Regardless of where Bellator eventually ends up on the channel array (MTV2, SpikeTV, the Home Shopping Network), they’re still in the business of cranking out eight-man tournaments, and the promotion’s fifth season will see an assortment of welterweights take to the field for a shot at glory. Some of the names are familiar and some are new, so here’s a breakdown of who’s who. That way, when they square up on Saturday night for the quarterfinals, you’ll have a handle on what you’re watching. Or something like that.
-Brent Weedman – He’s pretty damn good at subs and he can bang when he needs to, and these two traits very nearly had Weedman playing the role of spoiler in the last welterweight tournament. How so? He was too much for Dan Hornbuckle, who was hailed as one of the favorites, and he lost a controversial decision to eventual tournament winner Jay Hieron. So where does that leave Weedman this time out? Probably as one of the top men to beat, and a definite participant in at least the semifinals.
-Chris Lozano – Lozano is tough – tough enough to wallop regional Ohio talent at least – and in his Bellator debut the heavy-handed face-smasher did his thing against Yoshiyuki Yoshida. But in his last attempt at Bellator 170-pound tournament love, he ran into a brick wall in ex-champ Lyman Good, so this quarterfinal pairing against Weedman should determine just how ready for primetime Lozano is. If he can get past Weedman, I’d say he’s ready.
-Ben Saunders – He may be a jiu-jitsu brown belt, but this TUF and UFC veteran does his best work when he grabs dudes by the neck and knees them into putty. And Saunders should have ample opportunity for that based on the field of competitors (i.e., quite a few of them have no qualms standing). In terms of high-level experience, Saunders has everyone else beat, but as the old Chinese proverb goes, “It ain’t just experience that wins fights, broseph.” Still, consider him a tournament favorite as well.
-Chris Cisneros – Rick Hawn, who was a finalist in the last tournament, had to bow out due to injury a couple of weeks ago, so Hawaiian fight circuit product Cisneros has stepped up to take his place. What does he bring to the cage? A solid knowledge of submissions, which, as his quarterfinal opponent is Saunders, means f**k all. The dude is going to get blasted.
-Luis Santos – This is what we know about “Sapo”: he’s a Nogueira black belt, he’s got a lot of knockouts on his resume, he’s a veteran of the Brazilian circuit, and he’s got well over fifty fights to his name. Now, all that experience could mean Santos is the ultimate badass, or that he’s too used to fighting scrubs and when he fights higher-echelon guys he gets smoked (as was the case when he fought at WEC 34 back in 2008). I’m leaning towards the latter. Those credentials, however, are nothing to shake a stick at, so keep an eye on him.
-Dan Hornbuckle – Twice Hornbuckle has sought tournament top honors, and twice he’s been thwarted. Sure, he’s got a strong bottom game when it comes to jiu-jitsu, and he can throw strikes with bad intentions, but you have to wonder if he’s the welterweight version of Toby Imada (i.e., the perpetual strong competitor who’s never quite champ). I have him at a notch above his opening round opponent (Santos), but if the same lackluster Hornbuckle that fought Weedman shows up, say “sayonara” to the Native American fighter.
-Doug Lima – Brazilian expat Lima may have had a rocky patch earlier in his career (Weedman tapped him out back in 2008, and he lost two more the following year), but when he moseyed on up to Canada and fought the MFC’s best, he cleaned house against their best guys and earned himself a belt. Keep an eye out for this guy, ‘cause with his keen grappling, he could very well end up in the finals.
-Steve Carl – In three Bellator outings, Carl has eked out a decision against Brett Cooper, dispatched Tyler Stinson and fallen prey to a Hornbuckle special. Nothing really stands out, though, and as his quarterfinal partner is Lima, I’m inclined to think Carl is just a warm body waiting to be submitted. So, yeah, he’s going to get mushed.