Bellator makes their much anticipated return to the airwaves next month after not having put on a show since November.
On March 9 the organization will kick off their sixth season which features five eight-man tournaments, first up is the 145-pounders all wanting to get their grubby little mitts on reigning champ Joe Warren, if he can get past his slate of challengers.
Warren, a former American Greco-Roman champion has a bucket-list longer than almost anyone in the sport – Despite being a champion at 145-pounds he was also entered in the bantamweight tournament as well as looking to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games.
Alexis Vila wasn’t ready to be a stepping stone for the confident Warren who eliminated him in the first-round of the tournament with a highlight-reel knockout in a little over a minute.
While Warren was seeking praise and success elsewhere Pat Curran and Patricio “Pitbull” Friere have earned shots at the title by winning tournaments with Curran getting his shot first on March 9 while the Brazilian bomber waits in the wings.
Even though Warren already has his plate full with challengers Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney has announced a featherweight tournament with the following participants.
Sandro is not as well-known as his Nova Uniao team-mate and pound-for-pound star Jose Aldo but he brings a similar style and demonstrates extreme flashes of violence that has earned him a cult-following.
Sandro began fighting in his home land of Brazil as a mean to earn a little extra cash to support his family, after collecting a 12-0 record he was scooped up by Japanese promotion Sengoku where he quickly became a featured attraction.
His acts of brutality against Nick Denis, Tomonari Kanomata and Masanori Kanehara become great YouTube fodder for fight fans and called for his debut in the United States.
Sandro was a semi-finalist in the Bellator Summer-Series featherweight tournament falling short to Pat Curran after getting too wild with his strikes and leaving his face open to get smashed by a head kick.
The Brazilian returned to the winner’s circle last November making quick-work of Rafael Dias with an arm-triangle, Sandro brings a well-rounded and experienced game to the Bellator cage and would have to be considered a favorite heading into it.
Standing on the opposite side of the cage from Sandro when the cage door closes will be California-based mixed martial artist Roberto Vargas, a veteran of the first season of Bellator.
Vargas made his Bellator debut in 2009 defeating Daniel Pineda who now resides in the UFC’s 145-pound ranks before losing to promotional mainstay Wilson Reis in a season-two featherweight tournament qualifier which is the only blemish on his record to date.
Since leaving Bellator he has won six-straight fights, most recently edging highly-touted prospect Jared Downing in a closely contested Split-Decision handing the 23-year old his first professional defeat.
“Beto” as he is referred to is a large featherweight who despite only being in the sport since 2008 has a lot of experience under his belt with 13 fights and has fought up to 5 times in a calendar year which definitely works in his favor under this tournament format.
Vargas is considered a dark horse in the tournament, especially after drawing Sandro in the first-round but he has a diverse range of skills, trains alongside quality fighters in Georgi Karakanyan & Darrel Montague at Millenia MMA and can go 15 hard minutes without tiring.
Once upon a time Wagnney Fabiano was considered to be the future of the lighter weight-classes, being a third-degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu he first got seen in Canadian promotion UCC which would eventually transform into TKO, the same promotion that gave us George St-Pierre, Patrick Cote & Sam Stout.
By the time he made it to the WEC, the sister-promotion to the UFC in 2008 he had a 10-1 record and was a former IFL featherweight champion and was seemingly on a fast-track toward WEC featherweight kingpin Mike Thomas Brown but an unknown WEC debutant with a 4-0 record named Mackens Semerzier gave the submission magician a taste of his own medicine, submitting him with an arm-triangle.
He would compete three more times in WEC winning two-bouts at 135-pounds with his last fight being in November of 2010.
Now making his Bellator debut he won’t have been in a fighting circle for 16 months which will be a huge factor, although he will never be confused for a world-class kick boxer Fabiano is a competent striker with a lot of experience and world-class grappling abilities so don’t sleep on him.
Ronnie Mann is believed to be one of Britain’s finest exports, at 25-years-of-age he already has 26 fights under his belt showing off his submission chops with over half of his wins coming by way of submission.
Mann has been training in combat sports since he was eleven years old focusing on kick boxing and jiu-jitsu competing in tournaments for most of his teen years before turning into a professional.
