Tonight, it's the end of an era in Bellator. That's because Bellator 84 is not just the end of season 7 and the Heavyweight and Lightweight tournaments, it's also the end of the company's run on MTV2, as their next show is January 17 and the big debut on Spike. That move to Spike has been the big talk of Bellator lately, and for good reason, but before we get there, we have one final show. And it's a good one, with two tournament finals.
After last week's odd Bellator 83 and the cancelled Featherweight final, I'm sure the company is looking for a strong showing from the finalists here. Up first will be the Lightweight final as Marcin Held (15-2 MMA; 4-1 Bellator) faces Dave Jansen (18-2 MMA; 5-0 Bellator). After that, the main event is the Heavyweight final, with Richard Hale (21-4-1 MMA; 6-1 Bellator) vs. Alexander Volkov (18-3 MMA; 2-0 Bellator). The main card airs live on MTV2 starting at 8:00 p.m. ET, with prelims available as a live stream on Spike.com, and here at Bloody Elbow, starting at 6:30 p.m. ET.
Here's the full Bellator 84 fight card, with the weigh-in results, followed by an in-depth preview of the tournament finals and a look at the rest of the card:
Heavyweight Title Fight: Rich Hale (240) vs. Alexander Volkov (232.2)
Lightweight Tournament Finals: Dave Jansen (156) vs. Marcin Held (156)
Middleweight Feature Fight: Joe Vedepo (185.6) vs. Louis Taylor (185.8)
Middleweight Feature Fight: Jack Hermansson (185) vs. Daniel Vizcaya (186)
Welterweight Feature Fight: Quinton McCottrell (170.4) vs. Belal Muhammad (170.2)
Lightweight Feature Fight: Cliff Wright (155.8) vs. Christian Uflacker (155.2)
Women's Feature Fight: Patricia Vidonic (117.8) vs. Felice Herrig (115.8)
Catchweight Feature Fight (215 lbs.): Anton Talamantes (214.2) vs. Anthony Gomez (214)
Flyweight Feature Fight: Jerald Williams (126) vs. Joey Diehl (125.2)
Heavyweight Feature Fight: Eddie Castillo (266) vs. Dave Sharp (265)
Featherweight Feature Fight: Robert White (155) vs. Kenny Booker (158.2)
RICHARD HALE (21-4-1) vs. ALEXANDER VOLKOV (18-3)
Alexander Volkov looks to be Russian champion #2 this season. The 24 year old striker had an impressive career before Bellator, including a win over Ricco Rodriguez, and has looked very sharp in his two tournament fights. He took a decision over Brett Rogers, followed by a round 2 TKO stoppage of Vinicius Queiroz. A lanky fighter, Volkov does an excellent job using his range in his strikes. He is very good at putting together combinations to outstrike his typically slower Heavyweight opponents. After the Rogers fight, he seemed a bit unhappy about his inability to get a finish, so really turned up the heat when Queiroz was hurt, putting him away.
Richard Hale is a former Light Heavyweight who made the move up for this tournament. He rolled through Mike Wessel with ease in the quarter-finals, then had a bit of a rough time with Thiago Santos. Santos was able to catch Hale early and stun him, but when the Brazilian's conditioning completely failed him, Hale was able to recover and put him away. He's a strong fighter who has a good wrestling-based ground game, as well as solid offensive striking skills.
One interesting aspect of this fight is that each man's weakness plays to one of the strengths of his opponent. Volkov is a definite striker, and against Queiroz, he had some troubles on the ground. Hale is good enough on the mat to take advantage of that weaker area. Meanwhile, Hale has shown some real holes in his striking defense which allowed Santos to catch him (and Christian M'Pumbu in an earlier fight). Against a striker like Volkov, that's a bad weakness.
In the end, I think this is Volkov's fight to lose. He should be able to quickly control the striking, and even if he does go down, I see him being able to survive on the mat. If it goes long, Hale hasn't shown superb cario in the past, though now that he is not cutting so much weight to make 205, that may be less of an issue. But I don't think it will, as Hale's defense is too porous, Volkov's offense too precise.
Prediction: Alexander Volkov by KO, round 1
DAVE JANSEN (18-2) vs. MARCIN HELD (15-2)
WEC and Bellator veteran Dave Jansen makes his way to the finals with a bit of controversy. He had a nice submission win in the quarter-finals, but barely got by Ricardo Tirloni in the semi-finals. That split decision win was one that many felt should have gone Tirloni's way. Jansen is a wrestler, but he also likes to engage in a standing dog fight. Against Tirloni, he tended to win those striking exchanges, but as the bout wore on and Jansen tired, he had a more difficult time finishing takedowns and imposing his wrestling game.
For submission grappling fans, Poland's Marcin Held is an incredibly exciting prospect. The 20 year old has really beautiful leg submissions, and he attacks with them constantly, often recklessly. But it works. He had a decent quarter final win, but it was his semi-final submission victory over Rich Clementi that really turned heads. Held met the veteran head on, trading submissions on the ground until he took the upper hand, tapping out Clementi with a toe hold. You can read an in-depth breakdown in Ben Thapa's superb Judo Chop.
These are two fast paced fighters, and two men who like to really go for it in the fight, whether on the mat or the feet. Standing, I give an edge to Jansen, though Held is not as bad on the feet as many dedicated submission fighters. He lacks technique, but makes up for it with pure gusto. On the ground, Jansen showed nice scrambles against Magomed Saadulaev in the quarter finals, but Held is just on a different level. This one should end up on the ground, where I expect to see a wild battle for control. And that's a battle Marcin Held will win.
Prediction: Marcin Held by submission, round 2
JOE VEDEPO (14-5) vs. LOUIS TAYLOR (7-3)
Vedepo is a seven year pro who has fought all over, including an 0-2 run in the UFC in 2008/2009. Both of those were pretty crushing loses. Vedepo made his Bellator debut earlier this season, where he scored a very odd win by what can only be described as a shin choke when he pushed his shin down on the throat of Mike Bernhard in a weird moment. Vedepo has seen assorted legal problems throughout his career, which haven't helped him find consistency at the highest levels of the sport. His opponent is Louis Taylor, a local Chicago fighter who has undercard fights in both Bellator and Strikeforce. His biggest fight was a Strikeforce Challengers main event in 2010 where he was KO'd by Joe Riggs. In the 2+ years since that fight, Taylor has only fought twice, going 1-1 and coming it tonight off of a loss.
Prediction: Joe Vedepo by KO, round 1
JACK HERMANSSON (5-0) vs. DANIEL VIZCAYA (6-2)
Hermansson is a Swedish fighter making his Bellator debut. He trains with Joachim Hansen, and was on our 2012 Scouting Report at #9 at Middleweight. He has a good combination of brawling stand-up and aggressive wrestling. He's been on the shelf for over a year, but has real potential to make a splash here. Vizcaya is another local fighter. He's taking a pretty big step up here, and I suspect it's going to be a tough night for him.
Prediction: Jack Hermansson by decision
On the prelims, Felice Herrig (7-4) will be the most popular fighter of the night, as she has a real following in the local Chicago scene. The Team Curran fighter is a tough, fun fighter, who takes on late replacement Patricia Vidonic (7-3). This is a rematch, as Herrig holds a decision win over Vidonic earlier this year. Christian Uflacker is also worth watching. He's just 4-0, but is coming off a big win over WEC veteran L.C. Davis.
Hope to see you here at Bloody Elbow later tonight for Bellator 84 live stream, results and play by play.