It's no secret that Bellator's third season has been a let-down after two great seasons that got the promotion off the ground. Season one saw highlight reel finish after highlight reel finish. Season two was a big step up in competition with stacked brackets in every weight class. Season three has been...lacking.
While watching Hector Lombard run through a former NFL bench player was fun in a sadistic way; the only real moments of note from the current season have been Neil Grove's reemergence, Megumi Fujii continuing to operate at a different level from the rest of women's MMA and Joe Warren's amazing comeback victory over Joe Soto. Beyond that we've gotten a mess of bad heavyweight fights, less-than-spectacular bantamweight bouts and Zoila Frausto earning a shot in the finals against Fujii thanks to spectacularly bad judging.
For a fan of Bellator it has been a disappointing few months. Thankfully we're heading into a solid sprint to the finish line. Here's a look at what's on tap for the final three shows of Bellator's third season.
- Ed West and Zach Makovsky meet for the first ever Bellator bantamweight championship. Neither man managed to earn a stoppage victory during the first two rounds of the tournament but Makovsky has used his pace effectively while West has been slightly wild but effective in advancing.
- Neil Grove will provide the stiffest test in Cole Konrad's young career. Konrad has gone to four decisions in Bellator, fading late in all four fights. Grove is going to test Konrad's chin early and while Cole has a huge wrestling advantage it's Grove with the ability to finish at any point in the fight.
- "Judo" Jim Wallhead finally makes his Bellator debut taking on former UFC veteran Ryan Thomas. Wallhead was scheduled to be part of the stacked welterweight tournament in season two but the volcanic eruptions in Europe last year kept him from flying to the States to compete. Wallhead is 11-1 since 2007 with that one loss coming in his only trip to the U.S.
- Bellator 33 represents the biggest show in the history of the promotion with a non-title main event between Roger Huerta and champion Eddie Alvarez. The bout features two men with tremendous heart and a willingness to mix it up on the feet as well as skills on the ground. There is no denying this fight's potential to rank among the best of the year.
- The always entertaining Wilson Reis returns to action for the first time since losing to Patricio Pitbull in last season's featherweight tournament. Reis will be battling former IFL and WEC fighter Deividas Taurosevičius. Taurosevičius was released from the WEC following a majority decision loss to LC Davis.
- Ben Askren gets his shot at the Bellator welterweight title against champion Lyman Good. Good and Askren won't only be fighting for a title but both fighters will be looking to protect their undefeated records. A pair of wins over Ryan Thomas, a win over Dan Hornbuckle and a win over Lyman Good would prove that Askren is ready for the big time.
- In the last event of the third season Alexander Shlemenko will cash in his season two middleweight tournament win for a shot at the dominant champion Hector Lombard. Lombard will, no doubt, enter the fight as a heavy favorite but Shlemenko's whirlwind striking style provides him with the ability to end any fight at any time.
- Megumi Fujii will get her chance to run her record to 23-0 when she meets the much bigger Zoila Frausto. Frausto did not deserve the win over Jessica Aguilar, but she got it anyway and represents an interesting challenge for the best fighter the sport of women's MMA has ever seen. If Zoila can manage to use her strength to stay standing she may be able to do damage and pull off the upset. Of course, Fujii has the luxury of being good enough on the ground to pull guard and quickly lock in a submission.
So there it is, three shows to end the season. Each show with meaningful and interesting fights and each show with the ability to wash away the bad taste left by the start of the season. I'm certainly ready for next Thursday to arrive, how about you?