The Bellator train makes a stop at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, this Friday for Bellator 63. The show marks the beginning stages of the 2012 welterweight tournament and a solid undercard featuring two TUF alumni in Marc Stevens and Dan Cramer. The main card goes live on MTV2 and on the EPIX network (in HD) at 8 p.m. ET with the prelims streaming on Spike.com and Bellator.com at 7 p.m. ET.
The quarterfinals of the welterweight tournament, which account for the televised broadcast, shape up like this:
The preliminary card lineup is as follows:
Marc Stevens vs. Ryan Quinn (165-pound catchweight)
Dan Cramer vs. Jeff Nader (185)
Marianna Kheyfets vs. Munah Holland (women's 125)
Parker Porter vs. Randy Smith (HW)
Andrey Koreshkov vs. Tiawan Howard (170)
Brandon Fleming vs. Pete Rogers (145)
Chris Lozano is an athletic specimen and heavy-handed boxer out of the Strong Style Fight Team, where he trains with the likes of Bellator middleweight Brian Rogers and the UFC's Stipe Miocic, but he spent some time with Greg Jackson before this fight. Lozano came out of the gate with five straight stoppages via strikes, two of which were over former UFC fighters (Yoshiyuki Yoshida, Jason Dent).
His first loss was a decision to the scrappy Lyman Good, but Lozano went on to piece together a first-round knockout, a first-round rear-naked choke and a decision win over Brent Weedman. In his last, Lozano suffered his second career loss and first by knockout to Douglas Lima. To put that defeat in context, Lima crunched respected talent Ben Saunders by TKO in his follow-up bout and is no slouch.
There was a bit of a buzz among hardcores when Frenchman Karl Amoussou signed with Bellator. The nickname "Psycho" doesn't score creativity points, but it's appropriate for Amoussou. He's an explosive, bloodthirsty marksman who was physically powerful at middleweight and is now making his welterweight debut. Amoussou's been around the horn: bouts in Strikeforce, Dream, M-1 and Pancrase can be found on his rap sheet.
He carried twelve wins -- ten by stoppage -- and three losses into his Bellator stint, but started off with a semi-controversial decision defeat to Sam Alvey. Amoussou dropped Alvey with low kicks, mounted him, hammered down ferocious elbows and split him open in the first, but Alvey clawed back into it in the later rounds to notch a split vote on the score cards. Amoussou clubbed Jesus Martinez in just over two minutes his last outing at Bellator 59.
Gifs and analysis in the full entry.
If all goes well with the cut, Amoussou should be a beast at 170. He's multi-dimensional with cleaving low and high kicks, thunderous punching power, fierce throws in the clinch (Judo black belt) and a legit threat with ground-and-pound, position and submissions on the mat.
He's reminiscent of a Chute Boxe stylist in that he puts everything into his punches and kicks and swarms with heated aggression. Though his defense is sound on the feet, Amoussou's offense-first mentality offers opportunities for counter strikers.
Lozano is a beefy welterweight with solid boxing and a good one-two. He likes to dig in and hurl big leather at close range, but can also be a little more strategic on the fringe. He started wresting at age five, earned a red belt in Taekwondo at age seventeen and has one pro boxing match. Though only a blue belt in BJJ, Lozano is a burly athlete with a strong clinch and isn't afraid to pursue "gimme-subs" such as guillotines and rear-naked chokes. He doesn't excel in the subtleties of footwork, head movement and defense like Amoussou.
I'm interested if Amoussou will have the speed and agility advantage here. Based on his past fights, he should -- but a reduction in quickness could be one drawback of the drop in weight. Since his clinch takedowns were formidable before, Amassou should be a load in tie-ups and might look to take that route more often. His elbows from the top are vicious and meshing takedown attempts with his fearsome striking could make for an imposing arsenal.
Somewhat surprisingly, Lozano has emerged as a slight favorite on the betting lines. I think Amassou should be too technical for him standing and too tough to move around in the clinch.
My Prediction: Karl Amoussou by decision.
Ben Saunders (12-4) vs. Raul Amaya (9-0)
You should know the scoop on Ben Saunders by now: bald, 70's style chops, ridiculously gangly for a welterweight (6'3", 77.5" reach) with volatile Muay Thai and a smooth submission grappling game. He's often criticized for having weak wrestling, yet there are few whom would not be out-wrestled by A-listers Jon Fitch and Dennis Hallman, which led to his UFC release. Saunders tacked on four straight stoppages before the aforementioned loss to Lima in his last. His typical M.O. is to attack with a variety of kicks and rangy boxing from outside and gradually lock horns in the clinch to unleash a tornado of knees.
Raul "Smash Mode" Amaya is making his Bellator debut with an undefeated record. Having competed solely in the Art of Fighting promotion, he's finished every opponent with a nicely balanced ratio of four TKOs and five subs, and he's a good-sized welterweight as well (5'11"). Amaya's aggression, punching power and ability to transition from striking to takedowns should be his best weapons against Saunders.
In addition to the disparity in past competition, Saunders is a dynamic opponent who's tough to prepare for. His height and reach are hard to replicate with training partners, he's comfortable switching his stance from orthodox to southpaw, he's sneaky with sweeps and reversals in transitions, and his striking and BJJ are a fearsome combo. Barring the puncher's chance, I'm in agreement with the betting lines that favor Saunders as high as -375.
My Prediction: Ben Saunders by TKO.
Bryan Baker is a former middleweight who's decided to take the plunge to 170. In his two previous forays in Bellator's middleweight tournament, he lost to Alexander Shlemenko in the 2010 finals and Vitor Vianna in the 2011 semifinals, both by first-round TKO. Baker will be an enormous welterweight at a broad-shouldered 6'3" and it will be interesting to see how he performs at this weight class. Baker is a wild boxer with big power but questionable defense and head movement. He's a horse in the clinch and capable on the mat but clearly in his element standing.
Carlos "Indio" Pereira is a Nova Uniao livewire making his promotional debut. He's a former Shooto South American champ at 183-pounds with forty-two career fights at age thirty-two. He started lukewarm but has won fifteen of his last seventeen with one draw (Luis "Sapo" Santos, whom Pereira has defeated once before) and one loss (Siyar Bahadurzada for the Shooto World Light-Heavyweight title).
As we've come to expect from Nova Uniao talent, "Indio" is a high-octane striker with rugged low kicks, stiff knees in the clinch and an aggressive mentality. He holds twenty-two wins by TKO and five by submission. While he prefers to stand and bang, no one from Nova Uniao is weak on the ground.
Baker is a heavy favorite as high as -310. I'm quite skeptical about his decision to drop weight and concerned with his stamina. If he can replicate his previous level of athleticism and quickness, I'd say the line is accurate. The questions surrounding such a steep cut mixed with his sketchy striking defense have me leaning toward the veteran head-hunter in Pereira.
My Prediction: Carlos Pereira by TKO.
Rickels is a student of Muay Thai legend Saekson Janjira and undefeated after nine fights. Despite specializing in kickboxing, Rickels has proven to be a proficient grappler and a well rounded fighter (6 subs, 1 TKO). Jordan Smith is best known for his split-decision victory over Karo Parisyan on the Amazon Forest Combat card last September. Smith has seven wins by submission and TKO apiece with three decisions. His only losses are are split decision to former UFCer Josh Burkman and a first-round TKO against former WECer Tim McKenzie.
Smith gets a small push on the betting lines, which seems fair. He's fought a superior level of competition by a good measure, but Rickels is a wild card to watch out for.
My Prediction: Jordan Smith by decision.
All gifs via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com
All betting line references via BestFightOdds.com