Bellator MMA officially announced its first card of season 10 yesterday, and it features a title fight as well as the quarterfinals of a brand-new, eight-man tournament. Well, actually let me clarify that. Bellator 111, which takes place March 7 in Oklahoma, is actually the second card of season 10, but for some reason (don’t ask me why) the promotion decided to announce the official card before they announced Bellator 110. Strange, but either way at least we have some Bellator fights to look forward to again. As far as Bellator 111 goes, the main event of the evening is a five-round title fight between Bellator bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas and Summer Series tournament winner Rafael Silva. Both of these fighters are amongst the top 135 pounders outside of the UFC, and this should be a fantastic fight. Still, you have to lean towards the champion Dantas retaining the title, and when the betting lines for the match open up I’m expecting him to be at least 2-to-1 and probably closer to 3-to-1. Aside from the title fight, there are four heavyweight quarterfinal bouts that will determine who gets the next 265-pound title shot in Bellator. These are the four matches:
- Lavar Johnson vs. Ryan Martinez
- Peter Graham vs. Mighty Mo
- Blagoi Ivanov vs. Richard Hale
- Alexander Volkov vs. Mark Holata
This tournament might produce some fun finishes, but when you compare these fighters to the heavyweights in the UFC, it’s pretty clear that there is a huge lack of depth in the 265-pound division outside of Zuffa. Still, some of these fights should be pretty good. With Johnson vs. Martinez, you essentially have a striker vs. a well-rounded heavyweight. Johnson, as well all know, has mammoth power, but Martinez does as well and he also has better wrestling than Johnson. If the fight stays standing, I’d give Johnson the edge, but if it goes to the mat you have to lean towards Martinez. The line should be fairly close when it comes out. In Graham vs. Mo, you have a striker vs. striker matchup and it should produce a highlight-reel KO as both men have tons of power. Graham did disappoint in season nine, while Mo surprised, but I think Graham matches up pretty well with Mo and I’d guess he’s favored here. Ivanov vs. Hale should be interesting as Ivanov is one of the top heavyweight prospects not currently in the UFC, while Hale really needs to get a win to keep his spot on the Bellator roster. All due respect to Hale, but it sure seems like Bellator is feeding him to Ivanov here, and I’d expect the Bulgarian to be the betting favorite. And finally, Volkov — the former champ — takes on Holata. Volkov did lose to Vitaly Minakov to drop the Bellator heavyweight title last season, but he’s still very young and improving and I definitely think he should be able to outstrike Holata and possibly knock him out. So look for Volkov to open as the favorite. If I was Bellator, I probably would have just did a four-man heavyweight tournament to cut down on the amount of filler, but since they decided to go with eight I can only hope that, as a fan, we get to see some bone-crushing KOs by the big boys — and I really think that’s exactly what’s going to happen.