Bellator put together a very solid fight card last week, and it mostly delivered with entertaining fights. This week, Bellator has come back with a fight card that has some top talent, but I can’t really call it a good fight card, since the fights aren’t nearly as competitive. But let’s take a look.
Bellator Welterweight Championship: Karl Amoussou (16-4-2) vs. Ben Askren (10-0)
There are some fighters whose fights are difficult to predict, because the fighters themselves are unpredictable. We’ve all seen wrestlers and ground fighters fall in love with their striking, and we’ve also seen strikers decide to go all-out on takedown attempts. For prognosticators such as myself, Ben Askren makes things very, very easy. Askren is a wrestler, but unlike so many wrestlers who have competed in MMA, Askren has no delusions of being a high-level striker. Instead, Askren sticks to what he does best, and goes for takedowns on a very consistent basis.
Askren has taken a fairly limited skill set and maximized its effectiveness. We know that Askren isn’t much of a striker; if his opponents were able to shut down his takedowns, he wouldn’t stand much of a chance. Askren also hasn’t developed a great submission game; if he had, he would have a lot more submission wins than he does, because his takedowns and guard passing would enable him to attack with submissions. Some fighters are a jack of all trades, but Askren is the master of one. He knows how to take his opponents down, control them, and win a decision, and nobody has stopped him yet.
It’s hard to see Karl Amoussou being the first. To be sure, Amoussou is an aggressive and dangerous fighter. His stoppage wins are primarily by submission, as he displayed in his last fight against Bryan Baker, defeating Baker by diving on his leg and torquing a heel hook. I highly doubt Amoussou will force Askren to tap out with a move like that, or a submission of any kind for that matter. One reason is that, if Amoussou and Askren are on the ground, it will almost certainly be with Askren in top position. It’s naturally more difficult to submit an opponent from the bottom position.
Amoussou’s best chance is to catch Askren with a standing strike. Amoussou has very good knees and kicks, and does have a KO win by flying knee. If Askren shoots in too aggressively, it’s possible Amoussou could knock him unconscious with a well-placed knee. Amoussou’s chances to do something like that figure to be very brief. If Amoussou couldn’t stop a guy like Kazuhiro Nakamura from taking him down and controlling him, he’s unlikely to shut down Ben Askren. Askren by decision.
Light-Heavyweight Tournament Quarterfinal: Muhammed Lawal (8-1) vs. Przemyslaw Mysiala (16-7)
While the first three light-heavyweight tournament quarterfinal fights took place last week, the fourth will serve as the co-main event of Bellator 86, as “King Mo” Lawal will be taking on the man Bellator has chosen to lose to him, Przemyslaw Mysiala (don’t ask me to pronounce it). Obviously, this is MMA, and nobody should ever be completely counted out, but this is very reminiscent of the two heavyweight fights that took place in Strikeforce earlier this month. It’s just a badly lopsided match. On one side is King Mo, one of the best light-heavyweight prospects in recent memory, and a fighter who has already defeated a series of high-level opponents in MMA. On the other side is Mysiala, whose success in MMA has been primarily limited to quick stoppage wins over obscure opponents and cans.
Mysiala has also lost to fighters like Valentino Petrescu, Tom Blackledge, and Neil Wain, all of whom proved to be not close to UFC level fighters. This is like the champion of your high school’s chess club taking on Magnus Carlsen – it’s not even a contest. Lawal by TKO.
Welterweight Quarterfinal: Brent Weedman (20-8-1) vs. Marius Zaromskis (19-7)
Weedman is a fairly average Bellator tournament fighter. His wins have been against guys like J.J. Ambrose and Thiago Michel, while he fell short against the likes of Rick Hawn and Jay Hieron. Weedman has fairly good striking and submissions, but is a fighter with a limited ceiling. His opponent is Marius Zaromskis, a striker famous for winning the DREAM welterweight grand prix with a series of head kick knockouts. Zaromskis is the kind of fighter who either wins or loses by knockout; 13 of his 19 wins are by KO/TKO, as are five of his seven losses.
Bad news for Zaromskis – Weedman has only lost by TKO once, and that was due to a cut. Meanwhile, Zaromskis has been stopped by strikes a number of times, and had to struggle to beat the now 9-11-1 Waachiim Spiritwolf. I have to take Weedman to win by TKO in this one.
Welterweight Quarterfinal: Douglas Lima (22-5) vs. Michail Tsarev (24-3)
I don’t know what it is about Russian MMA fighters, but a lot of them seem to have heavily padded records, similar to a lot of boxers. Michail Tsarev is the latest, as his 24-3 record was largely built with a steady diet of fighters with a record of something like 0-0, 0-1, or 2-1. To go back to the chess analogy – how are you going to get better if all you do is beat opponents way below your level? Douglas Lima is a proven quality welterweight, and should prove to be too much for Tsarev here. Lima by TKO.
Welterweight Quarterfinal: Koffi Adzitso (18-9) vs. Ben Saunders (14-5-2)
Ben Saunders is back for his third attempt to win a Bellator welterweight tournament, and this might be his best chance to win it yet, although he’ll probably run into Douglas Lima again. In this fight, his opponent is Koffi “The Lion King” Adzitso. Adzitso does have a few name wins on his record, most notably against Kevin Burns, but also a few too many losses against the Kyacey Uscolas of the world. Saunders is nothing if not aggressive, and is likely to overwhelm Adzitso with a steady stream of punches and knees. Saunders by TKO.
Welterweight Quarterfinal: Raul Amaya (10-1) vs. Jose Gomes (32-8-1)
Gomes is an experienced fighter who has lost to notable fighters such as Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Erick Silva, and Daniel Acacio, and has yet to win a fight against anybody I’ve ever heard of (and trust me, that’s saying something). Meanwhile, Amaya was overwhelmed by Saunders in Bellator’s last welterweight tournament, and his biggest career win is against… Kenny Moss, I guess. So this looks like a good matchup! My very uneducated prediction will be Gomes by decision in a mild upset.