Bellator Fighting Championships has unveiled the lineup for the quarterfinals of the "Summer Series Featherweight Tournament" targeted for Bellator 46. The show ignites June 25th from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, FL., and will be shown on MTV2.
Sizzling new acquisition and top-ranked Nova Uniao fighter Marlon Sandro will make his Bellator debut on the card. Sandro (17-2) is a former Sengoku champion and King of Pancrase who trains alongside UFC featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo. Sandro rose to prominence in the 2009 Sengoku Featherweight Grand Prix in exciting fashion, but lost a controversial "must decision" to Michihiro Omigawa in the semifinals. The judges scored the bout a majority draw, but were forced to choose a winner to advance because of the tournament format. Omigawa got the nod; an outcome further embroiled when it was revealed that he trained under one of the judges.
Sandro returned with a vengeance and brutalized his next three opponents in the first round, consummating the streak with a ruthless TKO of Masanori Kanehara, the winner of the SRC Featherweight GP, to become champion. Despite vaulting upward in the world rankings, he lost the Sengoku strap to #2 featherweight Hatsu Hioki on December 2010's "SRC: Soul of Fight" show in his last outing. He signed with Bellator soon after and will finally compete on American soil in the "Summer Series" tournament.
"I am coming to the United States to become a world champion," said Sandro. "I see Bellator as the place to really make a name for myself here in the U.S. I'm here to put on great fights, entertain the fans, and fight my way to the Bellator Featherweight World Championship."
Sandro's opponent is another stellar addition and encouraging Brazilian prospect that fights out of the Renovacao Fight Team, a Luta Livre squad coached by legend Marcio "Cromado" Barbosa. Genair da Silva, better known as "Junior PQD" (10-3) has been making waves on the smaller circuit. He destroyed his first opponent with punches in his MMA debut, then entered a same-night four-man tournament in Fury FC. Junior rattled off another KO but was edged out in a razor-thin decision later that night in the finals.
The second loss on his record is a disqualification due to illegal knees, and Gracie Fusion fighter Eduardo Pachu (who nearly defeated the UFC's Charles Oliveira) accounts for this third. Junior PQD is an aggressive whirlwind on the feet with sharp kickboxing, and his Luta Livre acumen shines brightly in his strong wrestling and submission game. Check out the highlight reel of him posted at the end of this article.
The remaining tournament competitors and details of the Bellator 46 card await in the full entry.
Ronnie Mann (19-2-1) will return for the Summer Series tournament. Mann beat Douglas Evans to win the Shark Fights championship on last September's "Prangley vs. Jardine" card, then defeated Josh Arocho in his last foray, which was his first showing under the Bellator banner.
Also known as "Kid Ninja" or "Ronnie Ushikawa" in Japan, Mann snared the Cage Gladiators 145-pound belt in 2008, then rattled off consecutive stoppages to earn an invitation to the aforementioned Sengoku GP. Mann scored a decision over lightweight Tetsuya Yamada in the opening round, but succumbed to a Hatsu Hioki triangle in the next. In his final SRC match, Mann handed Yoshida Dojo product Shigeki Osawa his first and only loss.
"Trying to capture the Bellator Featherweight World Championship is absolutely my main goal," said Mann. "I don't care how long it takes; that's what I'm here to do."
Mann will square off with Adam Schindler (9-1), another strong wrestler who had more then held his own in the lightweight class, and will be making the drop to 145 for the first time. Schindler has finished all of his victims (6 subs, 3 TKOs), though mostly in smaller promotions besides wins over Brian Melancon at Bellator 20 and Kierre Gooch on the "Strikeforce: Houston" card.
"I'm just ready to get in that cage and win," said Schindler. "This is the time where I take the step from everyone around me knowing how good I am, to everyone seeing how good I am all across the country. This is my chance to shine."
It's easy to forget that Pat Curran (13-4), who won last year's lightweight tournament and just dueled with top lightweight Eddie Alvarez for five rounds, is a natural featherweight. Curran spoiled Roger Huerta's predicted ascension through the lightweight ranks, and then pulled off a close (and controversial) split-decision over Toby Imada in the tournament finals, and has now decided to shed 10 lbs. and try his hand at 145.
"I've fought at featherweight for most of my career, so I'm really excited to get back to a weight class where I can really do some damage," said Curran. "I had some great results as a lightweight, but I'm really going to make some noise in this summer featherweight tournament."
Curran draws tough-as-nails Luis Palomino (16-6), a Miami native who holds impressive victories over Jorge Masvidal, former WEC fighter Rafael Dias, and former TUF competitors Marc Stevens and Jeremy May. Since Palomino's Bellator debut, a split-decision loss to Estevan Payan, he's notched an 8-2 clip with only Yves Edwards and TUF-winner Jonathan Brookins besting him.
The final entry in the brackets is Argentinian black belt Nazareno Malegarie (19-1), who just suffered his first career loss at the hands of featherweight finalist Daniel Straus at Bellator 37. "Naza" squares off with Jacob Devree (10-1), who will be making his Bellator debut.
Rounding out the Bellator 46 preliminary card is a middleweight bout pitting Josh Samman vs. Mike Bernhard and female standout Jessica Aguilar taking on Carla Esparza. Heavyweight Tony Johnson Jr. is expected to have an opponent named shortly for the June 25th card in Hollywood, FL.
Bellator 46: "Summer Series Featherweight Tournament"
FW Tournament Opening Round:
Marlon Sandro vs. Genair da Silva
Ronnie Mann vs. Adam Schindler
Pat Curran vs. Luis Palomino
Nazareno Malegarie vs. Jacob Devree
Josh Samman vs. Mike Bernhard
Tony Johnson Jr. vs. TBA
All fighter quotes from Bellator's official press release.