On Friday, Bellator Fighting Championships returns to Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla., bringing with it several intriguing storylines woven into the fabric of Bellator 80.
Here is what to watch for at the Nov. 9 event, which airs live on MTV2 -- unless you happen to be a cable subscriber on the West Coast, in which case you will need to sit through three hours of super excellent MTV2 programming before you can watch these fights on tape delay.
For those worrying that perhaps Joe Warren has lost a bit of confidence, allow me to squash your fears. I spoke to him last Friday, and he absolutely still believes he is “The Baddest Man on the Planet.”
Reemerging for the first time since suffering a brutal March 9 knockout at the hands of Pat Curran that cost him the Bellator featherweight title, Warren will now attempt to regain a measure of swagger as a bantamweight.
The significance of his knockout defeats to Alexis Vila and, more importantly, Curran, cannot be understated. The sheer volume of strikes that referee Jeff Malott allowed Warren to absorb in that Bellator 60 title defense was staggering. Following a loss like that, I think just about any fair-minded observer would approach Warren’s return to the cage with concern for the fighter’s well-being. However, Warren says he has fully recovered from the concussion he sustained in March and is now good to go, both physically and mentally.
Granted, the Greco-Roman wrestling specialist isn’t exactly climbing in there with Renan Barao. Owen Evinger has yet to record a knockout in 10 pro fights, and I imagine Bellator booked him against Warren for that exact reason. While Warren said he has no plans to abandon the type of heart-on-his-sleeve aggressiveness that made him the promotion’s inaugural featherweight champion, he also hopes to let his technique shine while placing greater emphasis on his defense. Exactly what will that look like? Tune in and find out.
Rad Martinez stands just two wins away from penning a nice little storybook ending in Season 7 and earning a crack at Bellator’s featherweight crown.
Unfortunately for Martinez, it is only going to get more difficult from here on out. While Nazareno Malegarie proved to be a formidable first-round opponent for Martinez, the Argentinian simply does not possess the raw punching power of a Mike Richman or Shahbulat Shamhalaev, nor can he match Wagnney Fabiano’s level of submission expertise once the fight hits the floor.
Malegarie is a game competitor, no doubt, and his grittiness should not be swept under the rug. This is a man who has yet to be finished in 25 pro fights, after all. Even so, the fact that he went toe-to-toe with Martinez for 15 minutes and managed to hang tough with the exhausted American makes me think twice about picking Martinez to win this thing.
The good news for Martinez: stylistically, he should match up well with Fabiano, provided he uses his strength and wrestling advantages to avoid the jiu-jitsu ace’s attempts to put him on his back.
Fabiano’s Last Waltz?
Just as Martinez could end up tied into knots on the floor, so too could Fabiano wind up unconscious if the American keeps this fight standing and lets his hands fly.
Fabiano probably isn’t going to beat anyone with his quickness or athleticism, but the veteran nevertheless still owns some decent takedowns, as exhibited in his quarterfinal victory over Akop Stepanyan. While Martinez need not worry about the low-single coming at high speeds from kicking range, he should take care to avoid Fabiano’s level-changes and trips from the clinch, both of which have proved to be sneakily effective in the past.
A 37-year-old veteran, Fabiano returned to the cage for the first time in nearly two years to enter this Season 7 tournament. Can the former IFL champion punch his ticket to the finals and prove his decision to resume his fighting career was well-founded?
While I normally try to make at least one unnecessary Ivan Drago reference in each of these previews that I write, this week the pleasure proved unavoidable. With that unmistakably long torso, pale skin and blond head of hair, Alexander Volkov’s nickname is a fitting one. Though he is admittedly much skinnier than the hulking “Rocky IV” antagonist, I think we can all agree that the Russian has Pete Sell beat by a country mile.
Volkov made mincemeat of hard-hitting Brett Rogers in the quarterfinals, sending a clear statement to the rest of the tournament field. Though the prospect was unable to secure a stoppage win over the former Strikeforce heavyweight, Volkov did manage to break Rogers’ arm and batter him standing for a full 15 minutes.
In Vinicius Kappke de Queiroz, Volkov faces another power puncher. Like Volkov, “Spartan” prefers to do his work standing but also possesses some decent submission skills, as he displayed against Mark Holata in the quarterfinal round. Much like Volkov’s fight with Rogers, I think this contest will also be dictated by distance. If the Russian can keep Queiroz on the end of his reach, it should be a long night for the Brazilian.
Will Volkov throw punches down the pipe early and often to discourage his foe from closing that all-important gap, or can Queiroz find his way inside and attack Volkov’s chin in an attempt to hand “Drago” his first-ever knockout loss?