Eight events since the beginning of September and now Bellator’s fifth season winds down. Thus far, we’ve seen a featherweight champ try to gain entry into the bantamweight mix and get smoked like a Cuban cigar, a light-heavyweight champ lose some of his luster, and enough heavyweight leather thrown around to kill a yeti. So, while the UFC on FOX prelims are playing out on whatever Internet outlet Dana White has lined up for the evening (MySpace? Tumblr? The Knot.com?), Bellator 57 will be giving us the finals of the current welterweight tournament and middleweight tournament. Who will earn a shot at 170-pound champ Ben Askren and be the next person to be planked upon? Who will be the next dude to be beaten stupid by champ Hector Lombard? I don’t know, but here’s a preview of the action.
-Ben Saunders vs. Doug Lima – Things may not have worked out for Saunders on the Ultimate Fighter, but he’s turned out to be one heck of a top-notch competitor in Bellator’s crucible of combat. In the quarterfinals, Saunders walked through Chris Cisneros, dominating on the ground before finishing on the feet, and in the semis he trounced Luis Santos, ending it all with a bent armlock. Lima, on the other hand, went the distance with Steve Carl before putting Chris Lozano in La-La Land. Is Lima tough? For sure. But Saunders has got the advantage with all of his high-level experience, and where Lima is good (which is pretty much everywhere), Saunders is better. Expect Saunders to finish Lima in the third after two rounds of positional dominance and face-punching.
-Alexander Shlemenko vs. Vitor Vianna – Winning Bellator’s welterweight tournament is old hat to the Russian (as is squaring up against Lombard), and to get to this 185-pound tournament final, Shlemenko quickly submitted Zelg Galesic and battered Brian Rogers until Rogers was one of the Walking Dead. Vianna, meanwhile, barely squeaked by Sam Alvey before overwhelming Bryan Baker on the feet. How will the Brazilian do against the man whose name translated from Russian actually means “spinning backfist”? Probably not so well. Shlemenko has been there and done that in terms of competition, whereas this is uncharted territory for the jiu-jitsu black belt, and it won’t take long for Vianna to eat a variety of strikes and then start to crumble. Shlemenko by decision after three ugly rounds of abusing a Brazilian.
-Roger Hollett vs. John Hawk – Canadian Hollett can both hit hard and sink submissions, which makes him dangerous. Hawk is an 87-year-old World War II soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, which makes him tough but also makes him pretty old for MMA competition. At the end of the day, that means- wait, what? This John Hawk is just some journeyman brawler from Ohio with a 6-3 record? Oh, well in that case, Maximum Fighting Championship veteran Hollett is going to kill him. Probably via TKO.
-Doug Evans vs. Alexandre Bezerra – Evans, an Alaskan who’s fought in everything from the UFC to Shark Fights to some Canadian promotion called Raw Combat (!), has a habit of being tough but losing to the top-end guys in the lightweight division (like Roger Huerta and Mark Bocek). So if Bezerra, who sports a jiu-jitsu brown belt plus boxing and wrestling experience and some fights in Brazil, defeats him, we know this: Bezerra is no scrub, and Evans is not long for the Bellator cage. I’m leaning towards Bezerra in this match-up, as Evans is riding a two-fight losing streak and has problems with guys he can’t submit, and the Brazilian is a master at snagging first-round submissions.