The Sun Devil State of Arizona will host the Bellator 135lbs. tournament semi-final match-ups as well as a non-title bout between 205lbs. champion “Tonton” Christian M’Pumbu (5-1) and UFC, IFC, and IFL veteran “The Diesel” Travis Wiuff (62-14). The setting is the Cocopah Resort and Casino in the city of Yuma, where four bantamweights will step into the cage and only two will step out as Bellator Season 5 Bantamweight Tournament finalists. Young and explosive Eduardo Dantas (6-2) will tangle with the experienced ever-improving wrestler “Wild” Ed West (15-5). The hard nosed and spirited “Loro” Marcos Galvao (10-5) will trade punches with the powerful hands wielded by “The Exorcist” Alexis Vila (9-0). Before the final four at 135lbs. step in the cage a battle in the lightweight division will take place as Steve Gable (3-1) takes on Ricardo Tirlone (8-1) to open the festivities at Bellator 55.
Steve Gable vs. Ricardo Tirlone: The Bellator debuts of Steve Gable and Ricardo Tirlone will start off the main card with a place in the next lightweight tournament potentially up for grabs. Tirlone is on a six-fight win streak and has finished all of his opponents, his only loss coming by submission to former WEC Lightweight Champion “Smooth” Ben Henderson (13-2) at MFC 17. Gable is still new to the fight game with only four fights under his belt but he too has finished all his opponents. Tirlone and Gable have the bulk of their wins by submission but when it comes to experience and fight smarts it goes to Tirlone. Gable is the senior fighter but started off later in life and hasn’t had the cage time of Tirlone, who is seven years younger. Gable’s key to victory is to get Tirlone in deep waters. Tirlone has never been out of the second round and his stamina may be in question. Tirlone needs to pressure Gable and work his punches to set up the takedown then go for the submission. However, Gable hasn’t fought since May of last year and Tirlone hasn’t fought since last November, so ring rust is certainly a factor. When it comes to the stats, this is Tirlone’s fight to win and he may just do that as long as he doesn’t come in too wild out of the gates. Tirlone via Submission (Guillotine Choke), Round 1
Christian M’Pumbu vs. Travis Wiuff: After being in the minor leagues the past couple of years, Travis Wiuff is coming back to the main stream spotlight. Welcoming him back is none other than the Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion Christian M’Pumbu. “Tonton” was the dark horse of the light heavyweight tournament and upset the favorite in Richard Hale (12-4) to win the belt. Now both Wiuff and M’Pumbu provide stern tests for the other. For Wiuff, M’Pumbu represents a step up to the level of talent he failed to compete with earlier in his career. For M’Pumbu, it’s all about proving his tournament run wasn’t a fluke and that he can handle larger, more experienced fighters on a daily basis. Wiuff has a vast number of wins by both TKO and submission and with nearly 80 fights to his name he proves a very dangerous opponent wherever the fight goes. M’Pumbu is a solid striker that uses good movement for defense and offense as he strings together combos that carry power along with blinding speed. Wiuff is the much bigger fighter so the clinch and wrestling will play in his favor. M’Pumbu’s best approach is to stay on the outside and batter the legs and body of Wiuff with kicks while mixing in his punch combos. Wiuff has come in with his chin a little too high before and had his clock cleaned so that could happen again if he believes he’s already won the fight. Both men want a win for their own reasons, but Wiuff is the more hungry and in need of a win. M’Pumbu wants to show the world what he can do and, as long as he fights his fight, his hand will be raised. Wiuff via TKO (Punches), Round 1
Eduardo Dantas vs. Ed West: Arizona’s own Ed West will meet Brazil native Eduardo Dantas in the bantamweight tournament and both men are hungry to get to the finals. West perhaps is the most hungry – he wants another shot at “Fun Size” Zach Makovsky (14-2), but in his way is a motivated Dantas who is coming off an insane knockout win over Wilson Reis (12-4) that showcased the young man’s striking abilities as well as the power he wields. West showed in his fight against Luis Nogueira (5-2) that he has grown since his loss to Makovsky. His striking has improved leaps over bounds and his wrestling and submission game has developed on top of that. West’s game plan will likely be to do what he does best: pressure and wear down his opponent on the feet and on the mat. Dantas will look to move in and out of West’s range and work his quick hands and slapping kicks to take West out of his comfort zone. “Wild” Ed West is perhaps the most well known fighter in the brackets due to his run in the previous tournament where it came down to Makovsky and himself. Dantas is the newcomer to the MMA world in the USA and he is taking it by the horns to shoot himself to the top and that makes him extremely dangerous. West via Unanimous Decision
Marcos Galvao vs. Alexis Vila: Coming off highly impressive victories at Bellator 51, both Galvao and Vila have a lot to live up to in the cage. Galvao is coming off a three-round battle with former WEC 135lbs. champion “The Rage” Chase Beebe (18-6) where he used superior striking and improved cardio to out-work the heavily favored Beebe. Vila is perhaps the most watched fighter by the other tournament competitors after his brutal knockout over the Bellator 145lbs. champion Joe Warren (7-2). Vila has finished all but one of his opponents and with seven wins by way of TKO he is a very dangerous opponent. Galvao is perhaps the biggest underdog of the tournament, in part due to the high percentage of decision wins on his record, but that statistic belies his ability to take complete control of the stand-up. As long as the fight stays on the outside and Galvao can use his jab and kicks to keep Vila from rushing in, he has a good chance of upsetting another favorite. Vila knows he has to close the distance so he can drop a bomb down Galvao’s chute. Warren tried to play the striking game and keep away from Vila but, as the world saw, it didn’t work out. Galvao, however, is a more experienced striker than Vila’s most recent opponent Joe Warren and knows how to use his tools on the feet to maintain distance. Galvao also has gone all three rounds multiple times and although Vila is a former Olympic wrestler Galvao can mix it up in the second and third rounds to wear him down. Both men know the winner moves on to the finals and each has the skills to be that man but when two fighters are this even in skill, logic dictates that the finisher has the edge. Vila via KO (Punch), Round 1