Mike Bronzoulis vs. Joe Riggs -- Fight Master Welterweight Final
Bellator's reality show will conclude with a finals bout pairing the hard-nosed Mike "The Greek" Bronzoulis (15-5) vs. talented veteran Joe "Diesel" Riggs (39-14). In a lengthy career ranging wildly from heavyweight all the way down to welterweight, it's shocking to realize that Riggs, who's stockpiled 43 fights onto his résumé and contested Matt Hughes for the UFC welterweight strap in 2005, is still just 31-years-old.
"Diesel" was oft-billed as a future phenom who regularly wowed in training sessions, yet his inconsistent performances, likely on account of his admitted addiction to pain killers, relegated him to forever being on the cusp of greatness. Beyond his UFC title bid, this is a guy who boasts a win over Nick Diaz and the honor of engaging in a post-fight hospital scrap with him, and also flaunts the rare accolade of stopping the durable Chris Lytle with a TKO via cut from an elbow Riggs shellacked him with off his back. Riggs is a solid boxer with huge power, a Judo black belt, a stable wrestling game and incomparable experience for someone his age. Additionally, his submission skills looked mighty impressive on the Fight Master show.
Mike Bronzoulis added a classic storybook theme to the show. His father, who passed away from cancer shortly after, asked two things of his son from his deathbed: that he take care of his mother and become a champion. In honor of his dad, who exposed him to martial arts at a young age and inspired his fight career, Bronzoulis adopted the moniker "The Greek" and set his cross-hairs on winning the Fight Master tournament to appease both of his father's dying wishes.
Scoring a decision win to secure his spot on the show, Bronzoulis chose Team Couture (he spent time training at Xtreme Couture for this fight) and rattled off a 3rd-round KO over Jason Norwood, a decision over his buddy Chris Lozano and a comeback TKO over Eric Bradley to become a finalist. "The Greek" is notoriously tough to finish (4 decision losses, 1 sub) and durable overall. His striking is by far his most malicious asset (10 TKO wins, 2 subs) and his wrestling and grappling are reliable, though mostly a means to stay on or return to his feet.
On paper, Riggs has the proven diversity and experience to beat Bronzoulis. However, if bouts were decided strictly by "on paper" mechanics, Riggs would probably still be a UFC champ or elite contender. He's battled with the mental aspect of MMA and claims to have a handle on it now, but the elements of physical and mental fortitude strongly favor Bronzoulis here, who's riding a surging wave of confidence and determination to fulfill his father's wishes.
Though Riggs has the more dynamic skill-set, Bronzoulis' is designed to exploit his strengths (striking/boxing) and minimize his weaker spots, and this kid is just a mean bastard with some serious shit on the line in this match up. Riggs is an understandable favorite for every reason listed herein, but I'll take a chance on Bronzoulis consummating his noble aspirations with a fairy tale ending.
My Prediction: Mike Bronzoulis by decision.