Tonight, Bellator Fighting Championships debuts its inaugural Light Heavyweight Tournament in the state of Mississippi in Tunica at the Harrah’s Tunica Hotel and Casino. Starting off the night is MMA Gospel Young Gun “The Professional” Chris Davis (10-2), who brings his destructive power into the Bellator cage against French import Christian M’Pumbu (1-1, 15-3 NSF). Rage In The Cage veteran Richard Hale (10-3-1) goes against Nik Fekete (3-0) who owns a victory over Strikeforce rising force Ovince St. Preux (9-4). Bellator veteran Raphael Davis (10-1) will look to continue a nine-fight win streak as he goes against D.J. Linderman (8-1), a former heavyweight who dropped down to compete in the first ever 205lbs. tournament. Then in the main event, returning to MMA competition after five years, is a member of the legendary Gracie family and PRIDE and International Fight League (IFL) veteran, Daniel Gracie (4-2). The submission specialist will go against undefeated Bellator veteran Tim Carpenter (6-0) who sees this as a way to earn bragging rights by defeating a member of the Gracie family.
Superbowl Sunday is undoubtedly one of the biggest sports day of the year, and to conclude the NFL 2010-2011 season the Pittsburgh Steelers will meet the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, February 6 in Dallas, Texas. However, on the eve of the big game, the UFC will be hosting one of the biggest mixed martial arts shows of the year live from its hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada in the form of UFC 126: Silva vs. Belfort. The event is considered to boast the most stacked card since UFC 100, with former WEC bad boy “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone (12-4) facing Wolfslair Academy graduate Paul Kelly (11-3), fan favorite Miguel Torres (37-3) making his UFC debut against fellow former WEC bantamweight Antonio Banuelos (18-6), a collision between former champions with Forrest Griffin (17-6) facing “Ace” Rich Franklin (27-5), and in the main event, top-ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the world and current UFC Middleweight Champion “The Spider” Anderson Silva (27-4) defending his belt for a record eighth time against dangerous striker “The Phenom” Vitor Belfort (19-8). Another bout on this star studded fight card features a match-up between arguably two of the premier young light heavyweights in the world, when Jackson’s Submission Fighting trained “Bones” Jon Jones (11-1) meets undefeated The Ultimate Fighter 10 alum “Darth” Ryan Bader (12-0). The lone blemish on Jones’ record came via disqualification due to some illegal elbows in a fight he was dominating against “The Hammer” Matt Hamill (9-2). The winner of this fight will most certainly be considered a top five light heavyweight in the UFC, if not the world.
MMA Gospel concludes the Bellator: The Draft series by covering a few much needed additions to the promotion’s heavier weight divisions. The Bellator Fighting Championship (BFC) roster thins a bit at the top and new talent is severely needed to maintain the interest of the promotion’s divisional champions. The middleweight division relies almost solely on champion “Shango” Hector Lombard (25-2-1) to bring in viewers, the promotion currently has no light heavyweight division to speak of, and its heavyweight roster consists of “The Polar Bear” Cole Konrad (7-0), “Goliath” Neil Grove (10-3), and the one-and-done fighters who essentially utilize the organization to pad their records. These heavier classes are the divisions where Bellator needs the most work. Here are a few key players that could help bulk up the heavier weight classes to help Bellator more closely compete with rival MMA organizations.
The year 2010 showcased a wealth of fights and events for the mixed martial arts world to marvel over. “The Answer” Frankie Edgar (13-1) defeated one of the greatest lightweights of all time in “The Prodigy” BJ Penn (16-7-1). Boxing great “Lights Out” James Toney (0-1) stepped into the the cage to face UFC Hall of Famer “The Natural” Randy Couture (19-10) in what was intended to determine the superior combat sport, MMA or boxing. Couture pummeled Toney for nearly three minutes of pure fan delight before submitting him via Arm Triangle Choke. The MMA world was shaken and the heavyweight rankings sent into a state of disarray when the top ranked “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko (31-2) was handed his first legitimate loss via first round submission to Fabricio Werdum (14-4-1).
To follow up with the 2009 roster exchange agreement between the Strikeforce, DREAM, and M-1 Global MMA promotions, the UFC ended 2010 with the intake of the WEC organization. With all the memorable fights and events that have taken place in the last 12 months, 2011 is the year where prospects can become contenders, fighters inflicted with injury or tribulations return to fight their way to a title, and champions become legends.
Here are some of the top fighters to look out for in 2011.
Germany gets a second dose of UFC action tomorrow night as UFC 122: Marquardt vs. Okami comes to the Konig Pilsener Arena in Oberhausen. “The Great” Nate Marquardt (30-9-2) and “Thunder” Yushin Okami (25-5) headline the event and TUF standouts “The Polish Experiment” Krzysztof Soszynski (20-10-1), Andre Winner (12-4-1), and Amir Sadollah (3-2), light heavyweight prospect Goran Reljic (8-2), and German stand-up fighters Peter Sobotta (6-2) and Denis Siver (16-7) round out a very solid card. A true fan pleaser that serves as the final main card bout before the main event fighters take the stage features the retooled UFC veteran Jorge Rivera (18-7) and the Italian gut buster “Legionarius” Alessio Sakara (15-7). With 25 UFC bouts between the two of them, Sakara and Rivera are the definition of The Old Guard and this bout will be one to show the young buck TUF alums on the card exactly what they have to look forward to in the future of their UFC careers. These two men are old school fighters; they see it as their job to win fights, not matches, and they will do whatever it takes to finish their opponent.
In its first offering since the wildly explosive UFC 121 last month, the UFC visits the Konig Pilsener Arena in Oberhausen, Germany for UFC 122: Marquardt vs. Okami. In addition to the middleweight title contention bout between “The Great” Nate Marquardt (30-9-2) and the last man to beat champion “The Spider” Anderson Silva (27-4), “Thunder” Yushin Okami (25-5), UFC matchmaker Joe Silva has given the fans several top notch bouts featuring Old Guard veterans like Jorge Rivera (18-7), Alessio Sakara (15-7), and Denis Siver (16-7). An interesting bout found at the bottom of the main card is a three-round tilt between TUF standout “The Polish Experiment” Krzysztof Soszynski (20-10-1) and struggling light heavyweight prospect Goran Reljic (8-2). Both men are in a rough position concerning their future with the UFC. Soszynski is coming off a brutal TKO loss to “The American Psycho” Stephan Bonnar (12-7) and has dropped two of his last three fights. Reljic, who came into the UFC an undefeated hot prospect and established himself with a TKO over Wilson Gouveia (12-8), has now lost two in a row. Dana White and the UFC have very little tolerance for losing streaks and it is safe to assume that the man who loses this bout will find himself on Zuffa’s chopping block at the post-fight presser.