Another exciting night of action took place last Friday night, headlined by the highly anticipated rematch between former Bellator Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez and Japanese submission sensation Shinya Aoki. It took a mere 2:14 for Alvarez to counter a hilariously poor standing elbow with an uppercut and finish off the “Tobikan Judan.”
What’s next for Alvarez is a serious question in the Bellator ranks right now as he has publicly stated he’s not willing to enter another tournament to receive a rematch with current champion Michael Chandler, and his contract is set to expire very soon. Whether or not he follows Hector Lombard’s lead and heads for the greener pastures of the UFC remains to be seen.
Andreas Spang pulled off a stunning comeback after getting picked apart by the wild Brian Rogers for two and a half rounds. Spang spent much of the first round on wobbly legs and struggled to show anything at all. One punch however and the lights went out in Mr. Rogers Neighbourhood. Maiquel Falcao continues to squeak by and again was able to do so in a sloppy affair with Russian Vyacheslav Vasilevsky.
“Cupcake” Lloyd Woodard had a lot of momentum heading into his semi-final match against Rick Hawn after knocking off big favourite “Pitbull” Friere in the quarter-finals. Hawn of course doesn’t care about Woodard’s momentum and proceeded to knock him out in hilarious fashion early in the second.
In the opening bout of the night, Brent Weedman squeezed by Thiago Michel and will face Hawn in the finals later this year. This Friday night, Bellator 67 takes place from Casino Rama in Rama, Ontario and to be perfectly blunt, this card is the worst of the season.
Both the welterweight bout between Ryan Ford and Luis Santos and heavyweight bout between Damian Grabowski and Dave Huckaba are bouts that unofficially are qualifiers for next year’s tournaments. As well, the Michael Chandler versus Akihiro Gono main event is a laughable attempt at legitimizing the new lightweight champion.
With all that said, let’s take a look at the card.
Welterweight: Ryan Ford (17-4-0) vs. Luis Santos (50-7-1)
Ryan Ford has been working diligently for many years to legitimize himself on the MMA scene in Canada. Lengthy runs in MFC and TFC helped Ryan Ford become one of the hottest welterweight prospects in the country. A recent loss to David Hulett in September of 2011 derailed the hot streak, but he got right back on a trick with a vicious TKO of Ricky Goodall in February.
If the fight was based solely on experience, Luis Santos would have this one in the bag. Nearly 60 fights, and over 12 years into his career, Santos is still relevant and trying to stir things up in Bellator’s welterweight division. Santos went five years and 18 fights before his first loss in MMA and has put together similar runs to that throughout his long career. He’s 2-1 in Bellator with a win over former champion Dan Hornbuckle.
Despite his advanced age, I think Santos could fare well against the well rounded Ford. His striking should be on another level and although he’s proven susceptible to submissions in the past, I don’t think Ford will be able to submit him.
Heavyweight: Damiam Grabowski (15-1-0) vs. Dave Huckaba (17-4-0)
To be quite honest, anything other than a first round destruction by Grabowski would be considered a disappointment.
In August of 2011, Huckaba proved unable to finish Ruben Villareal. For anyone familiar with Villareal, you’ll know his skills are…questionable. Yes, this is the same “Warpath” that was knocked out by Don Frye in December of 2011, and yes this is the same guy that lost to Bas Rutten in 2006 in three minutes via leg kicks.
Huckaba’s 17-4 record may not sound awful, but many of those fighters have under five fights and are not legitimate fighters by any means. Damiam Grabowski by hulk smash.
Welterweight tournament semi-final: Ben Saunders (13-4-2) vs. Bryan Baker (17-3-0)
And now we proceed to the business end of things. The welterweight tournament semi-final features two American fighters who are looking to earn themselves a shot at the most exciting fighter in MMA history, Ben Askren (cough..cough).
Ben Saunders will be considered the favourite by many based solely on his experience in the UFC. Ben Saunders fought seven times under the UFC banner and had a record of 4-3, with only one of those losses by stoppage.
Throughout that time, Saunders showed an amazing ability to use his striking skills and reach to his advantage, but had serious trouble dealing with wrestlers. Saunders is 5-1 since his UFC stint, but we have not seen him against any wrestling based fighters in that time.
Thankfully for him, I cannot see Baker going that route. The former tournament finalist will be looking for the knockout here, which should play right into Saunders game. “Killa Bee” is good enough on the ground to avoid submissions and a better striker with more reach on the feet.
I expect Saunders to move onto his second tournament final here by first round knockout.
Lightweight: Michael Chandler (9-0) vs. Akihiro Gono (31-17-7)
I’m still a little dumbfounded as to what Bellator was thinking in booking this fight. To anyone with a clue, this is a young fighter with amazing talent and an unbelievable future taking on an over the hill irrelevant Akihiro Gono.
The Japanese legend has fought once since 2010 and it was a unanimous decision loss to Daisuke Nakamura. The former kickboxing champion was unquestionably once a great fighter. Wins over Gegard Mousasi and Hector Lombard solidify his place in MMA history, but he simply cannot pull the trigger anymore.
Chandler is a better boxer who will outstike Gono, and if that doesn’t work he’ll simply put him on the mat. He has more options to win and is much hungrier. It will be a credit to Gono if he doesn’t get finished in this bout. He’s shown a lot of toughness in the past, and I expect we’ll see a quality “whooping” in this one.
This is the young lion versus the old guard. If you want to compare it boxing, this is Canelo Alvarez against Shane Mosley. This is likely the last you’ll see of Akihiro Gono.