Tonight's Bellator card closes out the season 8 quarterfinal round, as eight Middleweights take to the cage. Headlining the night is a fascinating teacher vs. student battle as teammates Eduardo Dantas and Marcos Galvao square off for Dantas's Bellator Bantamweight World Championship. Bellator airs live tonight on Spike TV starting at 10:00 p.m. ET with the prelims airing on Spike.com starting at 8:00 p.m. ET. Join us here at Bloody Elbow tonight for live Bellator coverage.
Here's the full fight card, with weigh-in results. Read on for a full preview of the main event and tournament:
Bantamweight Title Fight: Marcos Galvao (134.7) vs. Eduardo Dantas (134.6)
Middleweight Tournament Quarterfinal Fight: Brian Rogers (186.0) vs. Dan Cramer (185.9)
Middleweight Tournament Quarterfinal Fight: Brett Cooper (185.2) vs. Norman Paraisy (185.8)
Middleweight Tournament Quarterfinal Fight: Andreas Spang (186.0) vs. Doug Marshall (185.5)
Middleweight Tournament Quarterfinal Fight: Sultan Aliev (185.5) vs. Mikkel Parlo (185.7)
Bantamweight Feature Fight: Timothy Goodwin (135.9) vs. Mike Maldonaldo (135.9)
Welterweight Feature Fight: Chris Mierzwiak (170.5) vs. Johnny Buck (170.5)
Middleweight Feature Fight: Kyle Bolt (185.0) vs. Joe Pacehco (185.9)
Middleweight Feature Fight: Aaron Johnson (185.5) vs. Brennan Ward (185.6)
Heavyweight Feature Fight: David Mejia (264.3) vs. Mont McMullens (265.7)
Eduardo Dantas (14-3 MMA; 4-0 Bellator) vs. Marcos Galvao (13-5-1 MMA; 4-2 Bellator) - Bantamweight Championship
Challenger Marcos Galvao is something of an enigma to me. When I analyze fighters, I tend to watch their stand-up pretty closely. And in writing up a technical analysis of Galvao's stand-up game, you would have to point out that it's pretty technically flawed. He windmills shots, keeps his chin up, has footwork that throws him off balance, and will retreat straight backwards when attacked. At the same time, he's a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt under Andre Pederneiras. So he's a grappler, right? Well, no, not really. Any analysis of Galvao's striking that only focuses on his flaws is failing to see the forest for the trees. The reality is that Galvao has great success with his striking style, and at the same time, has not won a single fight via submission in his 10 year career. He comes in awkwardly with his strikes, is superb at finding openings for subs, but loves to strike and keeps finding success with it. Like I said, an enigma.
Champion Eduardo Dantas is more straight forward in many aspects. The 24 year old is something of a wunderkind, scoring huge wins in Shooto right from the start of his career. Stylistically, Dantas is primarily a striker. He has good technique, especially with his kicks, and uses his long 69" reach very well to supplement his technique. He's also a very skilled grappler who completely outgrappled Zach Makovsky to take the Bellator title last year. He loves to push the pace, bringing a ton of aggression to both his striking and submission games. This has resulted in some great highlights (such as his Bellator debut against Wilson Reis), and some issues, which brings us to this...
Two factors make this fight both fascinating and nearly impossible to call. The first is Dantas's last fight. While waiting for his first title challenger in Bellator, Dantas took a fight outside of the company, taking on Tyson Nam in Brazil. Dantas looked in control of the fight, using his striking to soften Nam up, then charging in for the kill as he has done many times before. Except this time, Nam was able to capitalize on the gaps Dantas left in his defense, planting a perfect counter shot right hand that put Dantas down and out. This is the champion's first fight back. So how will this loss impact him? Will it push him to tighten up that defensive hole with his hands? If so, it will make him a better fighter. But it could also make him more tentative and gun-shy, taking away some of the aggression he has used so well. That would work against him severely. We won't know which one it is until tonight, and even then perhaps not, because...
Dantas and Galvao are teammates. The two men have come up together at Nova Uniao, where they are friends and have a bit of a mentor relationship. It's rare that we see teammate vs. teammate in MMA, and I'm glad both men were willing to put their relationship aside and make the fight happen. But we have no clue how it will impact the fight. Both men know each other well, which means they will approach this fight much differently. The end result could be an explosive, incredible battle with both men fighting at the top of their games. Or, it could result in a tentative sparring match. Either way, I am not expecting exactly a typical performance from either fighter.
