Next Friday, February 28, Bellator launches season 10 and their second year on Spike TV. The past year has seen some serious ups and downs for Bellator, with more talk focused on their business practices than their actual fights. But with the new season around the corner, now is a good time to bring that focus back where it belongs - the cage.
Here, part 1 of the Bellator Season 10 preview, as we take a look at the announced cards so far, what fights fans should be looking forward to, and what we can expect from the sport's #2 organization.
As always, all shows air live on Spike TV, with the main card starting at 9 p.m. ET and pre-show prelims airing live on Spike.com. Full cards, including prelims, are at Bellator.com.
Bellator 110, February 28
Light Heavyweight Tournament Semifinals: Quinton Jackson vs. Christian M'Pumbu, King Mo Lawal vs. Mikhail Zayats
Featherweight Tournament Quarterfinals: Diego Nunes vs. Matt Bessette; Mike Richmond vs. Desmond Green; Daniel Weichel vs. Scott Cleve; Goiti Yamauchi vs. Will Martinez (prelim)
Obviously, this is the star-studded card of the season, as Bellator brings out their two biggest name fighters in Rampage and King Mo. The two men are on opposite sides of a 4 man LHW tournament pretty clearly designed to set up a Rampage vs. Mo final. That's fine by me, as that sounds like an intriguing fight, but you absolutely should not count Zayats out. He holds a win over Babalu and is a dark horse here. For that matter, M'Pumbu is no slouch eaither. Good tournament for Bellator's relatively thin Light Heavyweight division.
The Fetherweight tournament is low on name value, but has some intriguing possibilities. Nunes lost his Bellator debut, but showed that he has a tremendous amount of skill during his run in the WEC and UFC. But it's Mike Richman who is my pick to win. His only two Bellator losses come against eventual tournament winners - he seems ready to take that next step. Dark horse to watch is Yamauchi, a very fun fighter looking to make a splash here.
Bellator 111, March 7
Bantamweight Title: Eduardo Dantas vs. Anthony Leone
Heavyweight Tournament Quarterfinals: Ryan Martinez vs. Lavar Johnson; Peter Graham vs. Mighty Mo; Alexander Volkov vs. Mark Holata; Blagoi Ivanov vs. Rich Hale (prelim)
Heavyweight has long been Bellator's weakest division, but you have to give credit where credit is due - this is a super fun tournament, with intrigue to every fight. (Admittedly, your interest in the Graham vs. Mo fight may be significant less than mine if you are not a kickboxing fan, but still.) Really, really tough to know how this plays out. Would love to see a Volkov vs. Ivanov final, but to make that happen, Ivanov has to get by the winner of Martinez vs. Johnson, which will be tough. Very unpredictable tournament here, which makes it a treat.
In the BW title fight, champion Dantas takes on Leone. Dantas has not fought in over a year, but looked fantastic last time out. He's yet to enter that air of Bellator champions like Michael Chandler, where he is considered among the elite across companies, but if he keeps fighting like he did last time, he could get there. Leone is coming in as a sub for the injured Rafael Silva, and should provide a canvas on which Dantas can work.
Bellator 112, March 14
Featherweight Title: Daniel Straus vs. Pat Curran
Welterweight Tournament Quartefinals: Andrey Koreshkov vs. Jesse Juarez; Joe Riggs vs. Sam Oropeza; War Machine vs. Nah-Shon Burrell; Mark Scanlon vs. Adam McDonough (prelim)
Ah yes, Straus vs. Curran. This fight has drawn the ire of many, most notably Patricio Pitbull, who is upset that former champion Curran is being handed an immediate rematch. It's a fair point, but setting that aside, this is a very interesting fight. Straus scored the upset win over Curran last year, unseating the champion in a 5 round decision. Straus has quietly put together a very impressive run - he's currently on an amazing 18-1 run. The last loss before that run started? Pat Curran, who beat Straus outside of Bellator in 2009. This is the rubber match, and it's a must see.
The Welterweight tournament is an interesting one, with some intriguing possibilities, though it's probably the overall weakest of the bunch. Koreshkov is the front runner here, as his striking has looked terrific in his Bellator run. Riggs is on an unlikely late career renaissance here - we'll see how far he can take it. Burrell is an interesting dark horse. As for his opponent War Machine, the less said about him the better.
That's it for the first three shows of the season - we'll be back with part 2 in a few days to look at the rest of season 10.
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