Bellator returns for their second event of the fifth season and kicks off their middleweight tournament. The field features two fighters who have already lost to middleweight champion Hector Lombard, Jared Hess and Alexander Shlemenko. However, it is still a strong tournament that will produce a challenger. The SpikeTV.com undercard is a bit stronger than the average Bellator undercard too.
Jared Hess vs. Bryan Baker
A lot of the hype surrounding Baker is due to his physical attributes. He a is big and strong middleweight, who really is a “jack of all trades, master of none.” Whenever he has faced a fighter with a transcendent skill set he has lost. Chael Sonnen easily dominated him with wrestling, and Alexander Shlemenko bested him on the feet. If Hess is healthy, he should be able to implement Sonnen’s game plan thanks t his All-American wrestling background. However, that is a big “if” considering the injury he sustained against Shlemenko.
Pick = Jared Hess
Film Study: Jared Hess vs. Hector Lombard (Bellator 12)
Zelg Galesic vs. Alexander Shlemenko
In a lot of ways, Galesic really is a poor man’s Shlemenko. Both fighters are good strikers with limited skills on the ground. However, Shlemenko is the better striker and the better grappler. Look for Shlemenko to control the fight on the feet, but his hyperoffensive style leaves himself open to take shots. That may hurt him against higher level fighters, but in this type of contest, it just makes an exciting fight.
Pick = Alexander Shlemenko
Film Study: Alexander Shlemenko vs. Bryan Baker (Bellator 23)
Sam Alvey vs. Vitor Vianna
Despite being out of action for almost an entire year, Vianna should be the favorite here. He is a next-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu player who has really only faltered against the likes of Roger Gracie on the grappling mats. Alvey is a game fighter who has a penchant to put on exciting fights, but he struggled with Jason Guida‘s ground game before taking a split decision. If he can make the fight a brawl, he has a chance. However, a submission victory for Vianna is much more likely. (Also, if your girlfriend is wondering, McKey, the girl from Cycle 11 of “Americas Next Top Model” is Alvey’s significant other.)
Pick = Vitor Vianna
Film Study: Vitor Vianna vs. Aaron Brink (MMA Xplosion)
Vitor O’Donnell vs. Brian Rogers
O’Donnell was part of the recent string of disappointing prospects to come out of Ring of Combat. He failed to make it into the TUF house on 11th season. However, since the show, he is 4-1 with his only loss coming against Finnish prospect Marcus Vanttinen. Rogers comes into this fight riding a six-fight knockout-victory streak. It is an interesting fight to predict. O’Donnell is the superior grappler, but he still is a street fighter from Cincinnati. The smart money is on O’Donnell to catch a submission, but do not be surprised in Rogers’ streak continues.
Pick = Victor O’Donnell
Film Study: Victor O’Donnell vs. Rafael “Sapo” Natal (Ring of Combat 25)
Radley Martinez vs. Brian Van Hoven
After ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” did a piece on Martinez and his unique story, Bellator snatched him up in a hurry. Thanks to his background as a Division 1 All-American wrestler, Martinez has built an impressive 9-2 record highlighted by a win over UFC veteran Joe Brammer. Van Hoven is a solid fighter who continues to improve, but Martinez’s wrestling will simply be too much here.
Pick = Radley Martinez
Film Study: Preview of “Outside the Lines” Piece
J.P. Reese vs. Martin Brown
Reese is another strong wrestler to come out of Missouri. He never reached All-American status at the NCAA level, but he does rank second in pins in school history behind only Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren. His wrestling, plus his recent training at American Top Team, should be more than enough to handle the relatively unknown Brown.
Pick = J.P. Reese
Brett Cooper vs. Valdir Araujo
Cooper stepped into this contest at the last minute and made it that much more exciting. The Bellator veteran is coming off a loss to Shlemenko, but always puts on interesting fights. Araujo has gone 3-0 since dropping a decision to Chris Weidman. Cooper should have the advantage if he can keep this fight standing. However, Araujo is a solid grappler and should bring it down a few times.
Pick = Valdir Araujo
Film Study: Valdir Araujo vs. Jeff Monson (grappling style)