Which makes predicting a winner incredibly difficult. If you take out the Nam KO and the Nova Uniao connection, I would pick Dantas thanks to his striking superiority. Those factors make me considerably less sure of myself, but I'll still go with the champ to take the win in a fight I am fascinated to see, and have no idea what to expect.
Prediction: Eduardo Dantas by decision
Cramer is a former TUF contestant who made his pro debut in the UFC, going 1-1 back in 2009. Since then, he's fought most of his career in Bellator. An American Top Team trainee, Cramer is the kind of decent all around fighter that often gets featured on TUF, with no particular areas of strength or weakness. That gives him success against a lower tier of fighter, but might be tough against Rogers who is a two time tournament semifinalist and a powerful striker, with heavy hands that he frequently uses to end fights quickly. Rogers's flying knee KO of Victor Vianna remains an all time Bellator highlight. As his career progresses, he's developing better takedown defense, plus increasingly technical striking to supplement that power. Last fight, he showed an ability to win even if the fight goes long, which is another big piece of the puzzle. Rogers feels like a fighter who is still a work in progress, but is consistently showing good skills. His power should be too much here.
Prediction: Brian Rogers by KO
Cooper is a well traveled fighter, with over 7 years professional experience in the IFL, Affliction, Bellator, and more. Earlier in his career he trained with Antonio McKee, but he's now working with the excellent King's MMA. That McKee experience plays into one of his strengths - wrestling. Cooper is able to take the fight down and control his way to a win, as he did in his last Bellator outing. At the same time, he enjoys a good shoot out, and does have skills on the feet. He's won a number of fights using his aggressive striking, though he has also been outstruck at times. It's hard to know which approach he will take in any given fight, which makes him a tough, unpredictable opponent. France's Norman Paraisy has solid international experience including a win over Paulo Filho. Though he's winless so far in Bellator, those 2 defeats come against tough opposition - Maiquel Falcao and Dave Menne. He acquitted himself well in the Falcao fight despite losing the decision. Paraisy is a physically strong fighter who uses that strength well on the ground and in the clinch. He also has solid, though not spectacular striking. Overall, Paraisy is a decent fighter, but this is a bad matchup, as everything he does, Cooper does a bit better.
Prediction: Brett Cooper by decision
Marshall is a former WEC Light Heavyweight champion who made a flashy debut in Bellator last fall. He's a near 10 year pro whose gameplan is simple and clear - charge in and get the KO. Sometimes that works, sometimes not. Marshall's last 4 fights have been 30 seconds each, and he's gone 2-2 in them. When he connects with those big punches, he still has nasty one punch KO power. When he gets tagged, his 37 years of age and numerous stand-up wars catch up with him and he is likely to go out. Spang is a hot tempered fighter perhaps best known for a post-fight pull apart with Maiquel Falcao in Bellator. He's a decent fighter on the feet and the mat, with a somewhat overlooked submission game. His biggest win is a great KO over Brian Rogers, but it's important to note that he was handily losing that fight before the KO. Spang is a notoriously slow starter, which may cost him when faced with the 30 seconds or bust mentality of Marshall. Still, Spang has the definite submission edge here, and provided he avoids the immediate KO shot, he should be able to outgrapple Marshall and get the quick tap. But make no mistake, Marshall's punching power is always a wild card.
Prediction: Andreas Spang by submission
It's not entirely clear, but this is likely to end up as a prelim fight on Spike.com. These are two undefeated fighters with very limited US experience between them. Parlo is a stocky fighter with powerful hands. He showed off those hands in his Bellator debut, earning a nice KO win over Jared Combs. He does leave holes in his defense though, and has a tendency to get caught in his fights. Aliev is another powerful puncher, but is more of a wrestler. He likes to use his hands to set up the takedown, then bring down some heavy ground and pound from the top. Neither man has faced the stiffest level of competition yet, but I like Aliev's ability to get the fight to the ground and to close the show from there, and that's how I see this one playing out.
Prediction: Sultan Aliev by TKO
The most notable prelim fight is the Parlo vs. Aliev quarterfinal. Not too much else to watch for other than the Bellator debut of Johnny "Buck Nasty" Buck, who has a pretty spectacular name if you ask me.
Join us tonight for live coverage of Bellator live on Spike TV.