Bellator MMA returns to our lives tonight, as Bellator 87 emanates from the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. The main card – which features the quarterfinals of the Season 8 Lightweight Tournament – will air live on Spike TV at 10p.m. ET.

The main event features two tournament veterans, as David Rickels will drop to lightweight for the first time to take on two-time tournament participant Lloyd Woodard. The stakes were raised prior to weigh-ins yesterday, as both fighters agreed to a “loser shaves his facial hair” stipulation in true pro wrestling style.

The actual matchup itself seems to be a classic striker vs. grappler feud, but the grappler Rickels has also shown an ability to throw some heavy hands (see: 22-second knockout of Jordan Smith). Woodard’s ground game leaves a lot to be desired, and it’s been his Achilles heel thus far in his Bellator career (see: getting tossed on his head by Rick Hawn). While we all hope that the desire for both of these guys to be exciting will lead to a three-round slugfest, it’s more likely that Rickels will play it safe and take the fight to the ground to earn a submission win.

After former tournament finalist Patricky Freire was injured and forced to pull out of his quarterfinal bout against Canadian knockout artist Guillame DeLorenzi, Strikeforce and one-time Bellator veteran Saad Awad jumped from the preliminary card to tournament action and will now get a chance to compete for a shot at Bellator gold. After losing to Joe Duarte in Strikeforce, the Californian has since picked up four straight stoppage victories in regional action, including three quick first round knockouts. DeLorenzi is perhaps the best prospect coming out of Canada, and he boasts an 80 percent knockout rate in 10 career victories. I’m thinking he’ll build on his first Bellator win from November with a highlight knockout over Awad here to advance to the semifinals.

Another matchup of strikers features Alexander Sarnavskiy vs. Thiago Michel, a bout that also features fighters from two of Bellator’s biggest feeder countries in Russia and Brazil. Sarnavskiy had his 20-0 record broken when he suffered an upset defeat to Rich Clementi in the Season 7 quarterfinals, but he bounced back with a decision victory over Tony Hervey in November. Michel has a 27-2 kickboxing record to go along with his 13-fight MMA career, but he has yet to produce one of his highlight reel knockouts in Bellator action. He made it to the semifinals in Season 6, and is looking to take the next step as he enters the Season 8 tournament. Although Michel has knockout power himself, I’m betting that Sarnavskiy will show why he had so much hype heading into his Bellator debut and finally follow through with a big-time knockout here.

In the night’s last quarterfinal, Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Ricardo Tirloni will take on unbeaten American Top Team product Will Brooks. Fresh off of an upset win over Satoru Kitaoka at DREAM.18 on New Year’s Eve in Japan, Brooks will compete in his first Bellator tournament as he looks to stay on his hot streak. Tirloni will hope that the third time is a charm, as he came up short in stints in two previous Bellator tournaments. Brooks could be a special fighter, while Tirloni appears to be just another fighter. With that in mind, expect Brooks to dominate this fight en route to a decision victory in his first Bellator action.

By David McKinney (@MMAMcKinney)

ProFightingFans.com Editor

(PRESS RELEASE) Newport Beach, CA. – The Toughest Tournament in Sports continues as Bellator MMA has set a loaded Featherweight Tournament field  from Atlanta’s Gwinnet Center February 7th live on Spike TV. The night will be headlined by a Bellator Middleweight World Title fight as Russian knockout artist Alexander “Storm” Shlemenko and dominating Brazilian Maiquel “Big Rig” Falcao battle for the Bellator Middleweight Championship.

After successfully winning his second Bellator Middleweight Tournament, Shlemenko has his sights set on one thing: The Bellator Middleweight World Championship. Currently riding a nine fight win streak and holding an incredible 46-7 record, Shlemenko knows his February 7th fight will be the biggest of his career.

“Big Rig” enters the fight after three dominating tournament victories inside the Bellator cage. After competing in organizations across the world, Falcao knows he has found a home in Bellator and is hoping to etch his name into the Bellator history books on February 7th from The Arena at Gwinnett Center.

