After some great regional action last night featuring Titan Fighting Championships and M-1 Challenge 24, the UFC and Bellator will compete for viewers tonight as both promotions go head-to-head with a bevy of intriguing match-ups. Bellator 38 will air live on MTV2 at 7:00 PM ET from Harrah's Tunica Hotel and Casino in Tunica, Mississippi. The card will feature the opening quarterfinal match-ups of the Bellator season 4 light heavyweight tournament. Notables Raphael Davis and Nik Fekete are considered the favorites to win the tournament, but as we've seen already this season -- that doesn't hold much water in this sport.
Light Heavyweight Quarterfinal: Tim Carpenter (6-0) vs. Daniel Gracie (5-2-1): While the names might not interest you, Tim Carpenter vs. Daniel Gracie is one of the more interesting match-ups of the evening. Carpenter is an undefeated prospect out of Philadelphia who made his mark among hardcores with a narrow split decision win over Jamal Patterson in October. A solid submission game, good stand-up, and immense reach, Carpenter has the well-rounded skill-set and conditioning to be a dark horse in the tournament.
The intrigue in this match-up stems from the Gracie name and Daniel's own history. The thick 205-pounder looks as if he could snap limbs at will with the power in his physique and grace in his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu game. Unfortunately, his career in mixed martial arts hasn't been as decorated as his BJJ credentials. After a loss to Allan Goes under the IFL banner and a four-year layoff from the sport following, Gracie returned in November in a winning effort against Martin Wojcik, submitting him in 2:17 in the first round. Has Gracie improved enough to make a run in this tournament?
Obviously, Gracie has the advantage on the ground against Carpenter. But I fear that Gracie might still be high off some of the success he had on the feet versus Wojcik. He stated at the weigh-ins that he wants to prove that the Gracies are evolving with MMA, despite what many fans believe. If that's the case, he'll lose this fight trying to punch out Carpenter. Carpenter's reach is going to be a huge obstacle for Gracie, and to be honest -- I'm not sure Daniel can do it. Carpenter via decision.
Light Heavyweight Quarterfinal: D.J. Linderman (8-1) vs. Raphael Davis (10-1): On the surface, Linderman doesn't look like your prototypical fighter. He's a bit pudgy in the midsection, pale, and lacking the intimidation factor that many of the division's best fighters portray. But he's proven his effectiveness throughout his career, beating a few notable regional veterans. He doesn't possess exceptional striking or great grappling prowess, but he gets the job done inside the cage.
At heavyweight, Linderman was able to use his size to smother opponents along the fence and on the ground. This fight, however, will be his first bump down to light heavyweight, a shark tank filled with fighters who has shown better skills than Linderman. Davis, who is considered one of the favorites in this tournament, has all off the skills to make Linderman look bad in this affair. I imagine Linderman will hope to maintain distance and strike, but nothing I've seen suggests he'll crush Davis. Davis brings this to the ground and submits Linderman quickly. Davis via submission.
Light Heavyweight Quarterfinal: Richard Hale (15-3-1) vs. Nik Fekete (4-0): I like to think we had a direct influence on the signing of Nik Fekete, our #8-ranked light heavyweight on the 2011 World MMA Scouting Report. In reality, Fekete's vaunted NCAA wrestling credentials, experience as an Olympic and MMA wrestling coach, and perfect 4-0 record are more credible reasons. The 30-year-old Xtreme Couture fighter has all the skills to be a future elite-level fighter among the best the division has to offer, and he'll hope to pave the way to that goal by dominating the brackets in Bellator's season four light heavyweight tournament on Saturday night.
Standing in his way is Richard Hale, an Arizonian who has amassed a 11-1-1 record in his last thirteen fights. As he stated at the weigh-ins, his gameplan is to keep Fekete at bay with his reach, quick footwork, and range striking while avoiding Fekete's vaunted wrestling ability. Unfortunately, Fekete isn't a incompetent striker, showing off some of his own power in his short four-fight career and attaining the technical know-how to box from his trainers at Xtreme Couture. I think Fekete could win this fight in either area, but his wrestling will be his means to winning on Saturday night. Look for Fekete to power Hale to the floor and blast away to a stoppage. Fekete via TKO.
Light Heavyweight Quarterfinal: Chris Davis (10-2) vs. Christian M'Pumbu (15-3-1): Davis, hailing out of Gadsden, Alabama, will more than likely look to strike in this affair as Christian M'Pumbu is well-known for using his lengthy frame in the grappling department to smother his opposition. Davis has succeeded in his own submission game in past performances, but he's smartly stayed out of the Jiu-Jitsu chess matches when he knows he's outmatched.
M'Pumbu not only has the reach and length advantage in this fight, but he's a solid takedown fighter and throws effective ground and pound. Against better opposition, he has problems passing guard however. I don't forsee that being a problem in this affair though. I anticipate the 6'2" M'Pumbu to get his way and dominate on the ground. M'Pumbu via submission.
Heavyweight: Blagoi Ivanov (3-0) vs. William Penn (2-0): I can only imagine one scenario where Ivanov loses this fight. He's get annihilated by Penn's power early. That probably won't happen. Ivanov takes this to the ground and finishes Penn.