Another season of Bellator MMA is upon us, and with it comes all the tournament hi-jinks we’ve come to love. Which UFC veteran is going to get destroyed by a no-name fighter? Who will be the next Russian with an unpronounceable name to win it all? How many times will Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler rematch? (I’m guessing at least twice.) Obviously, these are questions that can only be answered with the passage of time. However, we can at least examine some of the announced quarterfinal match-up in the various tournaments and pick out which ones to look forward to – am I right?
Featherweight Tournament, March 28:
Diego Nunes vs. Matt Bessette - Nunes never quite found his groove in the Octagon, but it was assumed that given his experience and background, he’d kick some serious ass in the Bellator cage. Um, nope. In his debut at Bellator 99, he was put to sleep at 1:19 of the first round by Patricio Freire. Bessette is a New Englander who pretty much owns the local talent, but unless he’s got some tricks up his sleeve, he’s going to go into this match-up spry and chipper and come out of it in a coma.
Lightweight Tournament, April 18:
Marcin Held vs. Rodrigo Cavalheiro – Held is to nifty leglocks and heelhooks what Nick Diaz is to packing a bowl, which is to say, he’s really good at those techniques. Cavalheiro is a very experienced veteran of the Brazilian circuit, where the rules are loose and the women even looser, so it’s hard to gauge what kind of fight he’s going to give the young Held. Either way though, it should be fun – Held is going to go for something creative and get the tap out, or he’s going to go for something creative and get smashed for it. That’s a win for us!
David Rickels vs. Patricky Pitbull – In Bellator’s 155-pound weight class, there’s Alvarez and Chandler, and then a whole bunch of guys who couldn’t even hold their jock straps. Rickels and Pitbull are two such guys. That doesn’t mean they themselves aren’t fantastic fighters – they are, and if Alvarez and Chandler were to be abducted by aliens tomorrow, Rickels and Pitbull would likely be fighting for the suddenly vacant lightweight crown. So yeah, this fight should be good, because they’re good. They’re not the best, but they’re good.
Welterweight Tournament, April 11:
Joe Riggs vs. Sam Oropeza – Good for Riggs for winning that whole Fight Master thing and earning what – a billion dollars? Anyway, now it’s time to go to work. Oropeza is a skilled fighter with great kicks, but Riggs has got crazy experience, which should make for an interesting contest of wills.
War Machine vs. Nah-Shon Burrell – Anything to do with War Machine is interesting. Anything. From TUF to porn to jail to Joe Rogan’s podcast, this guy is the kind of Renaissance Man who’ll leave behind one heck of a toxicology report for the coroner to decipher.
Middleweight Tournament, March 28:
Brett Cooper vs. Kendall Grove - He may have won TUF 3, but Grove’s career has had more ups and down than an electrocardiograph readout. Which version will show up in the Bellator cage on March 28 – the Grove who sucks or the Grove who’s badass?
Light-heavyweight Tournament, February 28:
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs. Christian M’Pumbu - Come on, it’s Rampage we’re talking about here. You just know that semi-offense stuff is going to come out of his mouth leading up to the fight, and during the fight he’s going to be knocking the former Bellator champ’s head off.
Heavyweight Tournament, April 4:
Ryan Martinez vs. Lavar Johnson - As performances of UFC veterans go, Johnson could not have had a worse Bellator debut last year. But the slugger is right back at it, going back for more and hopefully keeping his chin down.
Richard Hale vs. Blagoi Ivanov - When not getting stabbed in bar fights, Ivanov is one ace MMA fighter, utilizing slick sambo moves to put dudes away. Hale is a good match-up for him for two reason: Hale isn’t too big for a heavyweight, and Hale doesn’t bring knives into the cage. This should be a fun fight.