Thanks to a power right hand, Bellator's welterweight division got a little deeper at Bellator 57 last Saturday as Douglas Lima finished Ben Saunders in the second round to win their 170-pound tournament and the right to lock horns with current champion Ben Askren in 2012.
While much of the focus going into the fight was on the more recognizable Saunders, the 23-year-old Lima could be a top contender in Bellator for years to come and will pose a serious threat to the less experienced Askren when they meet. The American Top Team Atlanta member has bounced all around the United States in his five-year career, but with nine straight wins and an 86% finish rate in his victories, Lima (21-5) has found himself a home and perhaps may get some gold to go with it.
Lima joins a group that includes Askren, Saunders, recent top contender Jay Hieron, newly signed Brian Foster, Rick Hawn and former champion Lyman Good. Assuming that Saunders and Hieron will return as entrants into next year's 170-pound tournament, the road to get a title shot will be a bit tougher and create more interesting fights along the way.
Lombard Vs. Shlemenko II
Alexander Shlemenko had a dominant performance in an all-stand up affair last Saturday, easily defeating an overwhelmed Vitor Vianna to win Bellator's 185-pound tournament and earn the rematch he wanted with reigning champion Hector Lombard.
In his 50th pro fight, Shlemenko (43-7) used accurate spinning back fists, kicks and a straight forward attack on the 12-2-1 Vianna, who froze in the big moment and never shot for takedowns or responded with strikes of his own. Shlemenko began to lose concentration as the fight wore on, playing to the crowd and showing some vintage 2010 Anderson Silva moves in trying to get Vianna to exchange.
He'll need to focus more when he eventually faces Lombard, who competes in non-title action this Saturday against Trevor Prangley at a 195-pound catchweight. As fans have heard, Lombard (30-2-1-1) is riding a ridiculously long win streak and hasn't truly been challenged in Bellator...except by Shlemenko who took Lombard to the distance in October 2010. Expect more of the same dominance Saturday as Prangley is 3-3-1 in his last seven and was finished in the first round in all of his losses.
Countdown to Alvarez - Chandler
In addition to Lombard vs. Prangley, Bellator Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chandler will headline this Saturday's Bellator 58 -- a fight originally set to take place in mid-October but was pushed back due to an undisclosed Alvarez injury.
The undefeated Chandler (8-0) earned his opportunity by winning Bellator's 155-pound tournament earlier this year with a unanimous decision win over Patricky "Pitbull" Friere. This will be the second defense of the gold the 22-2 Alvarez won in June 2009 and since coming to Bellator, he's 7-0 with six finishes. He is coming off a tough unanimous decision win over Pat Curran in April.
In addition, Marlon Sandro will return to action for the first time since being knocked out by Curran in August when he faces WEC veteran Rafael Dias, loser of three straight and five of his last seven. Jessica Aguilar vs. Lisa Ward is a swing bout and has an interesting twist in that it's a rematch more than five years in the making. Ward beat Aguilar in her 2006 pro debut via second round submission.
Earlier today, Leland Roling reported that Bellator announced the signing of highly-ranked middleweight prospect Vyacheslav Vasilevsky to a deal. But according to M-1 Global's Evgeni Kogan, Vasilevsky is under contract and M-1 is threatening to sue. BE will have more on this story as it develops.
Ratings Drop Again
Up against a highly-promoted UFC on Fox event, a major boxing pay-per-view and a big college football game, MMA Junkie reported that Bellator's ratings got crushed Saturday, drawing just 129,000 viewers for the event. This is the fourth straight week that viewership has dropped and another clear indication that Viacom has to get the promotion off Saturday nights in 2012.
News & Notes
- Those that did watch last Saturday saw a fun back-and-forth battle between Alexandre Bezerra and Doug Evans to open the show. Bezerra's right eye was swelled shut and Evans was looking good, but got caught in a tight heel hook and tapped with under a minute to go in the first round. Evans looked to be in serious pain following the fight. Expect Bezerra to be an entrant in the next 145-pound tournament.
- Also on Saturday, the action in the Roger Hollett vs. John Hawk fight was mostly drab but those watching the pre-fight package got to hear Hawk drop the f-bomb loud and clear, despite it being bleeped out in several spots during the same interview. How does that happen?
- Like last week, this week's show will air at 7 PM EST to accommodate for UFC 139.