Former wrestling Olympian and current Bellator Welterweight World Champion Ben “Funky” Askren will take on former UFC and Strikeforce veteran Nick “The Goat” Thompson in a non-title tonight at Bellator 40.
“Ben hasn’t been in the cage since winning the Bellator title, and I can’t wait to see him back in action,” said Bellator Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney. “Nick comes in with a ton of experience, so this should be a great fight.”
While “Funky’s” title isn’t on the line, Askren (7-0) isn’t going to treat this matchup any different than his title fight last season against former Bellator Champion Lyman Good. With the experience “The Goat” brings to the cage, Askren knows not to take the veteran lightly.
“I come to fight every single time,” said Askren. “Whether you’re good or you’re bad, I still want to smash you, and it’s going to be the same thing when I fight Nick Thompson. It doesn’t matter what his record is, I’m going to be looking to kick his ass no matter what.”
Along with the Askren-Thompson bout, Bellator 40 will see a Welterweight semifinal fight between Jay “The Thoroughbred” Hieron and fast-rising Brent Weedman for a coveted spot in the Bellator Welterweight Finals.
Prior to his Bellator Season 4 Welterweight quarterfinal fight with submission finisher Anthony Lapsley at Bellator 35 on March 5th, it had been more than a year since Hieron had stood across the cage from an opponent. Needless to say, Hieron relished the opportunity, dispatching of Lapsley with a first round technical submission victory – Hieron’s 20th professional and eight consecutive win. Undefeated for more than three years running, Hieron was dominant from start to finish in his Bellator debut.
“I got what I wanted out of that fight. I was aggressive and I wanted to get him out of there, and that’s exactly how I wanted to feel,” said Hieron. “It felt excellent to get back in that cage and perform. It felt great, it was an unbelievable feeling.”
Hieron now looks to continue his run in a semifinal fight with fast-rising Weedman tonight.
“Brent Weedman is a tough guy, and I want to be fighting tough guys. He comes forward and he’s aggressive, and that gives me the opportunity for openings,” said Hieron. “I’m ready for Brent Weedman on Saturday night; it’s going to be fun.”
Unlike Hieron, Weedman was a considerable underdog in his quarterfinal fight with the always formidable Dan “The Handler” Hornbuckle. Undaunted, Weedman remained aggressive throughout the three round battle, eventually earning a hard-fought unanimous decision victory. The victory gave Weedman his 10th consecutive win and most importantly a place in the semifinals. Weedman says his ability to surprise people wasn’t wasted on Hornbuckle.
“I feel like people are looking past me more in this fight with Jay Hieron than ever before, and I’m loving every second of it. I enjoy ruining people’s plans,” said Weedman. “It’s all do or die for me. Every fight I’m in, it’s 100% or nothing, and that’s exactly how it’s going to be in this fight with Jay Hieron.”
“This should be an incredible fight; both Jay and Brent are riding long win streaks, which makes this a very interesting and entertaining battle,” said Bellator Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney.
In a Season 4 Lightweight semifinal fight, undefeated All-American Michael Chandler (6-0) will step into the cage with Lloyd “Cupcake” Woodard (11-0) as both unbeaten fighters will be looking to keep their spotless record intact.
Chandler and Woodard have many similarities going into their semifinal fight tonight. Both fighters ended their Lightweight Tournament quarterfinal fights with authority at Bellator 36 – Chandler by first round arm triangle choke of Polish Prodigy Marcin Held and Woodard by second round TKO of the Greg Jackson trained Carey Vanier. Both overcame adversity in their fights – Chandler in the form of a tight kneebar attempt by Held and Woodard in the form of relentless takedown attempts by Vanier. Both fighters maintained their undefeated records.
But after all is said and done on Saturday night one of these lightweights will walk away with their first professional defeat and one will walk into the Bellator Season 4 Lightweight Tournament finals.
Former Division I All-American wrestler Michael Chandler, who has finished all six of his six professional fights, believes it will be him that walks away with the victory and his ticket to the finals.
“I give Lloyd [Woodard] a lot of credits for stopping the takedown attempts from Carey Vanier, but I don’t think he’s going to be able to stop my Division I takedowns if that’s what I decide to do,” said Chandler. “Against a guy like Lloyd Woodard, I feel like I’m literally going to have to go out there and tear his heart from his chest to beat him. I want to go out there and send a message. I’m winning this tournament, and I will be the next Bellator Lightweight World Champion.”
“Cupcake” begs to differ, stating that Chandlers wrestling pedigree actually plays to his advantage.
“Just knowing that Michael Chandler is a really good wrestler makes it easier for me to stuff his shots. I’m able to anticipate that he will be trying to take me down at some point in the fight,” said Woodard. “The plan is to defend the takedowns and knock him out. I want to beat him up. I know that he’s never gone the distance so I want to put him through a battle and see how he reacts. . I’ve been counted out before and I haven’t lost yet. I don’t see this fight being any different.”
“Both of the guys are undefeated, both had great performances in their quarter-final fights and both believe 110% that they will walk away Saturday night with a ticket to the finals. This should be a great fight,” said Bellator Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney.
Bellator 40 takes place tonight from the First Council Casino in Newkirk, OK. The main card will air live on MTV2.