On the same night that reigning Bellator Featherweight Champion Joe Warren defends his title against No. 1 contender Pat Curran, the road for a new challenger begins in Hammond, IN.
The March 9th season debut will feature the featherweight tournament's first round with mix of several Bellator vets, a couple new faces and a former top 145'er returning after a long layoff.
Marlon Sandro (19-3) vs. Roberto Vargas (12-1)
The 34-year-old Sandro advanced to the featherweight summer tournament finals and was knocked out by Curran in the second round. He returned to the winner's circle with a first round submission victory over Rafael Dias in November and is 5-2 in the last two years. Vargas returns to Bellator after a near three year absence, riding a six fight win streak in regional promotions.
Ronnie Mann (20-4) vs. Wagnney Fabiano (14-3)
The 25-year-old Mann was also a victim of Curran, dropping a unanimous decision to him in the tourney semifinals. He rebounded with a first round submission win over Kenny Foster in October and has won five of his last six. In Fabiano, Mann will face someone once regarded as one of the best featherweights in the world.
The former IFL 145-pound champion won two straight after joining the WEC, but went 2-2 with defeats to Joseph Benavidez and Mackens Semerzier before being cut. When he steps into the cage, it will be his first action in 15 months.
Alexandre Bezerra (12-1) vs. Genair da Silva (11-4)
After ripping through four non-tourney opponents in 2011, Bezerra finally gets his shot in a Bellator tournament. He's a finisher with stoppages in 11 of his 12 wins and hasn't been in a fight that's gone the distance in over three years. da Silva returns to Bellator after being dispatched by Sandro last year in the summer tournament's opening round. He's coming off a first round submission win over Brian Goldsby and is 5-1 in the last two years.
Daniel Straus (17-4) vs. Jeremy Spoon (12-0)
Straus did just fine in his first 145-pound tourney, advancing to the finals of the spring tourney against Patricio Freire. The unanimous decision loss that night snapped a 12-fight winning streak, but he bounced back with an October decision win over Jason Dent in a non-Bellator fight. The undefeated Spoon gets his first crack in a tournament after two Bellator wins last year with Straus as his toughest competitor in his young career.
Last week, Bellator confirmed that this event will be their season opener, originally slotted for March 2nd. The aforementioned Freire has also earned a title shot with his spring 145-pound tournament victory but a hand injury prevented him from taking the first shot at Warren.