For the first time this season, Bellator has moved up their start time to 7 p.m. ET to avoid conflict with a UFC card. The event kicks off the third featherweight tournament to try to find a new challenger for champion Joe Warren. The field includes, last year’s runner up, a Dan Hodge trophy winner and a former Elite XC champion.
On the local card, former Oklahoma State Cowboy Jake Rosholt looks to pick up his second-straight win at the Lucky Star Casino against John Bryant. Also, UFC veteran Roli Delgado meets WEC veteran Jameel Massouh.
Georgi Karahanyan vs. Patricio Freire
Last year’s tournament champion is in the field once again. Oh wait, I always forget that the judges actually thought Freire lost to Warren. Karahanyan has shown that he is a solid striker, but Freire is a next-level prospect. If he decides to take the fight to the ground, he should really be able to run game on Karahanyan and possibly win by submission. Even if the contest stays on the feet, Freire will ultimately have his hand raised at the end of the night.
Pick = Patricio Freire
Film Study: Patricio Freire vs. Joe Warren (Textbook 10-8 first round)
Zac George vs. Wilson Reis
Reis returns for a third go-around in a Bellator featherweight tournament. He has reached the second round of both previous brackets, and is in line to do it once again. Reis is an extremely strong positional grappler who has worked hard to improve his wrestling. He still is not going to double leg Joe Warren, but he has recently taken down Shad Lierley and Deividas Taurosevicius. If George can keep the fight on the feet, he should be able to land. However, I expect Reis to get on top and stay there.
Pick = Wilson Reis
Film Study: Wilson Reis vs. Ryan Hall (I guess 50/50 guard only works 50% of the time)
Eric Larkin vs. Kenny Foster
In 2003, Larkin finally broke through. He went 34-0, won an NCAA title and the 2003 Dan Hodge trophy, the Heisman of college wrestling. Since transitioning to MMA, he has been equally dominant with three first-round stoppage victories. Foster has shown a well-rounded game in his career, but in this fight he will struggle to stay on his feet. If Larkin can avoid submission, he will probably be able to ground and pound his way to a victory.
Pick = Eric Larkin
Film Study: Eric Larkin vs. Luke Moffit (1998 high school match)
Daniel Straus vs. Nazareno Malegarie
Straus is a featherweight Jeff Monson. They are not very similar stylistically, but after starting his career in 2009, Straus has already fought 17 times. In 2009 alone, he fought 11 times. Also like Monson, he seems to get better with every fight. In a year and a half, he went from losing to Pat Curran to defeating Joe Pearson and WEC veteran Karen Darabedyan. With that being said, the ground game is the hardest thing to pick up on the fly, and Malegarie is absolute dynamite on the floor. Not only are 12 of his 19 wins by submission, but he hits all kinds of holds. Malegarie has wins via guillotine choke, anaconda choke, arm-triangle choke, Kimura and keylock. He might struggle on the feet, but eventually this fight will hit the mat and Malegarie will win by submission. On a unrelated note, Mann Talk has instituted the first-ever MMA journalism drinking game. Every time someone refers to Malegarie as Brazilian instead of Argentinian, you have to drink.
Pick = Nazareno Malegarie
Film Study: Nazareno Malegaria vs. Luciano Oliveira
Roli Delgado vs. Jameel Massouh
Massouh really got a raw deal in the WEC. He deserved the nod against both Rafael Assuncao and Leonard Garcia, and we have learned that you can’t blame a guy for losing to Erik Koch. Since being released, Massouh in 4-0 with two big wins over Sami Aziz and Nick Mamalis. Delgado has game on the ground, but he does not have the wrestling to put Massouh on the mat. On the feet, Massouh is a class above Delgado.
Pick = Jameel Massouh
Film Study: Jameel Massouh vs. Vladimir Zenin
Jake Rosholt vs. John Bryant
The road back to the UFC got a little longer for Rosholt when he lost to Matt Horwich last November. However, the Oklahoma State Cowboy has notched a win since then, and he is still a future contender is the middleweight division. He has picked up the offensive grappling game extremely well for a former wrestler, and has still only been fighting for four years. Bryant might only be 4-3, but in his last fight he defeated Eric Lapotsky. I have been unable to confirm that he is the same Lapotsky who was an All-American wrestler at Oklahoma. If it was the Sooner, then Bryant has experience against a serious wrestler.
Pick = Jake Rosholt
Film Study: Jake Rosholt vs. Phil Davis (2006 NCAA Final)