Two tournaments come to a close at Saturday's Bellator 57 as Welterweight Champion Ben Askren and Middleweight Champion Hector Lombard will get new challengers for their titles.
In the welterweight finals, Ben Saunders faces Douglas Lima. Since being cut by the UFC in the fall of 2010, Saunders (12-3-2) has won four straight and has finished all of his Bellator competition in the third round. While just 23 years old, Lima (20-4) competes for the 25th time Saturday and brings an eight-fight win streak into the finals.
In the middleweight finals, Alexander Shlemenko's quest for a rematch with Lombard continues but Vitor Vianna stands in his way. Since Lombard defeated him in an October 2010 title defense, Shlemenko (42-7) has ripped off five wins in a row with four finishes. Vianna (12-1-1) has also won five straight and is coming off a first round TKO win over Bryan Baker to advance to the finals.
There is a common thread in the quests for both Saunders and Shlemenko: redemption. The former is trying to send a message to the MMA world that the UFC made a mistake in cutting him too soon. The latter wants to prove that his decision loss to Lombard, someone who has yet to be challenged since beating him, was just a blip on the radar. However, Lima and Vianna are no slouches and want their Bellator season debuts to culminate with a big check and a title shot.
With everyone on winning streaks and consistent roads to Saturday, these promise to be two of the most competitive final bouts in the promotion's young history.
Hawk, Horodecki and A Guy Named Doug
While not big on names casual fans would know, the rest of the main card in Rama, Ontario, has some promise for some entertaining fights with guys trying to get slots in tournaments next year.
On the televised portion, John Hawk will fight Roger Hollett in light heavyweight action. Hawk (6-3) made his Bellator debut in September with a first round TKO win over Allan Weickert while Hollett (12-3) will look to extend a four fight win streak in his Bellator debut. Of note, Hollett has 11 finishes in his 12 wins with seven coming via submission.
Also expected to air is Alexandre Bezerra vs. Doug Evans in the featherweight division. Bezerra (11-1) has been tearing through competition as of late, winning six straight with five of those wins via submission. He will face a veteran in Evans (13-9), making his Bellator debut. Evans is riding a two-fight losing streak, but has eight career submission victories to his credit.
In a lightweight swing bout, Chris Horodecki (18-3) continues his post-WEC comeback in a bout against Mike Corey. Horodecki is 2-0 since his release with a decision win coming over Chris Saunders in his promotional debut in July. Corey (11-2) will make his Bellator debut Saturday and is riding a five-fight win streak. This will be his first action since January.
News And Notes
- On Monday, Bellator announced that U.K.-based FremantleMedia Enterprises will represent them in international TV distribution rights in addition to licensing, digital and ancillary rights for both the U.S. and international markets. The company represents a slew of well-known properties (The Price Is Right, American Idol, The X Factor, etc) and has an existing relationship with Spike TV.
- In case you missed it, news broke Monday that Featherweight Champion Joe Warren would next defend against Pat Curran in early-February due to another injury to Patricio Friere. That news was confirmed by Bellator Tuesday.