From the Casino Rama in Rama, Ontario, Canada, Bellator 119 takes place tonight with the Featherweight Tournament Finals in the driver's seat. In that headlining bout, top German prospect Daniel Weichel meets former Division 1 wrestler Des Green with a guaranteed crack at the featherweight title in the balance.
Two matches previously confirmed for the card were scratched earlier this week: the Middleweight Tournament Finals were cancelled when Brett Cooper, who was set to face Brandon Halsey, injured his back. Additionally, featherweight Fabricio Guerreiro, who holds a win over tournament finalist Green, was forced to withdraw from his fight with Shabulat Shamhalaev due to visa issues.
To compensate, a pair of matches have been brought up from the preliminary card: former DREAM champ Marius Zaromskis vs. Vaughn Anderson and crafty vet John Alessio vs. Eric Wisely. And the fourth slot on the Spike TV broadcast -- heavyweight boxer-turned-MMA'er Raphael Butler vs. Nick Rossborough -- might be the most intriguing. Read on to find out why.
Des Green vs. Daniel Weichel -- Featherweight Tournament Finals
Keg-shaped Russian-German Dennis Siver is unanimously viewed as MMA's alpha-German fighter even though Daniel "The Weasel" Weichel (33-8) submitted him via first-round choke in 2006. Now a featherweight, losses to familiar names such as welterweights Paul Daley and Dan Hardy and lightweight Thiago Tavares can be found on the 29-year-old German's extensive résumé, along with another first-round submission over last season's tournament winner Magomedrasul "Frodo" Khasbulaev.
Des Green (11-2) wrestled for the University of Buffalo in New York and was a two-time champion in the Mid-American Conference (MAC). Though he's still rather "green" in MMA, "The Predator" has made impressive strides after just two years in the sport under the tutelage of Team Bombsquad's Ryan Ciotoli. Comparisons have been drawn between Green and fellow Bellator featherweight wrestle-boxer Daniel Straus, based both on appearance and fight style. Regarding the latter, Green hasn't reached Straus' level of crisp fundamentals with his hands, but he's a full two inches broader and taller than Straus, and has also been in the game half as long.
Green's athleticism and wrestle-boxing allow him to dictate the fight's pace and location, and that's the challenge awaiting Weichel. A Jiu Jitsu practitioner at heart, Weichel has the technical advantage in submissions by a substantial margin and in the striking aspect too, though not by much. Weichel's boxing is simple, sharp, fast and accurate, and that, along with his patient and cerebral style, gives him a good chance to cause Green some problems on the feet. Barring opportunities in scrambles or after a stunning blow, it's unlikely that Weichel's submission prowess will come into play.
Though Green is slightly behind in the technical striking comparison, his reach and wrestling ability should more than compensate, as the mere presence of a takedown threat can drastically disrupt an opponent's striking. Green has also shown some surprisingly elusive movement and unpredictable strategies, making him the safer pick in what could be a very closely contested finale.
My Prediction: Des Green by decision.
While Rafael Butler (8-0) doesn't have the recognition or prestige of other boxing-to-MMA crossovers like James Toney or Ricardo Mayorga, he has something sensibly unique that was sorely lacking in his predecessors: respect for mixed martial arts and a keen awareness of the "mixed" aspect. That outlook is undoubtedly behind the first-round armbar win on his record, which is one of his eight stoppages in the opening stanza. Butler is now a full-time fixture at Alliance MMA where he trains takedown defense with the likes of Division 1 All-American Phil Davis, and he's doing everything that any boxing specialist needs to survive in MMA -- which is to become a mixed martial artist with pro-boxing-level handiwork.
Finally getting some love on the main card, Butler draws an experienced vet in Nick Rossborough (23-18), a Jeremy Horn product out of Utah. Rossborough, a beefy 6'5" gamer, had brief stints in Strikeforce (decision loss to Lorenz Larkin) and Poland's KSW promotion (TKO loss to Marcin Rosalski). While far from an easy task for a mostly inexperienced prospect in Butler, he should be a good litmus test as to Butler potential.
My Prediction: Raphael Butler by KO
Marius "The Whitemare" Zaromskis (19-8) has seriously planed off after his electric overtaking of the DREAM middleweight championship. In 2009, Zaromskis head-kicked his way through two reputable opponents in Hayato Sakurai and Jason High to clench the DREAM title, but has since dropped five of his twelve bouts with one No Contest amidst turns in Strikeforce, Bellator and K-1.
After spending the bulk of his career overseas, Vaughn "Blud" Anderson made his Bellator and stateside debut with a feisty performance against War Machine before succumbing to a second-round rear-naked choke. In that defeat, the second of his career, Anderson showed a cunning guard game with active hips, and he was able to sweep War Machine on more than one occasion and nullify his top game in the opening round. Anderson also fought to a draw with Dong Hyun Kim in a 2009 Art of War event.
While there were encouraging signs in his debut, the jury is still out on Anderson, so it becomes a matter of weighing that uncertainty against Zaromskis' predictable deluge of unpredictable kickboxing. It might be an axe kick, it might be a rolling somersault kick, or it might be a blinding flurry of straight punches ... whatever Zaromskis decides to throw, he'll do so with unbridled aggression and nary a concern for defense, though in spaced out bursts. Zaromskis gets the nod here by default, though Anderson has showed a level of technical prowess that could result in an upset by submission.
My Prediction: Marius Zaromskis by TKO.
John Alessio vs. Eric Wisely -- Lightweight Feature Fight
Having faced the likes of Diego Sanchez, Shane Roller and Will Brooks in his biggest fights, John Alessio (34-17) is probably reveling at the opportunity of tangling with an opponent who's not entirely fixated on taking him down. He draws Eric Wisely (22-8), who recently suffered double defeats in the UFC (Charles Oliveira by calf crusher, Jason Young by decision). Wisely is a scrappy fighter but not on the level of A-list competition, and Alessio, a consistently overlooked fighter, should hold his own in every department, though he'll be hard-pressed to finish the resilient Wisely.
My Prediction: John Alessio by decision.
The Bellator 119 preliminary card will stream live on Bloody Elbow with a 7 p.m. ET start time, and includes fan-favorite Brian Rogers and is captained by featherweights Chris Horodecki vs. Marlon Sandro.
Bellator 119 -- Main Card (Spike TV at 9:00 p.m. ET)
Preliminary Card (Spike.com and Bloody Elbow at 7:00 p.m. ET)