Bellator 100 main card preview for ‘Lima vs Saunders 2’ in Phoenix

Bellator-100-poster-110x771Wow, Bellator 100. I can’t believe they’ve held 100 events already. I remember seeing Ben Askren’s Bellator debut at Bellator XIV in Chicago and wondering how far this promotion would go, now here we are, 86 events later and with the Season 9 welterweight tournament upon us. Hanging over this tournament is the specter of Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren, who is likely gone from Bellator, who have said he can test the free agent waters.  

In the main event we have the finals of the season 8 welterweight championship, which for all we know could be for the welterweight title if Askren vacates the belt, with Douglas Lima (24-5) fighting Ben Saunders (16-5-2). This is Lima’s second visit to the welterweight tournament finals, and the second time he’s faced Saunders. The first time these two met, Lima used his considerable power to keep Saunders at a distance, where Saunders couldn’t use his devastating Thai clinch. You can probably expect for Lima to try the same gameplan, as Saunders is absolutely deadly in the clinch, this can’t be understated. If it goes to the ground, both men are good, but Saunders is more active from the bottom, while Lima tries to nullify offense rather than create it. This should be a hell of a fight, as both men are apt to get into wars, and both have shown flashes of brilliance in Bellator, with Saunders arguably growing more as a fighter. We’ll see if he’s improved enough to get vengeance for his loss to Lima back at Bellator 57.

 

Now we move over to the Bellator season 9 welterweight tournament, where a very… interesting…. character takes center stage. War Machine, AKA Jon Koppenhaver (13-4), an Ultimate Fighter alum and multi-prison-sentence-serving, porn star-dating wild man will be making his second Bellator appearance. His first bout in the Bellator cage ended in a highlight knockout of Blas Avena at Bellator 96. Due to prison and general wildness, this will be his third fight in three years, with a key win against an over-the-hill Roger Huerta at the end of 2011. He faces Vaughn Anderson (16-1-1), a journeyman on an 11-fight winning streak, but he hasn’t faced top competition. It’s not that War Machine is top competition per se, but this will be Anderson’s toughest test and on top of that, Anderson hasn’t fought since May of 2012. Both of these guys are finishers, with Anderson finishing 14 of his 16 wins (6 KO, 8 sub) and War Machine only winning via stoppage with 8 knockouts and 5 subs. Mr. Machine holds the edge in grappling and power, but he gets in fist fights and loses his cool at times, so he can definitely get caught with a punch.

 

In his fifth Bellator tournament, Brent Weedman (21-8-1) looks to continue his success at welterweight. Weedman advanced to the finals as a lightweight in season 6 and advancing multiple times in other welterweight tournaments, most recently defeating Marius Zaromskis in the season eight quarterfinals but breaking his hand in the process. The experienced Weedman faces Justin Baesman (14-3) who has hovered around the MMA community before winning four straight this year on the independent circuit. Baesman is a solid martial artist, with decent stand up and good jiu-jitsu, but Weedman has turned a corner in recent years, showing a motivation and heart that most MMA fighters could only wish for. Weedman has good power in his punches and has an extremely intelligent head on his shoulders that is ready to bring the fight wherever he needs it to go to win. This is going to be tough for Baesman.

 

Some relatively unknown fighters round out the rest of the season 9 tournament, as Luis Melo Jr (29-11) faces Strikeforce vet Ron Keslar (9-3). Keslar is an American Kickboxing Academy pupil, has a strong wrestling game and is currently on a four fight winning streak. Melo Jr is a 32-year-old journeyman who wants to finally find a home in the big leagues, and Bellator may be it. He’s won six in a row, with a slick arm triangle finish over Trey Houston at Bellator 94 to get him into the tournament. Both of these guys are hungry, but Keslar has the better training and abilities, while Melo is just an extremely tough, but well-worn vet. Melo has finished 25 of his 29 wins, but he’s also fallen to two submissions and three knockouts.

 

In the final tournament quarterfinal fight, former judo Olympian Rick Hawn (15-2), steps in on a week’s notice after Matt Riddle was injured, to face Herman Terrado (11-2). Hawn is a beast, and yes, he was dominated by Michael Chandler earlier in the year, but it seems that Michael Chandler is destroying most everyone now, so that’s how it goes. Hawn has transferred from being a judo, ground game guy to a bit of a knockout artist, scoring knockouts in three of his last four wins, only decisioning Brent Weedman. Terrado has won seven fights in a row to be granted a spot in this tournament, but he has faced journeymen in his career. Granted, he’s looked good fighting lesser talent, scoring a good mix of knockouts and submissions, but even on a week’s notice, he’s never faced anyone like Rick Hawn.

Written by Jason Nawara

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