Bellator is back to their weekly schedule after a very entertaining kickoff to season 9 featured one of the best fights thus far in 2013 between Alexander Shlemenko and Brett Cooper. The featherweights look to build on that momentum as their tournament debuts, and Bellator has wasted no time in giving us one of the matches everyone wanted to see when the participants were announced. Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire will take on former top 10 UFC featherweight Diego Nunes in the main event of this card, and what could easily have been the final of this tournament. Freire is hoping that he has better luck than his brother who was defeated this past weekend at Bellator 98. The remainder of the tournament features fighters who are a bit less proven, although names like Akop Stepanyan and Justin Wilcox will be familiar to MMA fans. Also, in one of the stranger fights of the weekend, Vladimir Matyushenko and Houston Alexander will fight at a combined age of 83 years old. Today, MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting lines for the main card of Bellator 99 at Several Bookmakers. Take a look: ——————– Featherweight Tournament Opening Round Fights Patricio Freire -285 Diego Nunes +205 Akop Stepanyan -150 Justin Wilcox +110 Joe Taimanglo -215 Andrew Fisher +165 Fabricio Guerreiro -230 Dez Green +170 Light Heavyweight Fight Vladimir Matyushenko -270 Houston Alexander +190 ——————– Brad’s Analysis: This card is going to be a learning process for a lot of MMA bettors, but if you’re ahead of the curve and already have some insight into these fighters there could be some money to be made. In the main event, Diego Nunes comes over from the UFC to take on Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire, and I’m hoping that Nunes curries some public favor from bettors due to being more well-known than Pitbull. I say that because I think Pitbull is the far superior fighter and truly a top 10 featherweight in the world. He should be able to come forward and land strikes on Nunes who can go into a shell at times. Pitbull can also get takedowns and dominate this fight on the ground. The other featherweight quarterfinals will answer questions for us:
- How will Justin Wilcox look dropping down to featherweight on short notice, after a long layoff, at 34 years old? My guess, unless he looks phenomenal on the scales, is that Akop Stepanyan will find his chin with his far superior striking and improving takedown defence.
- Will Fabricio Guerreiro rebound from his disappointing Bellator debut with an impressive performance against Dez Green? While Green has the wrestling advantage, Guerreiro can tap him on the floor, or if Green chooses to keep it standing he carries his chin far too high. Still, the young Brazilian has questionable cardio, so this fight could get interesting into the 2nd and 3rd rounds. A difficult fight to bet, but I lean that Guerreiro will bounce back in an easier fight than his debut against ‘Frodo’ Khasbulaev.
- Who belongs in this tournament, Joe Taimanglo or Andrew Fisher? Taimanglo has some Bellator experience under his belt, but Fisher has experience against better competition (albeit in losses). For me, this is one to just sit back and watch.
Finally, in a light heavyweight “feature” bout, Vladimir Matyushenko should take Houston Alexander to task as long as his chin holds up in the early moments of the fight. Matyushenko is the better wrestler, better overall grappler, and probably even the more polished striker. Plus his cardio should allow him to wear Alexander down.