Quinton Jackson will enter the Bellator cage on a three-fight losing streak. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Bellator MMA returns to Spike TV on Friday for the penultimate show of Season 9, as Bellator 108 goes down from Revel in Atlantic City, N.J.
The event will feature the delayed promotional debut of ex-Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight titleholder Quinton Jackson, who locks horns with fellow Octagon veteran Joey Beltran two weeks after his planned pay-per-view headliner opposite Tito Ortiz was scrapped due to a neck injury sustained by “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy.”
Here is what to watch for at Bellator 108:
Return of ‘Rampage’
I may be in the minority here, but I really did not need to see Jackson fight Ortiz on pay-per-view. I am much happier watching “Rampage” fight Beltran on Spike TV, because this fight is not masquerading as something that it is not. We know what we are going to get with Beltran, a highly durable though not especially gifted light heavyweight with enough of a reputation to make the matchup mildly interesting.
Beltran will possess the steam and the chin to make Jackson work, but it seems unlikely that the ex-heavyweight holds the firepower to stop the former UFC king if Glover Teixeira did not.
Put simply, this fight is designed to be an exhibition for Jackson, who will compete for the first time since January. Bellator officials are clearly hoping Jackson’s time away from the cage has aided him in mending his injuries. Who could blame them? In my mind, a healthy Jackson is Bellator’s future light heavyweight champion, and the fighter already owns the name recognition to become the organization’s most popular star.
Of course, if Beltran goes out there and outworks him, all of that falls by the wayside. Can Jackson make a statement in his Bellator debut or will Beltran pull off the upset?
It is no secret that Bellator’s heaviest weight class has traditionally been its thinnest, but I think Alexander Volkov and Vitaly Minakov might nevertheless make some sweet music together.
Although Volkov’s unanimous decision win over Rich Hale to win the Bellator heavyweight crown turned out to be a stinker, his first two performances in the Season 7 tournament were rather impressive, as he outpointed Strikeforce veteran Brett Rogers and then seized the opportunity following a pair of questionable referee standups to knock out Vinicius Kappke de Queiroz at Bellator 80.
Minakov, meanwhile, has never been beaten as a pro, scoring consecutive knockouts over Ron Sparks and Ryan Martinez this summer to earn his crack at “Drago” and the 205-pound title. The sambo expert has finished all but one of his 12 victims and has been taken past the first round just three times in as many years of competition. Which Russian will reign supreme?
The featherweight kicked off the year with a violent, hard-fought battle with then-champion Pat Curran, coming up short in a split decision at Bellator 95. Following that setback, “Pitbull” returned to his winning ways this summer, wrecking Jared Downing before doing the same to UFC veteran Diego Nunes in the Season 9 quarterfinals -- a particularly impressive feat given Nunes’ track record and the fact that he had never before been finished.
Freire kept his winning streak alive in the semis by outpointing lanky countryman Fabricio de Assis Costa da Silva, the odds-on favorite for Sherdog.com’s 2013 “Name of the Year.” Better known as Fabricio “Guerreiro,” the 23-year-old gave an excellent account of himself by taking Freire the distance but could never take control of the bout in a unanimous decision loss.
“Pitbull” now looks ahead to Justin Wilcox, who might be the most powerful competitor in Bellator’s featherweight division. Although it has thus far not been pretty for the Strikeforce alum, Wilcox nevertheless finds himself in the Season 9 final thanks to a stunning comeback over Akop Stepanyan and a grinding decision win over Joe Taimanglo. Provided “The Silverback” once again receives the ol’ wink-and-nod from The Almighty, I think the 34-year-old has a decent shot to upset Freire if he can hold him down.
Which featherweight will impose his will and earn a crack at the gold?
Longing for ‘Loro’
I am excited to see Marcos Galvao back in the Bellator cage.
“Loro” is one of the promotion’s most consistently entertaining competitors and rarely disappoints, even when his fights go the distance. Galvao was last seen stateside back in February, when he was knocked out by friend and Nova Uniao cousin Eduardo Dantas, who retained his bantamweight championship in spectacular fashion at Bellator 89.
Four months later, the 32-year-old returned to the winner’s circle under the Shooto Brazil banner, scoring a second-round technical knockout over Shely Santana on June 23. Now paired with Deep and Super Fight League veteran Tom McKenna, will Galvao maintain his momentum and begin his climb back to another Bellator title shot?