Tickets for the event are on sale now and can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com or by visiting The Arena at Gwinnett Center Box Office, with tickets starting at just $40 dollars. The event will broadcast LIVE starting at 10 p.m. EST on Spike, as well as in Spanish language on mun2. The preliminary card will be streamed LIVE and FREE on Spike.com starting at 8 p.m. EST.

Widely regarded as one of the best featherweights in the world, Marlon Sandro is primed for an extended tournament run as he takes on Russian finisher Akop Stepanyan in opening round action. After two tournament finals appearances, Sandro is ready for the next step and capture his first Bellator Tournament crown.

“There is nothing in this world I want more than the Bellator Featherweight Title, and this is my road,” Sandro said. “I love Bellator with all my heart and I know my opportunity is now.”

Armed with two of the quickest hands in MMA, Mike “The Marine” Richman will take on Bellator newcomer Mitch Jackson in a quarterfinal affair live on Spike. With 26 finishes between the two, it’s an opening round fight primed for fireworks.

“It feels great to be back in the tournament, and to showcase my skills on Spike TV for Bellator,” Richman said. “I’m going to out class Mitch Jackson and show him he isn’t at my level. He’s going to sleep, and then I plan on finishing the rest of the field and getting my title shot and that $100,000 prize.”

Two of the most exciting featherweights in the Bellator ranks go to battle when “Popo” Bezerra meets Genair da Silva in an explosive quarterfinal fight. Already 14-2 at just 25 years old, Bezerra is looking to elevate his game to the next level and embark on a long tournament run.

The Bellator Featherweight Tournament will be rounded out with a classic Brazil vs. Russia clash as Bellator newcomer and submission ace Fabricio Guerrerio clashes with Magomedrasul “Frodo” Khasbulaev. After two quick finishes inside the Bellator cage, “Frodo” is gearing up for his first taste of The Toughest Tournament in Sports.

“After my last two fights, my time is now, and February 7th will be the start of my championship run,” Khasbulaev said.

“With a Middleweight World Title fight and the start of our $100,000 stacked Featherweight Tournament, February 7th from the Gwinnet Center is going to be a huge night live on Spike TV,” said Bellator Chairman & CEO Bjorn Rebney.

The little guys got the spotlight for a night at UFC on FOX 6, as newly crowned UFC 125-pound champion Demetrious Johnson successfully defended his title for the first time against John Dodson in a headliner that could be an early candidate for fight of the year. With the division less than a year old, Johnson appears to already have a firm grasp on the top spot after winning a four-man tournament and then besting former Ultimate Fighter winner Dodson. It remains to be seen what is next for Johnson, but the highly competitive division is sure to create new challengers before long. Until Johnson does get a new challenger, he’ll have plenty of time to find a way to spend the $50,000 bonus he received for “fight of the night” honors at the event.

 

In the co-headliner, rising light heavyweight prospect Glover Teixeira handed former champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson a decision loss in what could be his final bout in the UFC. Jackson has been at odds with UFC management as he has neared the end of his contract and has said he may move to boxing or to rival promotion Bellator. Lightweight Anthony Pettis earned a title shot for the second time in his career, as he knocked out Donald Cerrone in the first round with a body kick. Pettis also earned a title shot by being the final WEC champion when the organization was folded into the UFC, but he opted not to sit out and wait for the fight. In the meantime, he lost a fight and also his title shot. This time, he has vowed to sit out until his guaranteed title shot comes around. Pettis received the bonus for “knockout of the night.”

 

In the night’s final main card bout, featherweight Ricardo Lamas may have earned a title shot with a TKO victory over Erik Koch. He is unbeaten since moving to the UFC and dropping to the featherweight division, and he could receive a shot at the winner of this weekend’s featherweight title bout between champion Jose Aldo and challenger Frankie Edgar. Other winners at UFC on FOX 6 were lightweight T.J. Grant, featherweight Clay Guida, welterweight Pascal Krauss, light heavyweight Ryan Bader (submission of the night), heavyweight Shawn Jordan, middleweight Rafael Natal, and welterweight David Mitchell.