Mann competed between England, Holland and Wales to begin his career when making a name for himself going 15-2-1 before getting mainstream focus as a part of the Sengoku roster – Under the World Victory Road banner he went 2-1 only losing to consensus number-two ranked featherweight Hatsu Hioki.
Since making his debut in North America he has gone 4-1 winning the Shark Fights featherweight championship and making it to the semi-finals of the Bellator Summer Series tournament.
The British grappler is someone who could be a real player at 145-pounds in the near future, he is young, can throw his hands around and if you make a mistake he could leave the cage with your limb on his mantle.
Bezerra is a prospect that Bellator have been grooming for the past year, the native of Sao Paulo, Brazil came from the infamous favelas in Brazil and began fighting in 2008 in his home land – Before he was scooped up by Bellator he went 8-1.
Since joining Bellator he has competed at catch-weights between 145 and 155-pounds collecting four-straight stoppages with three of those coming in the opening frame.
The lone blemish on the record of the Brazilian came in September 2009 when he was submitted with an anaconda-choke to Charles Oliveira who is considered to be one of the UFC’s hottest prospects at the moment.
Bezerra comes into the tournament with a lot of question marks around his name, he hasn’t faced the competition level that he will come across in this tournament consistently but when facing lower-level fighter he has embarrassed them going to decision once finishing 11 opponents with 9 coming in the opening stanza.
Bezerra has a world of potential but this tournament will determine whether he can tangle with the big boys right away.
Genair da Silva:
Genair da Silva has a drive and passion to succeed like no other, coming from one of the poorer parts of Brazil the Muay-Thai stylist began fighting in his home-land going 10-3 showing off his heavy-hands putting away eight of his opponents to put food on his table.
The Brazilian faced his fellow countrymen Marlon Sandro in his Bellator debut in the semi-finals of the Summer Series featherweight tournament. Despite coming in as a complete underdog due to Sandro’s reputation and impressive resume he was very competitive.
Sandro edged da Silva in a Split Decision with him having troubles with the high-volume of strikes being put out by the underdog.
Da Silva has won four of his last five bouts including a first-round submission of Bryan Goldsby to earn a place in this eight-man field – He brings power punching and a background in Brazilian jiu-jitsu that could trouble many in this tournament.
Daniel Strauss has witnessed a lot in his short time, from a rough childhood he focused his time on wrestling as a teenager for Ohio, being ranked third in the Country but when he couldn’t keep up with the academic side of his schooling things took a turn for the worse, so bad that he served time in jail.
Straus turned his life around with the jump over to mixed martial arts in 2009 with minimal experience in the rest of the game under his belt and took a unique road to the top, taking as many fights as possible one after the other.
The southpaw took 11 fights in the first ten-months as a pro and by the time he was picked up by Bellator in September of 2010 he already had 17 fights under his belt having fought some tough customers in Pat Curran and Karen Darabedyan.
Strauss made it to the finals of the season 4 featherweight tournament losing in the finals to Patricio Freire after putting away Kenny Foster and Nazareno Malegarie.
Despite a rocky beginning he has morphed into a well-rounded and skilled mixed martial artist over the past few years with high-level wrestling and a developing game and gets better every time he enters the cage.
The final slot in the tournament goes to unbeaten prospect Jeremy Spoon – Jeremy is a state wrestling champion for Oklahoma who turned professional in 2008.
It’s hard to discuss Jeremy without discussing his brother Jerod Spoon who is also a mixed martial artist competing at 135-pounds who has also competed under the Bellator umbrella losing a decision to season 4 bantamweight tournament semi-finalist Luis Alberto Nogueira.
Spoon first got noticed holding the Bricktown Brawl featherweight title which got him a foot in the door with Bellator where he has competed on two separate occasions defeating Jerrod Sanders and Adam Schindler to earn his shot in this eight-man field.
Spoon comes into the Bellator cage with a lot of confidence and support behind him to go all the way but his experience level could hurt him.
These eight participants will battle it out over three events to earn $100,000 as well as a chance to challenge for the Bellator featherweight championship somewhere down the line.