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Bellator 52: Heavyweight Tournament Preview

The Bellator 52 Heavyweight Tournament quarterfinals are a go for this Saturday night on MTV2 and the EPIX network at 9 p.m. ET. Complementing the main, a robust undercard will also stream live and free on beginning at ET.

The preliminary card features exciting newcomers Genair da Silva (10-4), the featherweight who nearly upset Marlon Sandro in his debut, and sizzling new acquisition Cosmo Alexandre (0-0).

da Silva, more commonly known as "Junior PQD", is a Luta Livre stylist and skilled kickboxer from Brazil's Renovacao Fight Team. He's paired with Bryan Goldsby (13-14), who holds a win over Jeff Curran at Bellator 14. Cosmo "Good Boy" Alexandre is a decorated Muay Thai practitioner, It's Showtime champion and King's Cup tournament winner. In his intriguing MMA debut, the fierce striker takes on another first-timer in Josh Quayhagen.

In the main card headliner, two competitors from last year's brackets return in the Neil Grove (11-3-1) vs. Mike Hayes (15-4-1) match. Grove barreled his way to the Season 3 finals where he was submitted by current champion Cole Konrad. The loss was Grove's first since a Mike Ciesnolevicz heel hook at UFC 95 in 2009. Along with one draw, Grove has won four of his last six -- all by first round TKO -- over the likes of former UFC heavyweight Eddie Sanchez, fellow tournament entry Zak Jensen and Bellator heavyweight Alexey Oleinik.

Mike "300" Hayes kicked off his career with seven straight wins before hitting a rough five-fight skid where he lost three with one draw. Hayes was eliminated by Oleinik last season in a tight split decision -- his only defeat in his last eight -- but has finished three straight opponents in the Rumble on the Ridge promotion since.

Read on for details on the remaining heavyweight competitors.

SBN coverage of Bellator 52

Undefeated slugger Ron Sparks (7-0) squares off with Mark Holata (11-2) in the second heavyweight quarterfinal. Sparks has slaughtered all seven opponents in the first round (5 TKOs, 1 sub) except for the venerable Johnathan Ivey, whom he defeated by decision. Sparks caught a keylock on Vince Lucero in his last outing at Bellator 43 and knocked out Gregory Maynard at Bellator 30, his promotional debut. Sparks is a visceral knockout artist who's worth a watch.

Holata won his first three MMA fights, dropped consecutive bouts to John Orr and former UFC heavyweight Darrill Schoonover and has now pieced together eight straight wins. His current roll includes a first round knockout of Shawn Jordan (the Greg Jackson trained heavyweight that just submitted Lavar Johnson on the Strikeforce Challengers 19 card) and a decision over former UFC heavyweight Carmelo Marrero.

Bellator__bellatormma__on_twitter_2011-09-30_19-28-57_medium The third bracket pits Blagoi Ivanov (4-0), who made a name for himself by defeating Fedor Emelianenko in Combat Sambo, against TUF 10 contestant Zak Jensen (10-7).

Barring a split-decision over Pride vet Kazuyuki Fujita in Sengoku, Ivanov has finished his remaining three opponents in the first round (2 TKO, 1 sub). Ivanov, a southpaw, brings a formidable set of striking, clinch work and grappling to the table and has spent time training with Randy Couture.

Jensen was last seen in a mutual bashing with Neil Grove at Bellator 47, which he lost by TKO. The defeat was Jensen's fourth in his last five. Ivanov was initially slated to face prospect Thiago Santos but the Brazilian was delayed with "visa issues" according to Bellator's Twitter.

The final tournament pairing aligns Abe Wagner (10-4) vs. Eric Prindle (7-1). Wagner is another TUF 10 contestant who lost to stifling wrestler Jon Madsen by decision in his first fight. He drew some attention when he knocked out Tim Sylvia in the first at Titan Fighting Championships 16. In his last nine, Wagner's only two losses are to UFC heavyweights Travis Browne and Aaron Rosa.

Eric Prindle is a gargantuan heavyweight who cuts a significant amount of weight to hit the 265-pound limit. His only loss is a 2008 submission to former King of the Cage Super-Heavyweight champion Jimmy Ambriz.

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