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Bellator 72: Baker Vs. Amoussou - Main Card Dissection

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Bellator 72 airs live tonight on MTV2 at 8:00 p.m. ET from the USF Sun Dome in Tampa, Florida. The main event is the 2012 welterweight tournament final that pits Karl Amoussou vs Bryan Baker and former UFC and Strikeforce slugger Paul Daley makes his Bellator debut against Rudy Bears. The finalists in the 2012 light-heavyweight tournament will be determined in the semifinal bouts that pair Tim Carpenter vs Travis Wiuff and Emanuel Newton vs Attila Vegh.

The controversy plagued duo of Waachiim Spiritwolf and Marius Zaromskis will meet for a rubber match on the heels of 2 contentious stoppages. Captaining the 6-fight preliminary card, which will stream live right here on Bloody Elbow at 6:30 p.m. ET, is fan favorite Ben Saunders vs. Brian Warren.

Karl "Psycho" Amoussou (15-4) vs Bryan "The Beast" Baker (18-3)

Amoussou is a demonic kickboxer with incredible explosiveness and cleaving power. He holds a black belt in Judo and has also displayed sound grappling technique with slick sweeps, devastating ground and pound and submission attacks. The Frenchman, a longtime middleweight, was a heralded acquisition for Bellator but lost a sketchy split decision to former heavyweight Sam Alvey in his debut. The loss prompted a drop to welterweight and Amoussou has pieced together 3-straight wins since.

Baker is also a former middleweight who was blasted out of 2 Bellator middleweight tournaments by Alexander Shlemenko and Vitor Vianna; both 1st-round TKOs. Now a rather hulking welterweight, the inspirational survivor of leukemia eked out a split decision over Carlos Alexandre Perreira and out-muscled Ben Saunders in a unanimous decision to advance to the finals.

Continued in the full entry.

SBN coverage of Bellator 72

Both of these fighters were already physically imposing at 185-pounds and are now veritable monsters for the 170-pound class. Amoussou is 5'11" tall but exceptionally quick and athletic and built like a brick shit-house. Baker stands a lanky 6'3" tall but is strong as an ox and moves well for his size.

The big concern with Baker is always his striking defense -- he keeps his head upright and dangerously still with his chin hanging out, while his wide-sailing punches and loose stance result in his hands being way too far away to protect his chin. Baker also seems entirely focused on implementing his own offense rather than be wary of his defensive flaws, though that hard-nosed approach -- along with his big heart and overbearing clinch prowess -- just carried him to a win over a talented striker in Saunders.

Amoussou can't match Saunders' height (6'4") but he's much stronger and his Judo background will make him tougher for Baker to control. Against Saunders, Baker found respite from his rangy kickboxing by stifling him in tie-ups, working takedowns and maintaining top position on the mat. I'm not sure he'll have that luxury against Amoussou, who's a fast and slippery target with massive power in his knees, punches and elbows.

Baker's stance might also leave him open for Amoussou's bone-crushing leg kicks, though his reach advantage will make him an avid threat with counter punches. Overall, Amoussou is smaller in stature but has the much more polished striking and overall game. If he can't finish on the feet, Baker will be tasked with closing the distance and weighing down on Amoussou in the clinch or on the ground, and the Frenchman will probably be too quick in open space and slippery in contact range to nullify, while his precise and powerful striking should find its way through Baker's porous defense.

My Prediction: Karl Amoussou by TKO.

Paul "Semtex" Daley (29-12) vs Rudy "Bad News" Bears (14-10)

Infamous knockout artist Paul Daley makes his promotional debut with 20 career TKO wins against journeyman Rudy Bears. The pros and cons for "Semtex" are well documented: he's one of the most feared Muay Thai practitioners in the sport and just a mean S.O.B. in every sense, yet his grappling game is a known Achilles Heel. Even so, his takedown defense has always been under-rated and has improved to new heights along with his defensive scrambling.

Bears is not a poor fighter but he's out of his league here. He's lost 3 of his last 4 and 7 of his last 11; while Daley is fresh off a shocking upset loss to veteran Kazuo Misaki in Strikeforce, he's still an elite striker and his weakness is well protected. I don't expect this to be competitive in the slightest.

My Prediction: Paul Daley by TKO.

Waachiim Spiritwolf (9-10) vs Marius Zaromskis (17-6)

In their first encounter at Strikeforce Challengers 12, an inadvertent and almost immediate eye-poke forced a disappointing No Contest with little action transpiring. In their second go at Bellator 68, Zaromskis went ballistic on Spiritwolf and battered him with everything in his arsenal.

"The Whitemare" seemed to be on the verge of finishing things off until he was staggered badly by a Spiritwolf jackhammer and jogged across the cage on wobbly legs to gather his wits. Spiritwolf pounced and rained down a volley of ground strikes but could not score the stoppage before the 1st-round bell sounded. Before the 2nd could start, the doctors determined that Spiritwolf could not continue due to a gash over the eye that he incurred from Zaromskis' punishment.

Though that's grounds for an evenly matched 3rd fight, I think Zaromskis will respect Spiritwolf's power this time and be a little more methodical with his kickboxing, eventually picking his spots and wearing him out with diverse combinations for the finish.

My Prediction: Marius Zaromskis by TKO.

Tim Carpenter (9-1) vs Travis Wiuff (67-14)

Wiuff has a lengthy career as a well traveled heavyweight, having competed in the UFC, Pride, IFL and Sengoku promotions. He's now a light-heavyweight leviathan and made his 205-pound and Bellator debut against champion Christian M'pumbu in a non-title bout. Wiuff imposed his girth and wrestling to take rounds 1 and 2 before persevering through a 3rd-round storm from the champion to score the upset by decision. He's since racked up a pair of wins over Anthony Gomez (decision) and Chris Davis (1st-round TKO) under the Bellator banner.

Tim Carpenter's only loss was delivered by M'pumbu; a 1st-round TKO in last year's light-heavyweight tournament, which earned M'pumbu the strap. Carpenter has 4 wins by submission and 1 by TKO, and might be flying under the radar against Wiuff. Disallowing Wiuff's lumbering takedowns will be imperative for Carpenter, who has the crisper and more effective set of hands.

Wiuff is a persistent menace in the wrestling department but has been susceptible to strikers, and I could see Carpenter planting an overhand or a knee on his chin while he's closing range in predictable fashion. However, the safe money's on Wiuff, whose experience, size and takedowns should see him through.

My Prediction: Travis Wiuff by decision.

Emanuel Newton (18-6) vs Attila Vegh (26-4)

Newton is the former MFC light-heavyweight champion who's fought in Strikeforce, the WEC and King of the Cage. En route to snaring the MFC title, Newton stacked together 10-straight wins (with 1 draw) before hitting a 3-fight skid, but he's rebounded nicely and will enter the cage tonight on a 6-piece surge that includes submissions over former UFCers James McSweeney and Rodney Wallace.

Vegh is a Slovakian on a 7-fight roll who's faced a few European up and comers like Marcus Vantinnen (decision win), Strikeforce's Adlan Amagov and Hans Stringer (both draws). "Pumukli" boasts a lot of experience for age 26 and a strong finishing rate with 11 subs and 9 TKOs.

Newton will look to keep the fight in phone-booth range and smother Vegh with clinching, takedowns and top control while Vegh's best chances are elusive footwork and bombarding with heavy leather. This one could go either way but I favor Vegh's well-rounded proficiency over Newton's ability to contain or submit.

My Prediction: Attila Vegh by decision.