Bellator’s 39th installment comes to the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut on Saturday night, but if you’re like me, you’re going to be watching it on MTV2 from the comfort of your own couch. Also, if you’re like me, you’re going to be watching with morbid fascination, as the main event features a top ten lightweight in champion Eddie Alvarez taking on a kid who may be in way over his head. And sure, challenger Pat Curran may have clawed his way past three fighters to get where he is, proving along the way that he’s got the skills to avoid the ground and the fists to score points. But none of that will matter when he faces Alvarez. That’s the beauty of Bellator, though: if you win a tournament, you’ve earned a shot at the champ – for better, or for worse. Anyway, here’s MMA Convert’s preview of what promises to be a fairly decent event.
Eddie Alvarez vs. Pat Curran – Here’s some MMA math for you: to secure his title shot, Curran out-pointed Roger Huerta and just barely squeaked by Toby Imada to win the promotion’s last 155-pound tournament. Alvarez, meanwhile, utterly crushed Huerta and smashed Imada, and holds convincing wins over the likes of Joachim Hansen, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Josh Neer. Input that into your calculator and what do you get? You get a calculator that asks, “Are you crazy?” Curran may be young and hungry and possessing a ton of natural talent, but he’s going against someone with refined jiu-jitsu, strong wrestling and devastating kicks and punches. Unless Alvarez slips on a banana peel in the cage, Curran’s in for a long (or really short, actually) night.
Lyman Good vs. Rick Hawn – Lyman Good won Bellator’s inaugural welterweight tournament, but lost his belt to the second tournament winner Ben Askren by virtue of Askren’s Olympic-caliber wrestling. Now Good’s working his way back to title contention, and the next obstacle in his path is this semifinal bout against Olympic-level judoka Rick Hawn. Is Good in trouble? As the Unified Rules prohibit fighting in a judo gi, probably not. Which isn’t to say Hawn doesn’t pose a threat to the dangerous striker/grappler hybrid from New York City – if he can pull off a throw that dumps Good on his head, things could get rough for the former champ. But given Good’s experience and well-rounded skills, it will likely be Hawn who takes the majority of the lumps.
Patricky “Pitbull” Freire vs. Toby Imada – Imada was pulling off standing inverted triangle chokes before they were cool, and as a two-time lightweight tournament finalist, he has established himself as one of Bellator’s elite. Brazilian Patricky Freire is treading down a similar path, and in the jiu-jitsu black belt’s promotional debut a few weeks ago he stunned former WEC Rob McCullough with enough fistic power to halt a rhino. So what can we expect from this 155-pound tournament semifinal match-up? Very little stalling and indecisiveness, as these guys are to finishes what Popeye is to spinach.
Ben Saunders vs. Matt Lee – TUF 6 contestant Ben Saunders may have had a string of bad luck in the UFC proper, but the fact remains that he’s pretty badass when he wants to be – as evidenced by his vicious KO of Marcus Davis and his handling of the organization’s lower-tier guys. But in this non-tournament bout against journeyman Matt Lee, Saunders may not have the easiest time of it. Tougher than a two-dollar steak, Lee is a hardnosed striker who went the distance with Eddie Alvarez at a BodogFIGHT event in 2007, convincing the Philadelphia-based fighter once and for all to stay away from the welterweight division. Are the odds in Saunders’ favor? Of course. It won’t, however, be easy.