Askren defends title at Bellator 86

Bellator MMA made its second appearance on Spike TV with Bellator 86, and welterweight champion Ben Askren proved that he is possibly the most dominant fighter in Bellator history with a vicious TKO over top contender Karl Amoussou. The former Olympian and NCAA champion showed improved ground and pound and battered the face of the Frenchman en route to his first stoppage win since winning the Bellator title. Also in action was former Strikeforce champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, who earned a first round knockout in his Bellator debut. In welterweight tournament action, Ben Saunders, Douglas Lima, Brent Weedman, and Raul Amaya all advanced to the semifinals with victories.

Quick Hits

The Ultimate Fighter 17 debuted last week, with 14 middleweights advancing into “the house” with wins in preliminary fights. The show will continue to air through April until just two fighters are left, and those fighters will fight on the show’s finale for a six-figure UFC contract…UFC Hall of Famer and former welterweight champion Matt Hughes officially retired and became the UFC’s VP of Athlete Development…Dana White said that welterweight Johny Hendricks will likely earn a title shot if he can defeat Jake Ellenberger in March…The legal battle between Eddie Alvarez and Bellator MMA continues, as a judge didn’t give the former champion an injunction that would release him from his Bellator contract and allow him to fight at UFC 159 in April.

Bellator MMA will be back in our lives again tonight, with Bellator 86 once again following a lead-in from Impact Wrestling on Spike TV. The lead-in could be especially interesting tonight, as TNA and Bellator crossover star Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal will be in action in the first round of the Bellator light heavyweight tournament. Sure, King Mo’s time in Bellator has been pretty much overlooked and not all that big to this point, but I’m intrigued to see how Spike promotes King Mo’s fight tonight.

Also part of the card in Oklahoma will be a welterweight title bout between unbeaten champion Ben Askren and Season 6 Tournament winner Karl Amoussou. It remains to be seen whether the Frenchman can be the first to stop the former Olympian’s takedown, but he has promised to knock out the “lay and pray” artist Askren.

Amoussou could prove to be Askren’s toughest test to date, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where “The Psycho” walks out of the cage as the Bellator champion. The former middleweight will likely have a size advantage on the champion, but how he uses that remains to be seen. I’m betting that Askren can still implement his gameplan in this fight and keep Amoussou on his back for most of the 25 minutes. If he can, then he’ll win yet another unanimous decision to remain champion.

King Mo will take on Polish light heavyweight Przemyslaw Mysiala, who makes his Bellator debut coming off of a loss to Jason Jones at BAMMA 9 last March. All signs point to King Mo rolling here – mainly because it’s hard to imagine Bellator giving its biggest signing ever a world beater in his first outing for the promotion. Chance are Lawal will bullrush the European and hand him his seventh knockout loss.

Season 8 Welterweight Tournament action will also kick off. The tournament was supposed to feature the highly marketable yet highly controversial War Machine and Paul Daley, but neither will take part in the tournament. Still, it’s a tough draw, including former Season 5 tournament winner Douglas Lima.

Lima comes in looking to start his route back to another shot at Askren, but first he’ll have to deal with tough Russian Michail Tsarev, who is looking for blood after he felt like he got cheated in his Season 7 semifinal against Lyman Good. It’s an exciting fight between two competitors with a ton of finishes, but my money is on Lima in this bout – and the whole tournament.

Season 5 finalist and Season 6 semifinalist Ben Saunders is back in Bellator tournament action, as he’ll welcome Koffi Adzitso to the Bellator cage for the first time. Adzitso is a knockout artists much like Saunders, so this one could steal the whole show. Saunders is the favorite here, but I think that Adzitso will catch him with something late in the fight to finish him off after a barnburner.

After a run to the Season 6 Lightweight Tournament final, Brent Weedman returns to welterweight, where he competed in both the Season 4 and Season 5 tournaments. He’ll take on former DREAM champion Marius Zaromskis, who may still be shaking out the cobwebs after a nasty knockout loss to Season 7 champ Andrey Koreshkov in his last outing. It’s yet another fight between fighters who like to trade, but the wild card here is Weedman’s edge in the ground game. I’m betting he picks up a decision win to advance in the draw.

