MMA Odds and Ends for Tuesday: Saunders’ Return Set, New Opponent For Lawal

Ben SaundersA couple days ago it was announced that Titan FC had allowed Ben Saunders to re-sign with the UFC after struggling to find a replacement opponent for him on their Titan FC 29 card. That event was scheduled for August 29th, and it was assumed the UFC would be looking to get him a bout quickly, which is exactly what has happened. It was announced on Monday that Saunders will be facing UFC newcomer Chris Heatherly at Fight Night 49 on August 23rd in Oklahoma City. Heatherly is an RFA veteran whose only career loss has come to Alex Garcia. After a no contest (due to strikes to the spine) in his RFA debut, Heatherly put on the fight of the night against Josh Cavan just under three weeks ago at RFA 16. Saunders is obviously the more well-known commodity and will open as the favorite based on his far superior striking game and ability to neutralize Heatherly’s biggest weapon, his grappling. In Saunders’ old stomping grounds, it looks like ‘King’ Mo Lawal will now be taking on Marcus Sursa at Bellator 123. Lawal’s original opponent, Tom DeBlass, suffered a knee injury which opened the door for Sursa to step in. With a nearly ten-year MMA career under his belt, Sura has competed against the likes of Alan Belcher, Stefan Struve, and Trevor Prangley, but has never found much success against opponents capable of a competing at a high level. After coming into Bellator with a ton of hype and being expected to emerge as a start for the organization, Lawal has seen mixed results. His 4-3 record doesn’t jump off the page, and he’s been defeated twice by reigning light heavyweight champion Emanuel Newton, squashing any desire for a third bout. Despite dropping two of his past three, this still looks like a fairly easy matchup for Lawal however, and mismatches like these are quickly becoming symptomatic of the Scott Coker Bellator regime as they were in Strikeforce under his watch. Lawal will be a big favorite again, and may even end up larger than a -1000 favorite for the fourth time in his eight fight Bellator career. In other Bellator news, after repeatedly being unable to secure a visa to fight in the US, season eight’s featherweight champion Frodo Khasbulaev has asked for his release from the promotion. Khasbulaev is on a nine-fight winning streak since being submitted by this past season’s champion Daniel Weichel, but hasn’t competed since April 2013 due in large part to his visa issues. According to Khasbulaev’s manager, in order for the contract to expire on its own, he would have to sit out one more year which would be a huge blow to the 27-year-old. It seems like should he be released, ONE FC would be a likely option to continue his career. One additional UFC fight was announced in the past 24 hours, as Nordine Taleb and Jingliang Li will face each other at UFC Fight Night 54 in Halifax this October. Both men share identical 9-2 MMA records and both were successful in their UFC debuts, but Taleb has the better track record, has faced better competition, and will likely open as a favorite in this bout.

Written by Brad Taschuk

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