Following last week’s impressive debut on Spike which saw Pat Curran and Mike Chandler retain their titles in compelling bouts and a few upsets in the opening round of the Light Heavyweight tournament to earn Bellator their best viewing figures to date (like, 3 x their previous best) the promotion returns with another title match, a big name debut and the opening round of their ever-competitive Welterweight tournament.
The title match headlining the show pits undefeated Welterweight champion Ben Askren (10-0) against tournament winner Karl Amoussou (16-4-2) in a match that doesn’t have quite the excitement level of either of last week’s championship bouts.
That’s almost entirely down to the champ Askren, as despite his nickname of “Funky” he’s not exactly proven to be a dynamic, exciting champion. Sure, 170lb champions who tend to win by decision aren’t exactly uncommon or especially unmarketable, but Askren isn’t GSP.
After finishing his first four fights in the first round, Askren has mastered the art of grinding to a dull but almost inescapable wrestling based victory and currently sits on six successive decision victories. So the question becomes, ‘can the most recent tournament winner do something about that?’
Happily, the answer here is YES. Amoussou is a finisher, with roughly quarter of his matches going to a decision and more stoppage victories than Askren has MMA matches. Even better, he’s an accomplished submission artist which makes going to the ground with him a risky proposition.
Even so, I wouldn’t bet against Askren but it’s heartening to see a challenger who looks like they can maybe throw him off his gameplan. For the sake of entertainment and Bellator’s viewing figures, I’m hoping for an Amoussou win here.
Then again, I said the same about Douglas Lima last time out…
Following a failed drugs test, getting fired from Strikeforce, a years suspension and short run as a personality in Impact Wrestling as well as commentary duties for Invicta FC, Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal (8-1, 1NC) returns to his day job in the final light heavyweight quarter final, where he’ll face off with Poland’s Przemyslaw Mysiala (16-7) in a fight that may not be as clear cut as it appears to the casual fan.
Following the upset KOs of Renato Sobral and Seth Petruzelli last week, Bellator will be hoping King Mo stays alive in the tournament but Mysiala has ‘banana skin’ written all over him (which I guess would need to be in Polish, so ‘skora bananu.’)
That said, Mysiala’s record has the look of a journeyman and his tendency to lose by KO (six times) and win by submission don’t bode well against a sprawl & brawl artist like Lawal who uses his impressive wrestling base to manoeuvre opponents into the ideal spit for a knockout (just ask Roger Gracie or Lorenz Larkin… in fact, they probably don’t remember.)
So, in light of what’s already happened in this bracket, I’m loathe to say Lawal is a lock to win here, especially considering his ring rust, but… I’d be very surprised if Mo didn’t progress.
This show also sees the Welterweight tournament quarter finals spread between the main card and the prelims, but we’ll treat them equally.
Top of the heap, we have the previous unsuccessful challenger Douglas Lima (22-5) looking to earn his chance at revenge for his loss to Askren. That (decision, obviously) loss snapped a nine fight win streak, but Lima has already bounced back to a TKO3 win over Jacob Ortiz back in November.
Standing in Lima’s way is Michael Tsarev (24-3) who is looking to rebound from a TKO3 loss to Lyman Good in his sophomore Bellator appearance back in October. Either way, these two have a total of eight decision finishes between them in a combined 54 fights so expect this one to be a contender for the highlight reel.
UFC veteran Ben Saunders (14-5) makes his third tilt at the Bellator crown against promotional debutant Koffi Adzitso (18-9) in what should be a fun, if one sided matchup.
Both fighters prefer to let leather fly and a KO win is a like,I hood, but I have to say that journeyman Adzitso has never tangled with someone of Saunders standard before and I’d be surprised if ‘Killa B’ didn’t progress to the semis. Again.
Somewhat unfairly dumped onto the preliminary card, we have finisher Brent Weedman (20-8) facing off with stylish kickboxer Marius Zaromskis (19-7) in what looks like being the pick for fight of the night. Both of these guys look to finish, are phobic of letting the fight go to the judges and will take risks to accomplish this. Expect fireworks.
Rounding out the tournament matches we have youthful finisher Raul Amaya (10-1) facing off with the experienced Jose Gomes (32-8) in a bout that if I’m honest, I have no idea what to expect from and I’m not going to pretend informed knowledge on the back of fighters Sherdog records alone. Fights like this interest me, as I have little anticipation for what to expect and that’s always fun…
While lacking some of the zip of last weeks show, this event has the potential to produce some fun matches, upsets and dominant wins. Here’s hoping Bellator keep the momentum going.
MAIN (Spike TV, 10 p.m. ET)
• Ben Askren vs. Karl Amoussou – for welterweight title
• Muhammed Lawal vs. Przemyslaw Mysiala – light-heavyweight-tournament opening round
• Douglas Lima vs. Michail Tsarev – welterweight-tournament opening round
• Ben Saunders vs. Koffi Adzitso – welterweight-tournament opening round
PRELIMINARY (Spike.com, 8 p.m. ET)
• Brent Weedman vs. Marius Zaromskis – welterweight-tournament opening round
• Raul Amaya vs. Jose Gomes – welterweight-tournament opening round
• Javier Obregon vs. Hunter Tucker
• Mike Maldonado vs. Joseph Salas
• Zach Church vs. Damon Jackson
• Cortez Coleman vs. Matt Jones