Bellator 97 preview and Notes
Bellator will end its two part summer series in Albuquerque with one pair of title fights and tournament finals for Bellator 97. The tournament finals will be in the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions and as for the title fights, Ben Askren and Micheal Chandler are both putting their titles on the line.
Before all the important fights take place, Bellator 97 will feature former tournament winner Patricio ‘Pitbull’ taking on Jared Downing. While sporting a good record at 9-2, I don’t know if Downing stands much of a chance in this one. This fight was booked to keep ‘Pitbull’ fresh and ready to go for another run at the featherweight title. Aside from ‘Pitbull’ not showing up or doing something foolish, this is his fight to lose.
In the light heavyweight tournament final, former Strikeforce champ Muhammed ‘King Mo’ Lawal battles Jacob Noe. After both losing in last season’s tournament, both rebounded nicely with impressive wins in the semi-final round. Noe is a tough guy but I’m not sure he is at the same level as ‘King Mo’. For Noe to be successful, he has to get in Lawal’s face and make it brawl. Otherwise ‘King Mo’ can end it with one punch, especially if one sits back and let him set-up his shots. The x-factor will be ‘King Mo’s’ wrestling game, which if he chooses to it, may provide his best chance at victory since Noe has shown he is not great off his back.
The heavyweight final matches up Russian import Vitaly Minakov against Ryan Martinez. Not only did Ryan Martinez win his last fight, he did so on less than a weeks notice. Martinez wasn’t even supposed to be in this tournament but now finds himself in the finals after defying the odds and lack of training time to knockout Richard Hale in the first round. Speaking of first round finishes, Minakov did exactly that in his semi-final fight versus Ron Sparks. It was an awesome finish but since it was so quick it is real hard to know how good Minakov really is. On paper he seems like he is better than Martinez in just about every area. Barring another upset, Bellator will have back to back Russian heavyweight tournament winners.
Also from Russia, Andrey Koreshkov will challenge Ben Askren for the Bellator welterweight title. Like every fight with Askren, can his opponent stop the take down? If the answer is no, than Askren will walk away with his title still in hand. If somehow Koreshkov can keep it standing for anything length of time, he will have the advantage and must do his best to inflict maximum damage in time spent on the feet. If not, then he will get beaten up for 25 minutes with Askren on top of him.
The main event of evening pits Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler against the ‘Caveman’ David Rickels. This fight looks to be pretty even with both having good size and strength at 155, along with both having solid stand-up and a good chin. The only real difference between the two is the wrestling ability of Chandler, which may be the champ’s best option to use to win. Despite his size in the weight class, Rickels has not shown amazing take down defense and that area could be exploited. If it stays standing, I think it is anyone’s fight.
Bellator 97 will be shown live on Spike TV starting at 7pm EST/4pm PST with the under-card starting at 6pm EST/3pm PST on Spike.com. The under-card will feature two tournament fights in the bantamweight division as Rodrigo Lima, Rafael Silva, Frank Baca & Anthony Leone vie for a shot at the bantamweight title. For its finale of the 2013 summer series, Bellator has a loaded card that will serve as a great prelude to the fall and season nine of Bellator MMA.