Bellator 104 takes place tonight from the US Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with the semifinals of the Welterweight Tournament taking center stage. After mutual stints in the lightweight class (the weight at which they first met), Rick Hawn and Brent Weedman will rematch in the show's headliner while new blood Ron Keslar squares off with the inimitable War Machine in the co-main event.
The remainder of the Spike TV card will feature two Bellator newcomers with respected reputations in K-1 standout Peter Graham, who draws Eric Prindle in a heavyweight match, and former TUF winner and UFC scrapper Kendall Grove, who'll clash with two-time UFC'er Joe Vedepo. Reputable names dot the undercard as well, as submission whiz Paul Sass debuts against Rod Montoya, former TUF'er and UFC lightweight Rob Emerson premieres against Jared Downing and Karl Amoussou meets former UFC welterweight Paul Bradley.
The main card starts on Spike TV at 9:00 p.m. ET while the preliminary card will stream live on Bloody Elbow at 7:00 p.m. ET.
Rick Hawn vs. Brent Weedman (WW Tournament semifinals)
Rick Hawn (16-2) fell just short of getting a crack at welterweight champion Ben Askren by dropping a contentious decision to Jay Hieron in the Season 4 Welterweight Tournament finals in 2011. Hawn tried his hand as a lightweight and notched back-to-back knockouts over Ricardo Tirloni and Lloyd Woodard, then defeated Brent Weedman (22-8) in the Lightweight Tournament finals. While Hawn's first career defeat to Hieron was highly competitive, his loss to lightweight champion Michael Chandler was not.
After being booted from Welterweight Tournaments by Hieron and Chris Lozano, Weedman was also successful early in his lightweight run (wins over J.J. Ambrose and Thiago Michel) but bounced back to welterweight after dropping a competitive decision to Hawn. Since then, Weedman is plus-two in the win column with a decision over Marius Zaromskis and an armbar over Justin Baesman in the quarterfinals.
In their first match as lightweights, Weedman boldly tangled with the Olympic Judoka in the clinch and surprisingly held his own against the juggernaut. Weedman has some Judo experience himself and prides himself on being a well-rounded combatant, backing up his clinch savvy with sound kickboxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. While he may have more tools on his belt, Hawn excels with patient and methodical striking that's accented by intelligent in-and-out movement and crisp punching power, and his clinch presence is elite.
AKA's Ron Keslar (10-3) was a late tournament entry who capitalized in full with a commanding decision over Brazilian Luis Melo Jr. (aka Sergio Melo Jr.). Keslar is a no-nonsense, no-frills wrestler with basic but powerful wrestling and boxing, and he sustains a nonstop, zombie-like pressure with his remorseless stalking.
War Machine (14-4) is known just as much for his outside-the-cage antics and personality, but let's not forget that the man is a talented athlete and fighter. Repping Enson Inoue's Undisputed Purebred school and his Yamato Damashii philosophy ("samurai spirit"), War Machine is an aggressive gamer with fearsome wrestle-boxing and an ever-improving submission grappling acumen. He persevered through a surprisingly tough test in Vaughn Anderson before sealing things up with a 2nd-round rear-naked choke.
War Machine's status and experience make him the understandable favorite, but Keslar, who trains regularly with Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier, will look to dictate things with his takedowns and big right hand, and should not be discounted here.
Not sure who K-1 standout Peter Graham is?
Yeah ... he's that guy. "The Chief" (8-5 MMA record) is the Melbourne K-1 World Gran Prix champion, he's fought the who's who in kickboxing and also flaunts a professional boxing record and too many KO's to list. Graham won just one of his first six MMA turns, but jumped into the fire against the likes of Kazuyuki Fujita and Rolles Gracie with very little MMA training and experience. Since that point, however, Graham has rattled off seven consecutive KO/TKO wins including a TKO via leg kicks over Aleksander Emelianenko.
Eric Prindle (8-3) was a sniper and boxing champion in the military who now trains part-time under Matt Hume. He is, unfortunately, best known for his back-and-forth groin shots with Thiago Santos, who punted Prindle in the cup in their first meeting to the tune of a No Contest, but was unusually granted the DQ win when Prindle misdirected an axe kick in their second go.
The match-up obviously favors Graham and his electric kickboxing, but Prindle has the power and speed to behead anyone who wanders into his wheelhouse.
Kendall Grove (18-13) departed the UFC having lost three of his last four, but Demian Maia, Mark Munoz and Tim Boetsch are all still chugging along at their top of their weight classes. "Da Spyda" is 6-4 since leaving the Octagon; another deceiving stat as the likes of Mamed Khalidov (27-4), Jesse Taylor (29-6) and Michael Materla (19-4) are responsible for his losses. In that streak, Grove picked up wins over surging UFC middleweight Derek Brunson, Joe Riggs and Ikuhisa Minowa.
Joe "The Doctor" Vedepo (14-6) dropped both of his UFC outings in 2008-2009 (Alessio Sakara, Rob Kimmons) and has yet to really find his groove on the big stage. An interesting aside: Vedepo holds a 2nd-round TKO win over former UFC heavyweight and Strongman competitor Oli Thompson. Vedepo is a wrestling-based fighter but experienced and diverse enough to pose a threat to Grove, especially with his medley of takedowns and heavy leather.