It’s been a big few days for fight fans.
The biggest boxing event of the year took place last weekend, which included a weigh-in which drew more fans than most big time fights. UFC 165 is tap for Saturday, with most fans’ “pound-for-pound king” defending his title.
But tomorrow, it’s Bellator MMA which will take the MMA fan’s spotlight for a good looking show, and an important milestone.
Yep, tomorrow marks the promotion’s historic 100th event, from the Grand Canyon University Arena in Phoenix, AZ. Bellator 100 will be televised at 9 pm EST/PST on Spike TV, with preliminary bouts broadcast at Spike.com as well.
(Sure, someone out there will remember there wasn’t a Bellator 8, and 3 & 4 were really one show, but whatever. Times change as far as the traditions go, but hey, it’s a milestone all the same. Hey, there was even a UFC 37.5 back in the day.)
Bellator 100 is also noteworthy in that it’s “all welters, all the time.” A welterweight showdown tops the bill, the long-delayed Season 8 Tournament Final between Ben Saunders and Douglas Lima. The Season 9 Welterweight Tournament Quarterfinals make up the undercard, featuring War Machine vs. Vaughan Anderson, Rick Hawn vs Herman Terrado, Ron Keslar vs. Luis “Sergio Junior” Melo, and Justin Baesman vs. Brent Weedman.
Here’s my breakdown of those bouts:
Lima and Saunders is a worthy main event — two of the division’s better fighters, who scored T/KO victories to advance to the tournament finals. They know each other well, and not just because they both train at American Top Team affiliates; in 2011, Lima and Saunders fought in the Bellator Season 5 Tournament Finals. That night, Lima overcame a slow start, even getting mounted in round one, to catch the taller Saunders with punches and earn a round two T/KO victory. I’m expect another technical standup battle, where I’d continue to give the edge to Lima — but it’s close. Expect Saunders’ dynamic ground game should factor in as well.
The Season 9 Welterweight Tournament features the infamous War Machine, who was profiled yesterday, against Vaughn Anderson. On paper, War seems a step above, but maybe we’re underestimating Anderson. Anderson is a Canadian citizen, born in the Philippines and residing in China. He’s contested all of his fights in the smaller shows in Asia; perhaps his performance against War could offer some gauge for how that region is progressing in MMA.
Another tourney bout sees Ron Keslar of American Kickboxing Academy brought in as a late substitution for Matt Riddle. The young gun from the Bay Area is a Strikeforce veteran and on a four-fight winning streak, but his opponent, Luis “Sergio Junior” Melo of Natal, Brazil, is on a six-fight winning streak — including an impressive arm triangle choke win (which was preceded by some nasty ground-and-pound) at Bellator 94 in March. Melo is a clear favorite here.
Another substitution sees former US Olympic Judo representative Rick Hawn replacing an injured Mark Scanlon, in his tenth appearance for the promotion. In fact, Hawn was a finalist for the Season 4 Welterweight tourney, and winner of the Season 6 Lightweight tourney. But, after being knocked out by Michael Chandler in his bid for the LW title in January, he’s back to welter and looking for gold again. His opponent tomorrow, Herman Terrado of Guam, is riding a seven fight win streak against lesser competition, mostly in new home base of California. What was an even bout vs Scanlon is now seems a big step up for young Terrado, who was trained by War Machine at one point — but the X-factor would seem to be how prepared Hawn can be, taking this bout on a few days notice… and a few days after his 37th birthday.
Finally, Bellator vet Brent Weedman fights newcomer Justin Baesman. I’m expecting a big night for Weedman, who seems to hold every advantage over Baesman, whose wins are all at regional competition. Weedman’s striking was particularly impressive in his recent victory over Marius Zaromskis. Look for a T/KO finish here.
As always, enjoy the fights. We’ll have play-by-play coverage here tomorrow, too!