The welterweight division of Bellator is not one of its most talent-rich divisions but it is one of the most exciting, and with the new crop of tournament competitors, depth won’t be an issue for long. Bellator Fighting Championships starts off Season 5 tomorrow night with the 170lbs. tournament in Atlantic City, New Jersey with a stacked bracket of eight men who look to earn their shot at Bellator gold. Former MFC Welterweight Champion “The Phenom” Douglas Lima (16-4) is coming off a quick first-round knockout victory over “Dangerous” Terry Martin (21-9) at MFC 29 and will take on Bellator veteran Steven Carl (14-2) who has a submission game that has earned more than half of his victories. A very familiar face, “The Handler” Dan Hornbuckle (18-4), will look to get back to the form that saw him steamroll the Season 2 field until he came up short to the stagnant wrestling of Ben Askren (8-0) when he battles with the well versed Brazilian fighter “Sapo” Luis Santos (47-6). Santos may not be known by mainstream MMA fans but when he steps into the cage and starts to throw hands they will see why those who do know him, fear him. UFC veteran and Muay Thai wrecking machine “Killa B” Ben Saunders (10-3) earned his way into the tournament with a one-sided beatdown over journeyman Matt Lee (12-9), but can he blast through X-1 MMA veteran Chris Cisneros (11-4)? Cisneros is riding a strong five-fight win streak with four finishes, and a win over Saunders will certainly improve his stock in the Bellator welterweight division. The main event features MMA Gospel’s first Young Gun “The Cleveland Assassin” Chris Lozano (8-1) and the owner of one of the previous season’s biggest upset victories, Brent Weedman (18-6). Weedman upset Hornbuckle but came up short against tournament winner “The Thoroughbred” Jay Hieron (19-4), but with another shot at glory only one win away, Weedman is coming in ready for a battle against Lozano. “The Cleveland Assassin” looks to erase the memory of his fight against former champ “Cyborg” Lyman Good (11-2) and what better way than a knockout win over Weedman?
Steve Carl vs. Douglas Lima: The opening fight of the night’s featured bouts is a Bellator veteran against a former young champion making his promotional debut. Steve Carl, a submission expert who has tasted defeat only twice, will prove his worth against the former MFC 17olbs. champion Douglas Lima. “The Phenom” is coming to Bellator with a lot of hype as the next big thing and with a main card appearance on the Bellator stage, is being given an opportunity to shine on national TV. Lima is a Jiu-Jitsu wizard but his striking recently has become more of a threat than ever. Carl on the other hand prefers the ground game over anything and will likely seek to try Lima’s guard out rather than stand and trade. The key factor in this match will be Lima’s grappling and how it will allow him to utilize his superior striking. He isn’t worried about the ground game due to his success on the mat however Carl will have to move wisely when and if the fight does go to the ground. One mistake can wind up being a repeat of his loss to Dan Hornbuckle. The Brazilian Lima is a clear favorite to not only win this fight but to finish it within the first round. Lima via Submission (Guillotine Choke), Round 1
Luis Santos vs. Dan Hornbuckle: A veteran of over fifty fights at the age of 32, Brazilian powerhouse Luis Santos will look to upset the fan favorite Dan Hornbuckle. “The Handler” is looking for a win over a well respected fighter that could boost his spirits and his career. With a 3-2 record in Bellator and the good graces to enter the tournament on a loss, he knows he has to perform at his best. Santos is on a seven-fight win streak with only one decision in that stretch, and serves as a very dangerous opponent for Hornbuckle but just the right one to bring out “The Handler” of old. Hornbuckle stated that he is reverting to his go-for-broke style that got him this far and against Santos he will need to keep his chin tucked as he does so. Santos has extremely heavy hands and will use them without caution. Hornbuckle will have to fight smart and use his reach and angles to beat Santos to the punch and stay away from the brawls and clinch game of his combatant. Santos is a very large 170lbs. fighter due to his solid frame but he has the speed too, though Hornbuckle is more versatile and can take the fight to the ground after he gets the upper hand on the feet to keep Santos guessing on what is next. Santos and Hornbuckle have the quality of skills to make this the fight of the night or an eye popping finish, but Hornbuckle’s more varied skill set will likely win out in the end. Hornbuckle via Unanimous Decision
Ben Saunders vs. Chris Cisneros: The always dangerous “Killa B” is back in the cage to bring the heat. He welcomes Hawaii born and bred Chris Cisneros who is a veteran of the X-1 and Rumble on the Rock promotions, and during his Bellator debut he will also be making his welterweight debut. This could prove another benefit for Saunders, who already has a very impressive reach, explosive Muay Thai striking, some of the most damaging knees in the business, and the killer instinct to rival a lion on his list of advantages. Cisneros is on a five-fight win streak with three submission wins in that bundle, but against Saunders the chances he will get close enough to use his ground game are slim. Saunders has been outworked by only two men, “Superman” Dennis Hallman (45-14) and Jon Fitch (22-3), both strong wrestlers. Cisneros knows he won’t even come close to the striking of Saunders, and his best chance to gain the upper hand is to get Saunders against the cage, take him to the mat, and keep him there. Saunders has faced better opponents and has earned his salt due to his time in the UFC; he will clearly be a force in Bellator with a strong performance over Cisneros. Saunders via KO (Knee and Punches), Round 2
Chris Lozano vs. Brent Weedman: Chris Lozano came up short in his first run in Bellator but after earning two impressive first-round wins and his first submission victory, Bellator extended its hand again and Lozano grabbed it without a second thought. Brent Weedman, the man who earned his revenge against Dan Hornbuckle but was on the losing end of a hard fought battle against tournament champion Jay Hieron, will look to get back to the winning side by adding another fan favorite to his win column. Lozano, however, has no intentions of letting that happen. With the power he wields in his hands, “The Cleveland Assassin” has and likely will continue to leave his opponents battered and down for the count in rather short order. Weedman would be a fool to attempt to stand and trade with Lozano, but Lyman Good used in-and-out movements and crisper strikes for three rounds en route to a decision win. Weedman could use the same game plan to his favor, but Lozano is a better man since that lone loss and perhaps even more dangerous. Lozano will stay smart with his strikes and not get sucked into a reckless brawl, and as long as he is able to land the precision strikes that he’s known for, the knockout will come.
Weedman’s best way to win is to get Lozano to the mat and keep on the offense with submission chains much like he did against Hornbuckle. Two different styles usually gives the fans great fights but Weedman is game to fight wherever and Lozano will teach him to respect his power by putting Weedman away quickly if the young dark horse doesn’t get the clinch early on. Lozano via TKO (Punches), Round 1