This weekend Bellator Fighting Championships kicks off their sixth season with their 60th offering. The card takes place at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Ind. and will air live on MTV2. Unlike previous seasons the promotion is tried to avoid the UFC by moving their cards to Friday nights. However, now Bjorn Rebney and company will have to deal with “The Ultimate Fighter Live” on FX.
In the main event, Joe Warren will defend his featherweight title against tournament champion Pat Curran. Warren’s Star has clearly lost some of its shine after winning a close decision over Marcos Galvao and falling hard against Alexis Vila. On the other hand, Curran’s has continued to rise with a surprise tournament victory. One of his upset victims, Sengoku veteran Marlon Sandro is just one of eight featherweights who start their quest for a shot at either Warren or Curran on Friday night.
Joe Warren (+300) vs. Pat Curran (-400)
Despite having the belt, Warren comes in as the underdog. His recent struggles have been well documented. Despite coming to MMA late in his career, he was able to have an immediate impact in the sport. He still has virtually no striking game and is clearly suspect on the ground. However, he won a lot of fights against solid competition by coming forward with bullish persistence and being able to absorb punishment. Even though he probably should have lost against Galvao, that fight did little to upset his confidence. On the other hand, the knockout he suffered at the hands of Vila could start to chip away at his aura. Not only that, but his chin was always considered one of his best assets. She needs to be able to take shots in order to get to the clinch and win fights.
Curran has probably had the most public improvement of any fighter in recent history. Many expected him to lose to Mike Ricci in his promotional debut. He not only won that fight, but now he has also gone 6-1 in Bellator and won two tournaments. If he can keep his distance and land straight crisp punches he might even add a championship belt to his resume.
With that being said, Warren winning upset should not shock anyone. Judges seem to love Warren’s style. The Galvao fight is not the only gift decision he has received. Curran may land some damaging shots from the outside, but Warren will keep coming forward to get to the clinch. If he can press his opponent into the cage for the better part of five rounds he should be able to hold onto his belt.
Marlon Sandro (-350) vs. Roberto Vargas (+270)
When the last featherweight tournament field was announced, hardcore fans were excited for potential championship fight between Warren and Sandro. Even though that did not happen, Sandro should be considered the favorite again this year. His striking is becoming more and more polished as he does, and on top of that he has always had huge knockout power. Vargas deserves another shot in Bellator after winning six straight fights. He is a game fighter, but Sandro should be able to catch him on the feet or wrestle his way to a decision victory.
Ronnie Mann (-250) vs. Mike Corey (+200)
It is nice to see a fighter like Corey getting a shot in the big leagues. However, he will be facing an uphill battle here. Mann was one of the favorites heading into last season’s featherweight tournament. Even though he fell to upstart Pat Curran, he is still a top prospect in the division. He should easily outclass Corey on the feet. If it goes to the ground, Mann has shown the rare ability to win fights off of his back. Corey will make it interesting and put the good fight, but this is Mann’s fight to lose.
Alexandre Bezerra vs. Genair da Silva
Da Silva showed in his Bellator debut that he can hang with some of the best fighters in the division. However, “Popo” is the better prospect. He should be able to do work on the feet and own any exchanges on the ground. If Da Silva can grind on his opponent early, he might be able to make it a fight late, but that is less likely.
Daniel Straus (+300) vs. Jeremy Spoon (-400)
Spoon is mostly a grappler. He is slick on both the bottom and the top. That type of game is not going to be very effective against the fighter like Straus. MMA has evolved, but Straus is still old-school fighter. Early in his career he took a ton of fights. This not only prepared him for his Bellator career, but it also gave him an opportunity to learn on the job. Very few fighters in today’s game improve as much as Straus has already. Look for him to do a lot of damage in both the clinch and on top. His grinding style can wear down anyone especially someone like spoon who is been mostly a front runner so far in his career.