Lyman Good has finished two of his last three opponents. | Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
After a week-long hiatus presumably taken to allow our turkey and cranberry sauce to properly digest, Bellator Fighting Championships returns on Friday to supplement America’s uncompromising fatness with a hefty helping of fisticuffs.
Bellator 82, which features the final of the Season 7 welterweight tournament, takes place on Friday at the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort in Mount Pleasant, Mich. The preliminary stream kicks off the show’s action on Spike.com, and the main draw broadcast follows on MTV2 at 8 p.m. ET.
Here is what to watch for:
Good Old Days
Lyman Good is back on track.
In my opinion, the Team Tiger Schulmann product has never looked sharper, and he now stands just a single victory away from earning another crack at undefeated Olympian Ben Askren and a chance to recapture Bellator’s welterweight title.
Good’s pace in this Season 7 tournament has been a sight to behold. I honestly cannot think of a moment he has spent in the cage when he appeared anything less than calm and composed. Just about every second that “Cyborg” has spent in the cage thus far, he has been a fighter in control of his opponent.
Granted, neither Jim Wallhead nor Michail Tsarev possess the natural, explosive abilities of Andrey Koreshkov, but Good has nonetheless used his savvy and experience to cement himself as a legit threat to win the Season 7 draw and hand the hyped Russian his first career defeat.
As for Koreshkov, “Spartan” took a big step in the right direction in his semifinal bout with former Dream champion Marius Zaromskis at Bellator 78, this after edging Jordan Smith in an uninspiring but sufficient quarterfinal effort.
The Russian’s strengths are clear. He uses his speed, accuracy, power and variety of strikes as effective as anybody in Bellator’s welterweight division, including Zaromskis, Diego Lima, Paul Daley and Ben Saunders. As one particularly evil dude once said, “Whatever he hits, he destroys.”
Unfortunately for Koreshkov, his weaknesses have also become readily apparent, and a fighter like Good just might be the man to deal him his first loss. To be successful, Koreshkov must stay out of the clinch with his physically imposing opponent and avoid Good’s accurate punching combinations from the inside.
Can Koreshkov live up to his hype and snatch a chance to become Bellator’s best welterweight or will Good step inside the gifted prospect’s powerful straights and earn himself a long-awaited return bout with “Funky” Askren?
How will Alexander Sarnavskiy respond to his first setback?
Hyped nearly as much as his RusFighters Sport Club teammate Koreshkov, Sarnavskiy saw his 20-fight career unbeaten streak ended by Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Rich Clementi in the lightweight tournament quarterfinals last month. The hard-punching Russian was simply out-grappled in his Bellator debut, with Clementi clinging to his back in each of the first two rounds to bring the 23-year-old’s hype train to a screeching halt. Now facing King of the Cage alum Tony Hervey, will “Tiger” rebound with a vengeance or come out gunshy in the wake of the Clementi defeat?
Does David Rickels have plans for a run at lightweight? If he does, his 160-pound catchweight contest with the unbeaten Jason Fischer should tell fans a great deal about how he might perform in a new weight class.
As a welterweight, Rickels is a handful for most. The well-rounded American burst onto the Bellator scene in March, knocking out Smith in just 22 seconds to advance to the semifinals of the Season 6 tournament. Unfortunately for “The Caveman,” he then came up on the losing end of a hard-fought split decision against eventual tournament winner Karl Amoussou.
Will Rickels look even stronger at this lighter weight or will the cut drain him to the point where he is unable to apply his well-rounded skills?
Bunch of Hype
I will now give you one excellent reason to watch the Bellator 82 preliminary card: Shawn Bunch.
The decorated amateur wrestling star will finally make his mixed martial arts debut against fellow Bellator newcomer Chad Coon. Bunch’s first professional outing has long been anticipated, but the former U.S. National and Pan-American champion has only now found the time to dedicate himself to training MMA full-time.
While I certainly do not need to explain the continual success that elite wrestlers have found in MMA, it bears mentioning that we have also seen plenty of high-level grapplers shy away from the striking game once they go under live fire. How will Bunch handle the transition from wrestling to MMA?