Weekend Fight Watch: January 19th
Words by ALar
As Strikeforce sputtered to its unfortunate end last weekend, another promotion is beginning its own step towards the limelight. Tonight, Bellator is premiering on its new broadcast partner Spike TV, once home to the almighty UFC. Spike was a cooperative partner in their time with Zuffa, and this deal with Bellator bodes well for the future of the only other MMA contender left on the block. Bellator 85 features two title bouts, as well as the first round of the Light Heavyweight tournament.
Tomorrow night, UFC on FX 7 goes down in Sao Paulo, Brazil and Michael Bisping could finally earn the title shot he has been clamoring for. Opposing Bisping in the cage will be the old dinosaur, Vitor Belfort. Belfort was last seen nearly snapping Jon Jones’ arm off in the first round of their bout at UFC 152, before eventually succumbing to a keylock in the fourth round.
With some winter weather on the way here in the Northeast, these two cards make it an ideal weekend to grab some brews and foster your relationship with your favorite recliner!
Bellator 85 on Spike TV at 10 PM
It will be refreshing to see some new MMA content airing on Spike TV tonight. Bellator’s new relationship with Spike and pro wrestling promotion TNA! will bring Bjorn Rebney’s brainchild to new heights. Tonight’s card kicks off Season 8 of Bellator and showcases how the promotion will look to build cards in the future. I mean, if you didn’t think these guys were serious with this move to Spike, the first fight of the night is a freaking title bout! What more can you ask for???
Pat Curran will be defending his featherweight strap against Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire. Since suffering a loss to Eddie Alvarez in early 2011, Curran has won four in a row and including his last win over Joe Warren last March that won him the 145 lb. belt. Pitbull is a Black House trained southpaw that always enters the ring with bad intentions. As a new era dawns for Bellator, a new Champ will be crowned, I see Pitbull taking a unanimous decision here due to an all out onslaught on the feet.
Speaking of new era’s, Bellator has begun flexing their wallet on the MMA free agent market it seems. In the second scrap of the night, Renato ‘Babalu’ Sobral makes his promotional debut against Mikhail Zayats. We last saw Babalu in ONE FC, where he submitted Mizuno with an armbar in the first round. Zayats is a grappling ace with some serious credentials to his Sambo and Jiu-Jitsu. I know Bellator has thrown their support behind Babalu and they are hoping he can help grow the brand, but I have a suspicion that Zayats is going to make this thing ugly and could eek out a win.
In the Main Event of the Bellator premiere, Lightweight Champ Michael Chandler takes on Season 7 tourney winner Rick Hawn.
I watched all of Hawn’s fight’s during last season’s tourney and was pretty impressed with the power he has in his hands. If his opponent bobs one time when he meant to weave, Hawn won’t hesitate to put his lights out. Chandler is the undefeated Champ whose unsuspected win over Eddie Alvarez earned him the strap in late 2011. We have only seen Chandler once since then and that was when he dispatched an over the hill Akihiro Gono last May and forced the former great into retirement. Simply put, Chandler’s inactivity scares me. He is a Vegas favorite because he is the reigning champ, but I can see Hawn ending that run. Hawn has a slick Judo game to go with his hands of stone and I think we are going to see a late round TKO for ‘Ghengis’ Hawn and another belt change hands.
UFC on FX 7 on airing on FX at 9 PM on Saturday
The prelims for this event air on Fuel TV at 5 PM, and it is highlighted by the likes of Edson Barboza and Wagner Prado, both who I expect to earn victories in Sao Paulo.
The Main Card kicks off with UFC stalwart Thiago Thavares taking on Khabib Nurmagomedov (God bless you!). Tavares has been hovering around the middle of the pack of the Lightweight division since 2007. He doesn’t seem to have the stuff to put together a title push, but he is always ready to please the fans when he steps in the cage. I think Thiago is going to put a hurting on young Khabib on Sao Paulo. Khabib earned a gift of a decision against Gleison Tibau back at UFC 148 and I think Tavares will be trying to avenge that loss for his fellow countryman. Look for a unanimous decision win for Thiago.
I am pretty psyched about Ben Rothwell facing off against Gabriel ‘Napao’ Gonzaga in the second tilt of the night. Rothwell looked like a whole new man against Brendan Schaub back at UFC 145 and I am excited to see where he take his career with his newfound dedication to the sport. The top of the Heavyweight division is a total cluster*$(# right now, but a win for Rothwell here should surely earn him a serious step up in competition. Gonzaga hasn’t been the same guy that Cro Cop’d Cro Cop as of late. He had a brief stint in RFA, where he won a belt, but that doesn’t help the big man much with his UFC career. Big Ben is going to keep the train rolling and earn himself a TKO victory over the home country favorite Napao.
From what I gather, Danial Sarafian was in line for a chance to win the first season of TUF:Brazil but was forced out of the tourney due to an injury. Sarafian is making his real promotional debut against fellow TUF contestant CB Dollaway. I was a fan of CB’s back when he was throwing Peruvian Neckties on every dude with a pulse, but as of late he has caught the LayNPray bug that seems to be going around. CB will likely rely on that tactic tomorrow night in an attempt to subdue the explosive Brazilian. The fans wont like this one, but CB grinds out an uneventful decision.
For what was a mediocre Main Card, the Main Event of this FX show will make up for any of the shortcomings in the fights prior. The brash Brit Michael Bisping will be entering the lion’s den when he comes to the cage tomorrow night in Brazil. I have read in a few places that Vitor is damn near god status down there in Brazil. According to some forum heads, Vitor was a bigger star than Anderson prior to their scrap at UFC 126.
Bisping is doing his best Chael Sonnen impression as of late, as he runs his mouth at every opportunity in order to politic for a shot at the belt. Hey, you cant blame him, sadly that seems like the way to the title these days… Last time out, Bisping earned an expected decision win against Brian Stann. Bisping was impressive in all areas that night, but didn’t show anything that makes you believe he could be the future Middleweight Champ
We all remember Vitor’s last time out, and that split second where we thought he could drink from the fountain of youth and submit Jon Jones… Oh the memories. On talent alone, I think Vitor has a great shot to derail Bisping’s self fueled hype train. If you think of the things that Bisping does well, Vitor has the ability to do all those things just as well, if not better. Vitor’s chances to shock the world are highest early in the bout when he still has a full tank of gas. I expect them to feel each each other out for much of the first round, but early in the second Vitor will attack The Count with a flurry of punches that sees the Brit hitting the mat and not getting up. Just sit back and watch the Brazilian celebrate, it should be something of epic proportions.
(I know I said in my “Bold Predictions for 2013″, that Silva was going to fight Bisping in England, but as I sat down with a fine scotch to attempt to predict this fight, I could only see Vitor winning and derailing The Count’s title chances. Don’t worry all the rest of my predictions will come true!)
That’s my preview of these two great nights of fights. If you have any predictions yourself, feel free to throw them in the comment section. And follow us on Twitter!