Scott Coker and company had put together a tremendous card for this weekend's Bellator event in a homecoming of sorts to the place the promoter and those that have worked close to him have considered a home, San Jose, CA. Unfortunately for the organization and for fans, this card won't be exactly what it was meant to be from the outset.
Injuries have ravaged many cards for MMA fans since the beginning of the sport, but due to Bellator's infrastructure and lack of depth in most divisions north of welterweight, it's a situation that affects them far, far worse. This card was supposed to feature feared Russian striker Sergei Kharitonov facing Bellator veteran Josh Appelt, but Kharitonov withdrew due to illness. Likewise the case with former Strikeforce champion and UFC title contender Josh Thomson, who had to bow out of his fight against Bellator mainstay Michael Chandler - a fight that is almost guaranteed to be action-packed if it ever takes place in the future.
Furthermore, the problems were made worse with the unfortunate and devastating news that was the death of featherweight Jordan Parsons at the young age of 25. His opponent, Adam Piccolotti, remained on the event. He will be taking on another California native, Ray Wood.
All things considered, this event does have some promising action and features some very talented fighters from the Bay Area and NorCal scene on the prelims, such as Strikeforce and Bellator veteran Thomas Diagne fighting Mark Dickman as well as former UFC talent Darren Uyenoyama vs Alvin Cacdac. Also making an appearance on the card is Stephanie Frausto, younger sister of former Bellator talent Zoila Frausto. She will be taking on Bellator newcomer Jaimee Nievera.
The main two bouts will feature Evangelista Santos (21-16) against Bellator vet Saad Awad (18-7). Santos is currently on a two-fight win streak, with a unanimous decision win against Artenas Young at Legacy FC 50 in January, and a 30 second heel-hook submission victory this past April at Bellator 153 vs. Brennan Ward. Awad is coming off a loss to Patricky Freire but had a three-fight win streak prior to that against Joe Duarte, Sergio Rios, and Rob Sinclair. This will be Awad's first fight since last August, and he will be moving up to welterweight.
The main event will be what promises to be a great fight between Muhammed Lawal and Phil Davis in a fight that seems to be a #1 contender's match by all indication. Penn State standout Phil Davis (15-3) made his Bellator debut last September in the inaugural Dynamite show, where he breezed through the opposition and was supposed to fight Lawal, who could not continue in the one-night tournament due to a shoulder injury. Davis defeated former champion Emanuel Newton and Tristar product Francis Carmont by submission and knockout, respectively. Lawal is on a seven-fight win streak and capped off 2015 with a spectacular run in the Rizin tournament that he won, in which he got two outstanding finishes over former rugby player Brett McDermott and Jiri Prochazka. Both will be tested as they have phenomenal wrestling credentials, but differ in style as Davis is far more versatile with his positional dominance and submission game, while Lawal's boxing is probably the very best in all of the light heavyweight division - and not just Bellator, but everywhere. Lawal may be able to keep the fight from the outside range as Rashad Evans and Anthony Johnson did against Davis, who struggled to get in close. That said, Davis' style can very well disrupt anyone's rhythm and open opportunities to close the distance and land some good shots or lead to a takedown and continue working from there.
Bellator 154 takes place this Saturday live from the SAP Center in San Jose, CA, and the main card is slated to begin at 8:00pm EST on Spike TV. The streamed preliminary card airs at 6:30 PM ET, which you can watch right here on Bloody Elbow.