Bellator News: Ratings Up, Neil Grove Returns, Efrain Escudero Debuts

TUF 8 winner Efrain Escudero returns to action Saturday on the undercard of Bellator 56.

The ongoing saga of up-and-down ratings for Bellator continues as the promotion saw a significant uptick in viewers for this past Saturday's Bellator 54.

The main telecast on MTV2 drew 185,000 viewers, up from the previous week's all-time low of 105,000. The replay garnered 116,000 viewers.

Green Grove

After losing a decision to Mike Hayes several weeks ago, Neil Grove has found his way back into Bellator's heavyweight tournament as an injury replacement for the injured Blagoi Ivanov.

Grove (11-4-1) will face fellow injury replacement Thiago Santos (9-1) at Bellator 56 on Saturday, October 29th. A former Bellator heavyweight tournament finalist, Grove has lost two of his last three fights while Santos has a three-fight win streak. Ironically, Santos is replacing Hayes who had to withdraw after a 60-day medical suspension.

In the other semifinal, Ron Sparks will face Eric Prindle.

Halfway Home

Saturday's Bellator 55 -- the seventh event of this season -- is once again unopposed by any UFC or Strikeforce competition and viewers will see the bantamweight semifinals with Alexis Vila vs. Marcos Galvao and Ed West vs. Eduardo Dantas, in addition to Light Heavyweight Champion Christian M'Pumbu competing in non-title action.

Dantas (11-2) is coming off a second round KO of Wilson Reis while West (17-5) beat Luis Nogueira by decision. Vila (10-0) will try to follow up on his first round KO of Featherweight Champion Joe Warren when he faces Galvao (10-4-1), who advanced via split decision over Chase Beebe. The four men are vying for a shot at current Bantamweight Champion Zach Makovsky.

M'Pumbu (18-3-1) returns for the first time since winning his championship against veteran Travis Wiuff (65-14-0-1) in non-title action. Ricardo Tirloni vs. Steve Gable in lightweight action rounds out the televised card.

Comeback Kid?

The most interesting name on Saturday's undercard in Yuma, AZ, is that of TUF 8 winner Efrain Escudero, cut by the UFC just over a year ago.

Escudero (17-3) was released by the UFC after a third round submission loss to Charles Oliveira at a Fight Night event in September 2010. Since then, the 25-year-old has gone 4-1 in regional promotions and last defeated Mike Rio by unanimous decision in July. He will face Ceasar Avila (6-1).

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