The Bellator MMA Season 9 Featherweight Tournament takes a step closer to crowning a champion tonight — with the semifinals on tap for Bellator 103 in Wichita, Kansas.
In the first semifinal, all eyes will be on Season 8 Tournament winner, Patricio “Pitbull” Freire — but he’s got a tough opponent in fellow Brazilian Fabricio Guerreiro.
Guerreiro, listed as fighting out of Ronildo Nobre Judo Club in Santana, Brazil, was regarded a top prospect when he entered the Bellator cage for his North American debut back in February. Yet, he looked flat in that bout, and was finished by the more aggressive “Frodo” Khasbulaev. Last month Guerreiro bounced back to dominate Des Green, showing a more fluid Muay Thai attack. He also incorporated a little of the judo skills we’ve been hoping to see — scoring a beautiful throw in round one, and several more takedowns thoughout the bout.
Guerreiro will enter the cage an underdog against Pitbull, who has dominated all of his opposition with his manic, aggressive attack — other than close split decisions losses to Bellator’s champions. Watch for the typical wild punches, and a solid jiu-jitsu game to back it up, from the Team Nogueira representative tonight.
We will see how Guerreiro struggles against the pressure this time. Both fighters will, oddly, enter the Bellator with a 19-2 record. One will exit a finalist.
Guamanian Joe Taimanglo will fight in the other semifinal, against Justin Wilcox, of Fresno, California.
In his quarterfinal bout at Bellator 99, Taimanglo walked down his opponent, Andrew Fisher of Sunderland, England, with a wild striking display. The fight saw Taimanglo lead with his chin, swung punches coming from the waist, and score some good knees in the clinch and a nice throw in the first. Fisher was known as good all-around fighter, but seemed just a bit over-matched by the more athletic Taimanglo’s aggressive and dynamic game.
His opponent tonight will be a different puzzle to solve, and possibly a bigger problem. In fact, the first thing to strike an observer about Justin Walcox is, well, he’s big. Reportedly, the former NCAA wrestler Wilcox cuts a staggering 22 pounds to reach the 145 lb weight limit — about 15% of his body weight.
The second thing you’ll notice? Guts. The Team AKA fighter took his quarterfinal bout at Bellator 99 on only seven days notice, to take home a submission victory over Akop Stepanyan. There, Wilcox struggled with the Russian’s leg kick-heavy attack in the first round, and was cut badly by a spinning kick in the second round. Still, he scored a takedown, caught a rear naked choke in transition, and quickly put his opponent to sleep.
Commentator Jimmy Smith would describe the victory, “one of the greatest comebacks I’ve seen in the Bellator cage.”
Taimanglo may similarly find his back at the hands of Wilcox, and may need to use his jiu-jitsu skills this time. We didn’t see it against Fisher, but he isn’t without credentials on the mat — winning several accolades including a gold medal at the Pan-Asian BJJ tournament in 2009.
Unfortunately, the Bellator 103 card thins out from there — but, maybe someone will surprise. We will have full coverage tonight here at Caged Insider.
We hope you join us, and as always, enjoy the fights!