Bellator’s upcoming four-man heavyweight tournament will begin June 19 and will feature Richard Hale, Vinicius Kappke de Queiroz, Vitaly Minakov and Ron Sparks.
Bellator officials announced the news Wednesday morning, revealing that Minakov will face Sparks while Hale meets “Spartan” at Bellator 96. The event takes place at Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla., and airs live on Spike TV. The six-fight main card will also see Muhammed Lawal, Seth Petruzelli, Renato Sobral and Jacob Noe compete in the light heavyweight tournament semifinals, while Michael Chandler defends his lightweight title against Season 7 tournament winner Dave Jansen in the evening’s main event.
Hale, 27, has competed at both heavyweight and 205 pounds under the Bellator banner, most recently fighting his way to the finals of the promotion’s Season 7 heavyweight draw. “Rare Breed” saw his run halted there, however, as he was outpointed by Alexander Volkov on Dec. 14.
De Queiroz also met his demise at the hands of Volkov in the Season 7 draw, as “Spartan” was stopped with just one second remaining in the first round of their semifinal contest this past November. De Queiroz owns five of his six victories by way of knockout and has gone the distance just once as a pro.
Minakov, meanwhile, has been perfect in his 10 pro outings, earning five knockouts and four submissions to begin his career. The 28-year-old Russian made his Bellator debut on Nov. 2, when he knocked out Vladimir Starcencov at Bellator 79.
Sparks, 38, has not competed since October 2011, when he was knocked out in just 40 seconds by Eric Prindle in the Season 5 tournament semifinals. Prior to that setback, “The Monster” had never lost, rattling off six knockouts in his first eight bouts.