Bellator Fighting Championships returns to the spotlight on MTV2 this Saturday with its Season Four Welterweight Tournament. Hosting the event is Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino, home of the well regarded Tachi Palace Fights. The tournament brackets are stacked with talent, new and old, and hold a prized shot at Bellator’s welterweight gold currently held by Ben Askren (7-0) for the overall winner at the season’s end. The card will also host a preliminary card that features highly regarded female striker and Bellator champion “The Warrior Princess” Zoila Frausto (8-1) against Karina Hallinan in a rematch of the fight that started both women’s careers as well as a trio of bouts that focus on some of the area’s top local talent. The fights on everyone’s minds, however, are the four first round tournament bouts that will see one former Bellator champion, one UFC veteran, two undefeated rising stars, and four veterans of the regional MMA scene battle it out for their chance at Bellator glory.
“Judo” Jim Wallhead (18-5) vs. Rick Hawn (9-0): Kicking off the Welterweight Tournament is a battle between two Judo black belts, with Jim Wallhead taking on Judo Olympian Rick Hawn. Each man brings a different style of Judo to the cage. Wallhead is more of a submission style Judo specialist while Hawn is an Olympic Judoka who uses his throws almost like slams to finish his opponents. With both men having Judo backgrounds this makes the fight that much more interesting since they will have to rely on their other tools of the trade in order to swing the fight in their favor. This tilts the scales slightly in the favor of the Olympian as Wallhead has an effective ground game while Hawn has good stand-up. Hawn has shown his stand-up skills in his past three fights, finishing his opponents with strikes and Wallhead, who has a bulk of his wins via submission, may find it best to get the fight to the mat as quickly as possible. But getting a fellow Judo black belt on the ground is easier said than done and every second they spend on the feet is another second where Hawn holds the better cards. Rick Hawn via TKO, Round 2.
“The Thoroughbred” Jay Hieron (16-4) vs. Anthony Lapsely (15-5): Returning Season 1 veteran Anthony Lapsely has his hands full when he faces UFC, Strikeforce, and International Fight League (IFL) veteran Jay Hieron. Hieron is a well rounded fighter that uses all of his skills to keep the fight in his favor. Lapsely has most of his wins via submissions, finishing opponents with everything from Triangle Chokes to Armbars to Rear Naked Chokes. Lapsely knows if he defeats the very popular Hieron he will have a chance to steal the spotlight of one of the early favorites of the season. Hieron is simply coming to fight and climb his way to the top of the of the welterweight division but will likely prove a tall order for Lapsely. No one has submitted Hieron in his entire career and while he does tend to cut easily, Lapsely’s not the kind of ground-and-pound artist who can really capitalize on that. Hieron may not be able to finish the tough as nails King of the Cage veteran, but he should be more than able to shut down his submission game and establish positional control. Jay Hieron via Unanimous Decision.
“The Handler” Dan Hornbuckle (18-3) vs. Brent Weedman (17-5): Dan Hornbuckle is back in the mix and is gunning for the top but first he has to get through Brent Weedman, who is riding a nine-fight win streak and is looking for revenge. Hornbuckle submitted Weedman in 2006, but both men have grown as men and as fighters since then and Weedman has no intentions of allowing “The Handler” a repeat victory. Hornbuckle is a heavy favorite with the fans and the Bellator brass, and his talents in the cage prove why both sides love him. Weedman has finished every opponent in his last nine fights and all but one within the first round. His experience matches up well with Hornbuckle, but there is a big gap in the level of talent each man has faced. There is a chance that Hornbuckle will look past the new and improved Brent Weedman and end up getting caught early, but if he doesn’t he should prove too much for Weedman again. Dan Hornbuckle via Guillotine Choke, Round 2.
“Cyborg” Lyman Good (10-1) vs. “The Assassin” Chris Lozano (6-0): MMA Gospel Young Gun and knockout artist Chris Lozano takes on former Bellator Welterweight Champion Lyman Good and looks to punch his way into the next match-up and his chance for Bellator gold. Lozano has finished all of his opponents by TKO or KO and his striking is world class and quite possibly the best in the tournament. Good is coming off a lopsided loss to current champion Ben Askren and is hungry for another chance at the champ but first he will have to get through the young lion in Lozano, who has finished four of his six opponents in the first round. Good is a powerful 170lb. fighter but so is Lozano and it is apparent from the results of each man’s victories that “The Assassin” has the edge in finishing power with two more KO/TKO’s in four less fights than the former champ. The bout should kick off Bellator’s fourth season with a fan rousing firefight with two stand-up warriors looking to put each other to sleep. Chris Lozano via TKO, Round 1.