Earlier in the week, we broke down the main event for tonight’s Bellator 114: Alexander Shlemenko’s title defense vs. Brennan Ward. There’s plenty to get excited about: the champion, Russia’s Shlemenko, is a hardened veteran of more than 50 fights, and always one to watch. The challenger, Ward, an American of Irish extraction, is an exciting prospect with barely ten bouts to his credit — but he’s a proven finisher. It seems a great match for both.
On the under card, there’s a few new names and familiar faces alike. Let’s have a look:
The show will open with the first Season 10 Middleweight Tournament bout: Kendall “Da Spyder” Grove (20-13) against Brett Cooper (19-9). Grove has enjoyed considerable career highs, including success at The Ultimate Fighter Season 3 in 2006, and an ensuing three fight UFC winning streak. But since then, he’s been a wildly up-and-down proposition, with a three fight 2012 winning streak followed by a three fight losing streak. The wiry Maui, Hawaii product moved his training to Alliance MMA in San Diego recently, looking to gain momentum for another run at MMA gold.
Cooper, of Reign MMA in California, has been the more consistent athlete and may be a step ahead in standup and wrestling skills, but he’s lost two straight now. Granted, both losses were two some of Bellator’s best: an exciting decision loss to champ Shlemenko, and a TKO at the hands of Doug Marshall. He’s got the wrestling and striking to earn the victory, but it may be interesting to see how he deals with Grove’s reach.
The show will also feature the opening round of the Bellator Season 10 Featherweight Tournament, featuring two fighters who one might say have already played the role of spoiler.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Will Martinez (9-2-1), who spoiled the Bellator debut of prospect Goiti Yamauchi last month, will face another young gun in 24 year old Desmond Green (10-2), whose only Bellator loss came by decision to Fabricio “Guerreiro” Costa in 2013. Watch for the more polished Martinez to try and ground out the always-improving Green.
Next, Connecticut’s Matt Bisette (13-4) fights Germany’s Daniel Weichel (32-8). Bisette had been a staple on the New England fight circuit, but struggled to make a mark as he stepped up in competition, until a victory over Deigo Nunes last month catapulted him into the Bellator tournament. Weichel is a 12-year MMA veteran, now training out of Russia, who has recorded submission victories in his last four bouts, including a particularly impressive kata gatame/arm triangle finish, following several unusual arm bar attempts from side control, against Artiom Damkovsky finish last year at M-1 37 in Russia.
Bellator 114 kicks off tonight at the Maverick Center in West Valley, Utah. The event will be televised on SPIKE! TV at 9 pm EST/PST, with prelims on SPIKE.com.