Friday night means it's Bellator time. The current season continues with Bellator 80 tonight. Included on the card are a pair of tournament semi-finals in the Heavyweight and Featherweight divisions, plus a main event featuring the return of former Bellator Featherweight champion Joe Warren.
Bellator 80 airs live tonight on MTV2 starting at 8:00 p.m. ET, with prelims available as a live stream on Spike.com starting at 7:00 p.m. ET. Here's the full fight card, with weigh-in results, followed by our preview and predictions for the night's featured bouts:
Bantamweight Feature Fight: Joe Warren (135.6) vs. Owen Evinger (135.2)
Heavyweight Tournament Semifinals Fight: Vinicius Queiroz (240.5) vs. Alexander Volkov (226)
Featherweight Tournament Semifinals Fight: Wagnney Fabiano (146) vs. Rad Martinez (145.8)
Welterweight Feature Fight: Darryl Cobb (185.2) vs. Brett Cooper (185.8)
Lightweight Feature Fight: Mitchel Quinones (154.6) vs. Brandon Girtz (156)
Welterweight Feature Fight: Robert Otani (170.8) vs. Cristiano Souza (170)
Welterweight Feature Fight: Josh Quayhagen (169) vs. Cosmo Alexandre (168.2)
Catchweight Feature Fight(150): Sky Moiseichik (146.4) vs. Shannon Slack (149.2)
Middleweight Feature Fight: Joe Vedepo (185.4) vs. Mike Bernhard (185.6)
Welterweight Feature Fight: Ryan DeRocher(170) vs. Taylor Krahl(171)
Main Event: Joe Warren (7-3) vs. Owen Evinger (7-3)
The main event sees the self-described "Baddest Man on the Planet" Joe Warren back in action as he takes on Owen Evinger. And all apologies to Evinger, but this fight is all about Warren.
The former Bellator champion made his pro MMA debut in 2009, immediately diving into the deep waters of a Dream tournament, defeating Kid Yamamoto in just his 2nd ever pro fight (back at a time when defeating Kid was a very big deal indeed). He came to Bellator in 2010, winning the Featherweight belt from Joe Soto later that year. A decorated wrestler, Warren combined that wrestling with exciting striking battles, come from behind wins, and a brash personality to quickly become a cult favorite in Bellator. He rattled off 5 straight wins for the company, putting together a solid 7-1 record.
Then, in late 2011, Warren lost via nasty KO to Alexis Vila. And in March of this year, he lost for the second time in a row, being stopped by Pat Curran in a brutal beating that cost Warren his title. This is his first fight back since that horrendous loss.
With back to back vicious KO losses, Warren needs a win here in the worst way. Bellator seems to be setting him up for that win with the less experienced (as far as level of opponent is concerned) Evinger. Warren fights at Bantamweight for just the second time tonight - the first being the Vila loss.
There's no other way to say this - Joe Warren is being pitched a softball here and he has to hit it out of the park. If he loses - worse, if he gets KO'd - it will be hard to see a future for the 35 year old fighter. His back is against the wall - expect him to come out swinging.
Prediction: Joe Warren by KO, round 1
This Heavyweight fight determines the opponent of Richard Hale for the tournament final. Both Queiroz and Volkov made their Bellator debuts in the tournament quarter-finals. For Queiroz, that fight ended a 2 year layoff - his last fight was a loss at UFC 120 where Queiroz subsequently tested positive for steroids, was released, and then spent time recovering from knee injury. It's been a long road back for the Chute Boxe trained 6'7" fighter. Volkov is another of the Russian fighters that are dominating the current Bellator season. He has experience working with Fedor Emelianenko at Red Devil Fight Club, and had a successful M-1 run before coming to Bellator. He also holds a win over former UFC champion Ricco Rodriguez.
Queiroz had an interesting fight against Mark Holata to make it here. In that fight, Queiroz was dropped hard by a stiff punch, only to secure an advantageous position from the guard, then submit Holata off his back. That win showed a solid submission game, particularly from his back, where the tall Queiroz attempted rubber guard to neutralize Holata. On the feet, he favors a lunging jab, and (as you would expect from a Chute Boxe fighter) has a good Thai clinch game. His trouble is his defense, as he drops his hands a lot, particularly when lunging in with that jab. This hand defense is what gave Holata the needed opening, and it's an area Queiroz needs to fix.
Volkov is a lanky fighter who is a clear striker. He has very good hands, mixing together combinations nicely. He chooses his shots well, superbly using his reach to pick his opponents apart. He's able to both take the lead in striking and let his opponent lead in order to respond with counter-striking. He used this striking well against Brett Rogers, though wasn't able to get the finish - partly due to not cutting off the cage. On the mat, Volkov is weaker, with 2 of his 3 career losses coming via submission.
This fight will be decided entirely by where it is fought. On the feet, Volkov's superior hands and Queiroz's porous defense gives the Russian a big advantage. On the mat, Queiroz takes the lead. I see Volkov landing his shots, avoiding the ground, and slowly picking up the pace to take the TKO win.
Prediction: Alexander Volkov by TKO, round 2
The winner of this Featherweight semi-final moves on to face Shahbulat Shamhalaev. Fabiano comes in off a 1st round submission win over Akop Stepanyan in the quarter-finals, while Martinez defeated Nazareno Malagarie by decision in a bloody war. Fabiano's win ended a 2 year layoff. Prior to that, the Brazilian submission expert was in the WEC, where he put together a 4-2 record, and the IFL, where he was the Featherweight champion. Martinez competed primarily in the regional scene in Utah before coming to Bellator in 2011. He's now 3-1 with the company.
At one point, Fabiano was considered one of the world's top Featherweights. When he made his debut in the WEC, he was 10-1 and much hyped. But his WEC run was largely defined by dull decisions and submission losses. He remains an excellent submission fighter, as he showed against Stepanyan. On the mat, he's very patient (arguably too patient) and will wait for the right position. To get it to the mat, he favors an inside leg trip, as his double leg takedown is not very effective. He's also happy to stand and trade, and has solid leg kicks perfected in his training at Nova Uniao.
Martinez came to MMA with a collegiate wrestling background. But like Fabiano, he is also happy to strike, and has become more of a brawler as his career has progressed. He's an aggressive fighter who uses almost all hands, and will drop his defenses to go all in for a shoot-out. He does have good wrestling, but I'd love to see him transition more between his striking and wrestling.
This is a tough one to call honestly. On the feet, I see Martinez pushing the pace with aggression. On the mat, Martinez's wrestling pedigree should land him in top position. The big question then becomes, can Fabiano get the sub? If he doesn't, he'll drop the decision. I'll say the veteran gets it, but this is primed for an upset.
Prediction: Wagnney Fabiano by submission, round 2
Rounding out the main card is Darryl Cobb vs. Brett Cooper. Cooper is a 16-7 Antonio McKee protege, with good wrestling and experience in Bellator and the IFL among others. He holds wins over UFC veterans Joe Doerksen and Sergio Moraes among others. Cobb is 5-5 and has lost his last 4. This is not a tough fight to call.
On the prelims, Muay Thai veteran Cosmo Alexandre (4-1) is the big attraction as far as I'm concerned. Alexandre made his MMA debut in Bellator last year. He lost that debut, but has gone undefeated since, with 3 stoppage wins. With Alexandre's former training partner Tyrone Spong showing how effective a high level kickboxer in MMA can be, I continue to have high hopes for Cosmo's Bellator career. I'm pulling for another big win here, and hopefully a call up to the main card soon.
Join us here at Bloody Elbow tonight for all the live coverage of Bellator 80.