And in what has to be considered the red-headed stepchild Welterweight Tournament quarterfinal, Raul Amaya will welcome Jose Gomes to the Bellator cage for the first time. Amaya ran into the buzzsaw that is Ben Saunders in his first tournament appearance during Season 6, and he returns for his second tournament after picking up a win on the Bellator 72 prelims. Gomes is a tough Brazilian with 40 fights and 23 finishes who has faced the likes of “Jacare” Souza, Erick Silva, and Daniel Acacio – although he lost to all three. I’m betting that Amaya will pick up a submission win here.

By David McKinney (@MMAMcKinney)

ProFightingFans.com Editor

 

The card for Thursday’s Bellator 86 event in Thackerville, Oklahoma has been finalized, as the event is set to go down at the WinStar World Casino. In the main event, welterweight champion Ben Askren will defend his title against Karl Amoussou, and the event also features the Bellator debut of former Strikeforce champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, as he enters the light heavyweight tournament against Przemyslaw Mysiala with the final spot in the semifinals on the line.

The Season 8 welterweight tournament will also kick off. The tournament bouts feature former tournament winner Douglas Lima vs. Michail Tsarev, Koffi Adzitso vs. Ben Saunders, Marius Zaromskis vs. Brent Weedman, and Raul Amaya vs. Jose Gomes.

In preliminary action, Strikeforce and TUF 16 veteran Cortez Coleman will make his Bellator debut, as he takes on Matt Jones in a middleweight bout. The prelims also feature 9-1 bantamweight Jason Sampson, unbeaten lightweight Damon Jackson, and unbeaten featherweight Hunter Tucker.

The full lineup for Bellator 86:

MAIN CARD:
Bellator Welterweight Championship Fight: Ben Askren (10-0) vs. Karl Amoussou (16-4-2)
Light Heavyweight Tournament Quarterfinal Fight: Przemyslaw Mysiala (16-7) vs. King Mo (8-1)
Welterweight Tournament Quarterfinal Fight: Douglas Lima (22-5) vs. Michail Tsarev (24-3)
Welterweight Tournament Quarterfinal Fight: Koffie Adzitso (18-9) vs. Ben Saunders (13-5-2)
Welterweight Tournament Quarterfinal Fight: Marius Zaromskis (19-7) vs. Brent Weedman (20-8)

PRELIMINARY CARD:
Welterweight Tournament Quarterfinal Fight: Raul Amaya (10-1) vs. Jose Gomes (32-8)
Middleweight Feature Fight: Matt Jones (4-3) vs. Cortez Coleman (8-3)
Bantamweight Feature Fight: Chris Pham (2-0) vs. Jason Sampson (9-1)
Lightweight Feature Fight: Zach Church (1-1) vs. Damon Jackson (3-0)
Featherweight Feature Fight: Mike Maldonado (3-0) vs. Joseph Salas (2-3)
Featherweight Feature Fight: Hunter Tucker (4-0) vs. Javier Obregon (4-3)

By David McKinney (@MMAMcKinney)

ProFightingFans.com Editor

Leading up to Bellator 85 Rick Hawn made it known that finding sponsors for his upcoming title fight against lightweight champion Michael Chandler was as difficult as training for the fight itself. MMA fighters derive a healthy portion of their income from company sponsorship. If you want to know how much a sponsor means to a fighter just ask Rampage Jackson.

On Monday Hawn received word from one of his “sponsors” that they would be placing a stop payment on a check he was to receive for his recent title fight at Bellator 85.

Hawn shared his grievance via his Twitter account.

So one of my main sponsors from my fight canceled his check cuz he wasnt happy with the outcome or my performance. Read his explanations below.

