Bellator season is in full-swing, people, and Bellator 111 is coming at us full throttle with a title defense and the opening round of this year’s heavyweight tournament. Defending his Bellator bantamweight title for the second time is Eduardo Dantas (15-3) a Nova Uniao product who trains next to Jose Aldo and Renan Barao, but still has a negative aura surrounding him after being knocked out by ultra-hyped WSOF bantamweight Tyson Nam. Dantas is facing Anthony Leone (13-6) who is taking this fight on short notice after Rafael Silva pulled out with an injury. This is pretty much a grappler vs. striker fight, and Dantas has a speed and power advantage in general. The odds are stacked against Leone, who hasn’t had much time to prepare for Dantas, who is a world-class opponent, and it simply doesn’t seem like he’ll be able to hold Dantas down for 25 minutes. So it goes when your title challenger is coming off a loss. The heavyweight tournament is headlined by former UFC and Strikeforce vet Lavar Johnson (17-8) meeting Elite XC and Bellator heavyweight tournament semifinalist Ryan Martinez (10-3). You know what you’re getting with Johnson – a big, strong brawler who just wants to hurt you with his fists. Although he may not look like it from a look at his book’s cover, Ryan Martinez is developing into a solid martial artist with a surprising amount of heart. He was set up to fall against the bigger and stronger Richard Hale and Travis Wiuff in his first two Bellator appearances, and he found a way to knock out both. When he’s put on his back, he has troubles, and considering Lavar Johnson is on a three-fight losing streak with a knockout loss to Vinicius Queiroz in 23 seconds being his intro to Bellator, Johnson might look to play it safe. If he doesn’t, which is very likely, this should be a pretty wild fight for the first 3 minutes or so, before both men get tired and start swinging for the fences. It should be noted that Johnson’s jaw has looked weak in recent outings. Next up in the heavyweight tournament is K-1’s Peter Graham (9-6) taking on another kickboxer from yesteryear, Mighty Mo (5-2). Graham is coming off a decision loss to Cheick Kongo in last season’s heavyweight tournament, and Mighty Mo is surprisingly on a two-fight winning streak – a knockout of Dan Charles and a keylock win over Ron Sparks that shocked the world, or everyone in the know. A few thousand people maybe. If this stays on the feat, it’s relatively evenly matched, and we may see a fun little kickboxing match here. I personally can see Mo trying to take Graham down to get the win and advance in the tournament however. Mo has lost 9 out of his last ten kickboxing matches after all, and these are 4 oz gloves. This fight has potential to be a wild, slugfest, still. The next heavyweight battle is former Bellator heavyweight champion Alexander Volkov (19-4) taking on Mark Holata, who is 3-2 in Bellator, losing to Vinicius Quieroz in last season’s heavyweight quarterfinal, but still showing good skills and heavy hands (he knocked out the UFC’s Shawn Jordan in 2010). This year’s Bellator heavyweight tournament has a common theme – heavy hands. Volkov has 14 knockouts, and while Holata only has 4, both of these men are more apt to finish their opponent than anything. Volkov is far more skilled than Holata in every facet of fighting, but this is the heavyweight division and anything can happen. It’s worrying that Holata has lost 3 times via knockout considering who he’s facing, so we could see this become a wall-n-stall festival, or Holata may try to work the takedown, but Volkov is stronger and better than him in the clinch and on the ground. The opening quarterfinal matchup in the heavyweight tournament features Bulgarian sensation Blagoi Ivanov (9-0) who is 4-0 in Bellator and holds wins over Ricco Rodriguez, Zak Jensen, and Kazuyuki Fujita. He’s finished all but one of his fights, and will be facing a fighter who has his back against the wall in RIch Hale (21-6-1). Hale has lost his last two fights in a row, first to Volkov for the title and next to Ryan Martinez in the Summer Series heavyweight tournament. This should be a good fight, like this entire opening round of heavyweight fights. Hale is a small heavyweight in my opinion, and has made 205 before. Ivanov is a sambo monster who is coming back from being stabbed in 2012 and hasn’t missed a beat, finishing his last two fights in a combined 5 minutes and change. Hale knows if he loses this fight he may be looking at the door, so expect this to be a scrap.