Bellator 39 Preview: Hawn-Good, Imada-Freire, Saunders-Lee

Promoted from the Fan Posts by Kid Nate. It's a follow up to the author's Eddie Alvarez vs Pat Curran preview.

Now that Olympic Judoka Rick Hawn is snapping off sharpened Muay Thai on the feet, his clubbed hands and BJJ Black Belt don't offer Lyman Good many holes to exploit.  Good, the first and former Bellator welterweight champion, is hardcore enough to sleep on a Tempur-Pedic mattress inside the cage during his training camp and throw down with Olympic-level grapplers in two of his last three fights.

Full previews after the break.

Free Movement / Striking Phase

The most significant element here is how quickly Hawn has developed his striking under Sensei Mark Dellagrotte.  Seven of Hawn's ten wins came via the flesh-covered mallets he calls hands.  Beginning a bit primitive by basically cornering his opponents and bashing them into unconsciousness, Hawn has made enormous strides with his striking.

In two short years of MMA, any fighter with a strong grappling background is lucky to upgrade their stand-up game to anything beyond clumsy and ugly.  Not only has Hawn constructed a functional striking game in the Sityodtong garage, but he's also bolted on a list of basics that often go unappreciated:  constant head movement, a high and vigilant guard, twisting and rolling his upper body in the pocket to blossom angles, and he dictates the pace with a busy left jab.

Hawn's lower body remains rigidly cemented to the floor in heated exchanges, which allows him to generate a frightening amount of force in his punches, and his base and balance are strong enough that affronting foes simply bounce off in collisions.  The potentially negative aspect of this tendency is that a stationary target is easier to hit.

Where Hawn is striving to accelerate is where Tiger Schulmann product Lyman Good dominates.  Undefeated in the all-striking "World Combat League" and unhinging all but Ben Askren in MMA, Good is a physical specimen with smooth and crisp stand-up.  He has the heart and inherent toughness of a natural born fighter and shows it in every fight.

Being the more experienced striker, the key for Good will be picking his spots with measured footwork.  A Frankie Edgar-esque approach of darting in, popping off, and skating out of range will be optimal.  Hawn can afford to be reckless and static, because -- where most are at risk for a takedown by planting their feet and digging in while standing -- the judoka's base is virtually immovable and he welcomes anyone daring to close range and tangle up.

Hawn will be waiting to wrap up the kickboxer when he storms in or counter-strikes, so Good must walk that fine line of committing to the wisest locations and timing from which to discharge quick but meaningful flurries while avoiding Hawn's devastating clinch.

Advantage:  Good

 Clinch PhaseEtguth_medium

Of course, explaining who has the advantage between an Olympian who specializes in throwing people on their head and anyone else is pretty straightforward.

The gif to the right also shows why the "not so gentle art" of Hawn's Judo can get away with being careless in the stand-up game. 

Without the gi, it's Hawn's hips that Good needs to stay away from.  Having no grips to use for leverage reduces the dangerous perimeter surrounding Hawn, and we actually saw him struggle in the clinch against LeVon Maynard in his Bellator debut before he Ipponed him through the floor.

This is why footwork will likely dictate this entire fight.  Good's sheer strength and decent sprawl will serve him well, but he has to steer clear of getting too deep in the pocket and too close to Hawn's magnetic hips.

Advantage:  Hawn

Grappling Phase

I thought Good put up a valiant effort against the relentless takedowns and top-game of Ben Askren.  The skilled wrestler's fervent dedication to working with BJJ black belts enabled him to secure position and stifle Good's submission attempts. 

Though Hawn is yet to duel on the ground with a gamer like Good, he's shown the same inimitable base and balance on the ground, which -- when you factor in the power of his punches -- makes for a scary combination.  Good has a warrior spirit and a charismatic 'never say die' attitude, but it's just not probable that he'll be effective with Hawn on top of him.

Advantage:  Hawn


I've been going back and forth on this one, and the betting lines give the nod to Good by a slight margin, which is definitely understandable.  However, considering how impressively Hawn out-struck veteran Jim Wallhead, his esteemed credentials, heavy hands, and rapid adaptation to MMA, I'm going to hesitantly throw out a call for Hawn to snare the upset.

Prediction:  Hawn by decision



Don't worry, we'll be moving along much faster for the last two fights.  It's not that I'm disinterested in the Toby Imada vs. Patricky Freire tilt, it's just that it's not quite as dynamic as the rest ... but it should be a down and dirty dogfight that's fun to watch.

The stand-up between these two should be fairly even, with Imada having slightly better technique, movement, and unpredictability.  Imada will quickly change to southpaw and lead with a right hook, stays active overall, and offers a little more depth in his threats with takedowns and clinching.

Freire is the more fearless and powerful striker; happy to get up close to trade at intimate range, and explodes mercilessly with stout and tight combinations.  After standing with Razor Rob and knocking him silly, I'm giving Freire a slight edge standing, though his aggression could also play into Imada's robust clinch game.

A Judo black belt, Toby Imada enforces great head position in the clinch and alternates his attacks well.  Inside trips, knees from over/under, quick switches to the Thai plum, with some good ol' dirty boxing thrown in for good measure can all be expected from Imada in the clinch.  I give him the clear edge here.

On the ground, I think Freire is an animal.  Of course, Imada has a silky sub-game, as anyone with twenty career submissions does, but I think "Pitbull" can nullify his skill and surpass him with strength and punching power.  His only loss is to eventual UFC competitor and Nova Uniao grappler Willamy "Chiquerim" Freire, and though it could go either way and I wouldn't be surprised if Imada took it, I see Freire with his arm being raised.

Prediction:  Freire by TKO

Ben Saunders (9-3-2)  x Matt Lee (13-9-1)

Matt Lee is expected to be a walk in the park for lanky ATT striker and former UFC welterweight Ben Saunders. 

I posted the Youtube highlight reel of Lee because it honestly says something that his heart and efforts have inspired MMA fans.  He's a tough S.O.B. who's faced elite competition in Masvidal and Alvarez (the latter of which he took to a decision) and other impressive foes like Dale Hartt, Keith Wisniewski, and Jason Ireland.  He drew with James Edson Berto and fought Kiuma Kunioku in his MMA debut.

That being said, I never quite understood why Saunders was cut.  He took on the #2 welterweight in the world, Jon Fitch, on short notice.  He lost to a seasoned and somehow still improving vet like Dennis Hallman, who has so many fights that record-keepers can't even track them all.  And this was right after "Killa B" put a skilled boxer and perennial contender like Marcus Davis into a coma courtesy of a tornado of knees.

With a Thai-flavored striking acumen that's delivered with telephone-pole reach, a brutal clinch game facilitated by his height, and an ATT-honed ground game with a strong guard and slick subs, Saunders is destined to be back in the big leagues.

Even though Lee is the type of fighter that would chew off his arm to escape a submission and then try to beat his opponent over the head with the severed limb, Saunders' size, striking, and well-rounded game will be way too much.  Though it might be late in the fight and not as easy as everyone thinks ...

Prediction:  Saunders by TKO



Hawn gif courtesy of "Caposa"

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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