“At this point, a stop payment has been placed on check which cannot be cashed or deposited now”

“I will not comment on Rick and his fight. That is not my place. But what I will tell you is this: I took a huge chance with him. TV exposure was great…but it only holds weight if he wins or puts on a good show. Neither happened. At the end of the day…not one sole (sp) will run to [my] store and buy product because they [saw my logo and saw] Rick loose (sp) the fight. I’ve made it my career and business to know what nets a return on investment for the brand…and this is the number 1 reason why I DO NOT hand out money or product to fighters.”

Its funny how all my pics wearing his product are still up on his company pages even after he says and does all this stuff!!

A lawsuit is pending so I cannot comment on who it is just yet but stay tuned.

If this is true it’s an absolute travesty and Hawn clearly has a case for his pending lawsuit. I (along with everyone else interested in this story) will be eagerly awaiting the name of the rogue company “sponsor.”

Rick spent all of 2012 competing in season 6 of Bellator’s lightweight tournament where he defeated Richardo Tirloni, Lloyd Woodward and Brent Weedman to earn a shot at Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler. On January 17th, 2013 at Bellator 85 Hawn got his shot at the title but was defeated by Chandler via submission (rear naked choke) at 3:07 of the second round.

The Bellator 85 event was the promotions long awaited debut on Spike TV. The two hour broadcast averaged 938,000 viewers, an overwhelming success for Bellator and its CEO/President Bjorn Rebney.

By Scott Levesque (@scottlevesque)

ProFightingFans.com Staff Writer

After waiting an extended period of time for a shot at Anderson Silva, middleweight contender Michael Bisping was knocked out of his place in the front of the line in terms of potential challengers for the UFC middleweight champion with a loss to Vitor Belfort at UFC on FX 7. Bisping was heavily favored in his bout against Belfort, but it was the veteran Brazilian who was able to earn a TKO victory that started with a head kick. Belfort isn’t guaranteed a shot at Silva, but with a lack of challengers, he could be a long-shot candidate to earn a title shot. Belfort earned a $50,000 bonus for “knockout of the night” with his win.

In the co-main event, middleweight CB Dolloway survived a tough fight against debuting Brazilian Daniel Sarafian to take home a split decision. For their fight, Dolloway and Sarafian took home the “fight of the night” bonus award. Also on the main card, Brazilian heavyweight Gabriel Gonzaga choked out Ben Rothwell in the second round, and Khabib Nurmagomedov moved his unbeaten record to 19-0 with a TKO over veteran Thiago Tavares. Debuting Brazilian Ildemar Alcantara earned the “submission of the night” for his kneebar submission over Wagner Prado in the night’s opening bout.

Bellator gets a ‘spike’ in debut on new home

Bellator 85 marked the start of the organization’s eighth season, which was also the first on its new home at Spike TV – the former home of competitor UFC. Thanks in part to a lead-in from TNA Wrestling, the organization’s debut event more than tripled the previous record audience for a Bellator event with almost a million viewers. Both featherweight champion Pat Curran and lightweight champion Michael Chandler successfully defended their titles against tournament winners Patricio “Pitbull” Freire and Rick Hawn, respectively, giving the organization a great jumpstart into what is likely to be its most successful season to date. Despite a razor-thin split decision between Curran and Pitbull, the organization won’t be able to set up an immediate rematch because of an already-backlogged featherweight division. Daniel Straus has already earned a title shot with his victory in the Season 6 tournament, and Shah Shamhalaev will battle Rad Martinez for the place in line behind Straus. Freire could be a favorite to re-enter an upcoming featherweight tournament for another shot at the title, though.

The light heavyweight tournament also kicked off, as Russian Mikhail Zayats upset UFC veteran Renato “Babalu” Sobral to earn a semifinal spot. Also, Californian Emanuel Newton made it to his second tournament semifinal with a submission over debuting Bulgarian Atanas Djambazov, and Tennessean Jacob Noe stopped veteran Seth Petruzelli with a TKO to earn the night’s third semifinal berth. Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal and Pryzemslaw Mysiala will battle at Bellator 86 this week for the final spot in the semifinals.

