And so Bellator’s fifth season draws to a close, with Saturday night’s installment putting the finishing touches on what’s turned out to be a pretty damn good block of events. In terms of fight goodness, of course at the top of the pugilistic pile is last week’s Eddie Alvarez/Michael Chandler battle royale, but just below that is Douglas Lima’s crushing run through the welterweight tournament, just about every fight in the bantamweight tournament, Marlon Sandro getting back on track, and the fact that the organization managed to pull off a heavyweight tournament with a lot of action and very little suckage. Which brings us to Bellator 59. We’ve got the bantamweight and heavyweight finals in store for us, plus the return to the cage of two popular Northeast fighters who can claim “Octagon experience” on their resume. Preview time!
-Eric Prindle vs. Thiago Santos – Prindle and Santos are the aforementioned big boys, and they will be duking it out for a shot at champ Cole Konrad’s title. To get to the Season Five finals, Prindle went the distance in exciting fashion with TUF castoff Abe Wagner and then he KO’d Ron Sparks in forty seconds; Santos, meanwhile, blitzed Josh Burns and Neil Grove, and when they were stunned he choked them out. Notice how these descriptions involved zero “one man lying on top of the other” or “one man pressing the other against the cage for three rounds”? Yeah, that’s because there was just about none of that. Instead, we got a gigantic American and a gigantic Brazilian just going for it. Odd are that’s what we’ll get on Saturday night, too. As we’ve only seen about three minutes of Santos’ skills, and Prindle has pretty much shown us everything, I’d give the edge to Prindle. But who knows. When the leather starts flying, anyone could go to sleep at any time.
-Kurt Pellegrino vs. Patricky Freire – Pellegrino (a.k.a. “Batman”, because he drives around in a black Lincoln Continental with a Batman insignia emblazoned on the hood) went 7-5 in the UFC before retiring, and his Octagon legacy involved black belt jiu-jitsu mixed with solid wrestling. Now he’s back, facing a jiu-jitsu black belt with explosive striking ability in Freire. Yes, that is definitely a tall order for Pellegrino to overcome – Freire would’ve won the last Bellator lightweight tournament had it not been for the tireless efforts of Michael Chandler – but if anyone is going to get the Brazilian down and rough him up, it’s the New Jersey native. And I’m picking Pellegrino to do just that.
-Alexis Vila vs. Eduardo Dantas – Cuban Olympic wrestler Vila somehow, someway hypnotized the judges at Bellator 55 and compelled them to give him an undeserved split decision over Marcos Galvao. But damn did he knock the hell out of Joe Warren in the bantamweight tournament quarterfinals at Bellator 51! Dantas arrived at the finals treading a similar path, squeaking by Ed West after utterly smashing Wilson Reis. What does that leave us for a final? Well, both these guys are nonstop, fast-paced warriors, so odds are what we’ll get is something full of fireworks. Based on experience alone, I have Dantas taking this (he was a Shooto contender, after all), but again, with the KO power Vila wields, it could end any time.
-Phillipe Nover vs. Marcin Held – He was hailed by Dana White as the next Anderson Silva when he was on TUF 8, but Nover didn’t quite live up to those great expectations, losing to Efrain Escudero at the TUF finale, then falling to Kyle Bradley and Rob Emerson before getting cut from the Octagon. None of that, however, changes the fact that Nover spent his early days rocketing up the Northeast scene with heavy-hands and solid jiu-jitsu. Held is considered to be one of the best fighters coming out of Poland, which, uh, doesn’t exactly mean much in the grand scheme of things, but you never know. He may have lost to Chandler in his Bellator debut, but Held could be a badass. Regardless, Nover’s black belt will likely nullify whatever tricks the Pole has up his sleeve on the groujnd, and the American will have no qualms about punching his head off. What for Nover to TKO Held in brutal fashion.