Bellator 51 will no doubt get short shrift on Saturday night – some cat named Jon Jones is defending his belt against BA Baracus of the A-Team on pay-per-view at the same time – but that doesn’t mean the organization’s bantamweight tournament quarterfinals isn’t worth at least some DVR love (or VCR if you’re old school). Why? Well, consider this: the field is stocked with four Brazilians, a Cuban and three Americans, which translates into less-than-favorable odds that someone from the US of A is going to be snagging 135-pound gold when all is said and done. And boo on that! USA! USA! Anyway, here are the competitors.
Joe Warren – The funny thing about Bellator 145-pound champ Warren is that, like clockwork, he gets his butt kicked in the first round and then kicks ass every round after that. Patricio Freire blitzed him in their match, but the wrestler endured, and Joe Soto clobbered him and Warren came back and smoked him as well. So yeah, keep an eye on how bad Warren gets mauled in the early going on Saturday night – is opponent Alexis Vila going to rip off his arm? Detach his head from his body? Then be amazed when the American takes that severed limb (or head) and beats him with it.
Alexis Vila – Cuban Olympic wrestler, veteran of the Florida MMA circuit, green as hell. That’s Vila. I personally saw him at the TUF 14 tryouts get stuck in a local fighter’s half-guard and look clueless as to finding a way out (granted, that local fighter was a Ring of Combat champ, but still). Vila may get one or two decent takedowns on Warren, but that will be it. Bellator’s reigning 145-pound king is going to smoosh him.
Wilson Reis – Jiu-jitsu master Reis has participated in so many Bellator tournaments, I’m starting to wonder if he’s holding Bjorn Rebney’s cat hostage in a cage in his basement. Anyway, the fifth season’s got a heavyweight tournament on tap and a bantamweight, so this 145-pounder wisely chose to cut ten pounds instead of trying to gain sixty, and here we are. How good is Reis? Considering he was an EliteXC champ and he’s had some success in Bellator, he’s definitely at least somewhat good. But come on, give someone else a chance.
Eduardo Dantas – Shooto’s got two strong circuits: the one in Japan, which is huge, and the one in Brazil, which isn’t as big but has a lot of tough and skilled guys. Dantas is a veteran of both, and after racking up wins in the venerable organization, this Nova Uniao representative is coming to American to kick butt and take names. By the way, Nova Uniao is THE place for cultivating the best “little” fighters, so everyone – including quarterfinal opponent Reis – needs to watch out. Dantas is going to be a monster on the ground and a dangerous striker.
Marcos Galvao – Galvao is another Nova Uniao fighter (great jiu-jitsu, capable striking, etc.), and he’s got experience in Shooto and the WEC. The biggest thing to note about him, however, is that he already fought Warren at bantamweight at Bellator 41 and lost an extremely controversial decision. So if oddsmakers are favoring the Bellator 145-pound champ in this tournament, remember: Galvao pretty much had his number when they fought.
Chase Beebe – Oh, Mr. Beebe. You once wore the WEC crown, but a bad streak saw you rack up losses in that organization and in DREAM, so you had to go back to the minor leagues to recalibrate and get back on track. Now? Now is your chance at big(ish) show glory. Will you be ready? Too many competitors in this tournament are good where Beebe is weakest (submissions), so he may be trouble.
Luiz Nogueira – We saw Nogueira beat on some kid at Bellator 42, so we know he’s capable of bringing the pain. Unfortunately, the Brazilian isn’t the best in any one department compared to the rest of the competitors in this tournament. Heck, he might not even get past his quarterfinal opponent, Ed West…
Ed West – West is a Bellator repeat customer, and his greatest attributes are his staying power and submission defense. You pretty much have to shoot him to stop him. And while he, too, isn’t the best at any one thing – he can be outmaneuvered and out-positioned – he will force opponents to go the distance whether they like it or not.