Quick Hits

Former Strikeforce champion Gegard Mousasi will take on Alexander Gustafsson in his UFC debut at UFC on FX 9 on April 6 in Sweden…Top Canadian organization MFC will debut its 135-pound bantamweight class beginning with its May show…Big-show veterans James Krause and Brock Larson earned decision victories at Resurrection Fighting Alliance 6 in Kansas City…A pair of Strikeforce champs will have their UFC debuts on FOX, as Gilbert Melendez will challenge Benson Henderson for the lightweight title at UFC on FOX 7 in April, and heavyweight Daniel Cormier will make his debut against former UFC champion Frank Mir.

(PRESS RELEASE) Newport Beach, CA. – As Bellator embarks into one of the largest television alliances in MMA history, the promotion announced today their longstanding alliance with Everlast, the world’s leading manufacturer, marketer and licensor of fight sports equipment has been extended through 2014.

With the alliance, Everlast will stay the exclusive equipment provider for Bellator, including fight gloves, cages and training equipment.  Everlast will also be a category-exclusive promotional sponsor of all Bellator events and the two companies will both strategically market, promote, publicize and advertise their partnership through a wide variety of channels.

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of success with Everlast over the last four years, so extending this partnership was a very easy decision,” Bellator Chairman & CEO Bjorn Rebney said. “As the worldwide leader in combat sports equipment, Everlast has been a tremendous partner to Bellator since our start and I look forward to our relationship’s continued growth and expansion as we move to Spike TV.”

“Having world class athletes compete in our product is at the core of our brand’s authenticity.” said Matt Cowan, EVP Sales, Marketing and Product Development for Everlast. “With Bellator’s move Spike TV, we are excited for the continued growth of our partnership, as well as the sport of MMA.”

For more information, visit Bellator.com, follow Bellator on Twitter @BellatorMMA, follow Bellator Chairman & CEO Bjorn Rebney @BjornRebney and check out Bellator on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Bellator

(PRESS RELEASE) Newport Beach, CA. – The stage is set for a Bellator MMA Lightweight Tournament Finals showdown as Dave “The Fugitive” Jansen battles submission ace Marcin Held on March 7th from California’s Pechanga Resort & Casino. Tickets for the event start at just $40, and can be purchased by visiting Pechanga.comBellator.com, or by calling the Pechanga Box Office at 877-711-2946 or visiting between noon and 8pm daily.

The event will broadcast LIVE starting at 7 p.m. PST on Spike TV, as well as in Spanish language on mun2. The preliminary card will be streamed LIVE and FREE on Spike.com starting at 5 p.m. MST.

Only 20 and holding an impressive 15-2 record, polish phenom Marcin Held stormed through the opening rounds of the lightweight tournament, collecting explosive victories over Murad Machaev and longtime MMA veteran Rich Clementi. Known across the MMA landscape as one of the top submission artists in the sport, Held is a victory away from capturing his first Bellator Tournament crown and a guaranteed title shot.

For Jansen, the charismatic lightweight enters the Bellator Finals riding a five fight win streak and is fully prepared for the test that awaits him on March 7th, in what undoubtedly be the biggest fight of his career.

“I’ve had a lot of time to work on my game plan and really focus on this fight on March 7th,” Jansen said. “Marcin has the total package when it comes to submissions, so I know what I need to focus on to win this fight, and get a shot at the Bellator title.”

“Pechanga is a gorgeous venue that will be a tremendous partner for us throughout 2013 as we air live every Thursday night on Spike,” said Bellator Chairman & CEO Bjorn Rebney.

“As the largest tournament-based MMA organization in the world, Bellator MMA offers Pechanga guests the adrenaline-fueled fights they demand,” said Pechanga Development Corporation President Patrick Murphy. “We are very excited to be offering up the highly anticipated Jansen vs. Held fight, as well as a host of action packed fights on March 7th.”

For more information, visit Bellator.com, follow Bellator on Twitter @BellatorMMA, follow Bellator Chairman & CEO Bjorn Rebney @BjornRebney and check out Bellator on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Bellator