Bellator 89 Middleweight Tournament Preview

Brian-Rogers The Bellator season eight middleweight tournament kicks off with all four opening round fights going down Thursday, February 14th in Charlotte, North Carolina. The middleweight tournament is always a guaranteed highlight reel for Bellator by the end of the season, but never has a top-to-bottom tournament been this deadly for the organization. Between these eight fighters, they have 85 wins with 49 T(KO) victories. Yes, expect fireworks. The typical international scouting we’ve come to expect from Bellator is on full display in the season eight middleweight tournament, and the first fight in the bracket is a perfect example. Undefeated 22-year-old Mikkel Parlo (9-0) is a native of Denmark and has seven TKO victories, one submission win and one decision. The tape on him is rare outside his Bellator 78 scrap with Jared Combs in which he knocked out the veteran in the first round with controlled, patient striking. He isn’t the biggest middleweight, but he’s fairly fast and seems to have decent cage-awareness for being so young. His opponent is undefeated Russian Sultan Aliev (8-0), newcomer to Bellator and owner of six TKO victories. Like most Russian exports, Sultan has a good clinch game, heavy hands and decent takedowns. He relied on his ground game to start his career, but has since opened up his striking to great success with his opponents guessing whether he will be trying to take them down or knock them out. The answer, by the end of a Sultan fight, is usually both. This should be a close fight and the opening odds reflect that. We have Sultan Aliev the slight dog +115 (bet $100 to win $115) to the favorite Mikkel Parlo at -155 (bet $155 to win $100). Next up is Bellator veteran Brett Cooper (17-7) meeting Frenchman Norman Paraisy (10-2). Cooper is always ready for a scrap, sometimes to his detriment. He’s the type of guy that used to get punched in the face a few times then forget the gameplan and go for the kill… or be killed. Recently, his training with Kings MMA has been reflected in his new, more methodical fighting style. He will go for the takedown if he sees it, and he’s now more willing to drag someone into deep waters where he has confidence in his gas tank. His wrestling and ground game have come a long way, no doubt a product of working with Mark Munoz, and his striking has also become less wild, no doubt due to his tutelage under Master Rafael Cordeiro. He’s currently on a four-fight winning streak, with his last loss coming to Bellator middleweight champ Alexander Shlemenko in May of 2011. Paraisy lost his first fight in years to middleweight finalist Maiquel Falcao at Bellator 61, being overwhelmed by the more experienced middleweight. Paraisy displays solid striking, and a solid ground game too. He can win off his back and has a decent arm-triangle submission, however his level of competition isn’t up to par. A revitalized Cooper should win this fairly easily, and we have him at -265 to Paraisy +185. The next battle in the Bellator middleweight tournament opening round is a pretty interesting one between The Ultimate Fighter 7 veteran and someone who saw their first win come inside the UFC Octagon (not many can claim that), Dan Cramer (9-3), who makes his eighth Bellator appearance versus Bellator highlight reel machine and two-time middleweight tournament semifinalist Brian Rogers (10-4). Cramer relies on takedowns and ground ‘n’ pound, but he has developed his game well in the few years since his MMA debut. He has a smothering style, but still falls short in finishing most of his opponents. Rogers is, in a word, explosive. He has knockout power from his legs, fists, elbows, knees and any other appendage that could be used to knock another man out. This is the definition of a grappler vs. striker fight, but we think the powerful Rogers should be able to handle Cramer easily. Dan Cramer +220 to Brian Rogers -300. The final match in the middleweight tournament opening round is between season six finalist Andreas Spang (8-2) (he of the famous post-fight brawl with Falcao) and Doug Marshall (15-6). Marshall was last seen at Bellator 82, where he defeated Kala Hose in twenty-two seconds via knockout. Spang last stepped into the Bellator cage at Bellator 69, where he lost to Maiquel Falcao in the middleweight tournament finals. Both men hold massive power in their hands, but Spang, the 34-year-old Swede, has the most well-rounded game. Marshall is a big middleweight — in fact he was the former WEC light heavyweight champion — but he has a suspect chin to go along with his devastating fists. Marshall has ten knockout victories and five knockout losses in his career, something that will no doubt be in the back of his mind against Spang, who can come at his opponent from all angles. On the ground, Spang has the slight edge, but still, this fight looks to be in Spang’s favor. We have Doug Marshall +200 and Andreas Spang -280.

Written by Jason Nawara

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