Shockley stood and tried to shake Imada, then decided to try for the slam to free his secured arm. The slam came, but at a cost, as the arm of Shockley was in an awkward position upon impact, appearing to be either broken or dislocated. Shockley let out a yell, and the referee immediately stopped the fight and ruled it a verbal submission.

Imada (29-15 MMA, 5-2 BFC) is no stranger to advancing in Bellator tournaments, but will this be the year he gets over the hump and becomes a champion?

Woodard TKO’s Vanier

Lloyd Woodard used a mix of take down defense and laser-precise striking to put away Greg Jackson-trained product Carey Vanier to remain undefeated.

Woodard shut down the take down game of Vanier for most of the first round. The only success Vanier found in his attempts came after a bodylock take down of Woodard. Despite giving up the big slam, Woodard effectively made his way back to his feet, and then landed a big overhand right late in the round that would be a sign of things to come for the rest of the fight.

In the second, Vanier stepped right into a short left hook that dropped him to the mat. After a subsequent scramble, both fighters made their way to their feet, but it was Woodard’s work in the clinch that would end the fight in his favor. Woodard uncorked a big knee that put Vanier right back on the mat, but this time he would not recover. As he covered up from the strikes, Woodard poured them on forcing the referee to step in and call the fight.

It was a big win for ‘cupcake’, who moves to 11-0 overall (1-0 BFC), and more importantly, secures a spot in the semi-finals.

Chandler submits Held

Mike Chandler escaped near disaster early in the first against Polish prodigy Marcin Held, surviving a very tight leg lock, and then locked up a submission of his own for the win.

Chandler started quickly, landing a big kick to the body, before taking Held to the mat with a big take down. Held secured a leg once on the ground, and nearly put Chandler away with a very tight knee bar. Chandler tried to punch his way out, but Held transitioned to an ankle lock from there. Chandler finally managed to escape, stood over the guard of Held, then dove in with a big right hand from the top.

Held looked very comfortable on his back, staying very active, and transitioning for numerous submission attempts, but it was not to be. Chandler showed off his superior top control, posturing out of several arm bar attempts before isolating an arm of Held.

Chandler locked up a tight arm triangle, moved to side control and looked for the finish. Held refused to tap, and instead was left unconscious on the mat. The fight was ruled a technical submission, and advances Chandler (6-0 MMA, 3-0 BFC) to the semi-finals.

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