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Bellator 80 Preview

by Michael Roberts   November 08, 2012 at 5:30PM  |  Views: 1,428
Bellator 80 preview photo

"The Baddest Man on the Planet" makes his return, as Season 7 of Bellator Fighting Championships continues with Bellator 80. Former featherweight world champion Joe Warren drops down to his natural weight class and meets Owen Evinger at 135 pounds. The heavyweight and featherweight tournament finals will also be set, as a pair of semifinals determine who will meet last week's winners with a title shot on the line. Bellator 80 goes down this Friday, November 9 in Hollywood, Florida, live on MTV2 and EPIX at 8/7c.

Warren finds himself in an unusual position, entering Friday's contest having tasted consecutive defeats for the first time in his career. Many questions surround the 35-year-old former champ, the biggest being how will he respond after falling victim to two of the more brutal knockouts you'll see in this sport. If there's one certainty it's that the former champ won't quit, as his resilience has been displayed in both victory and defeat; it's crucial to remember one of his last knockouts was to one of the best featherweights on the planet, and that Warren ate everything Patricio Pitbull and Joe Soto could throw at him and still hung on to win. Evinger is an appropriate test, as he'll look to pick up his first win in Bellator. A big concern for the Missouri native is his tendency to give up his back, something that cost him in his previous two Bellator outings. While Warren has yet to notch a submission in his professional career, Evinger would be ill-advised to give him an open invitation.

Wagnney Fabiano and Rad Martinez meet in the second featherweight semifinal of the season. Brazilian jiu-jitsu wiz Fabiano entered the Season 7 tournament with nearly two years of ring rust but didn't miss a beat once the bell rang. His vicious ground game was on full display, as he cranked on Akop Stepanyan's arm and forced him to tap with one of the most gruesome submissions of the year. Martinez had arguably the most exciting quarterfinal fight in the featherweight bracket, as he earned the decision after three back and forth rounds against Nazareno Malegarie. While Martinez's wrestling has been well documented, his improved striking in the quarters helped earn him the nod. He'll likely opt for a similar blueprint against Fabiano and avoid the ground game at all costs. The winner meets Shahbulat Shamhalaev in the featherweight tournament finals.

A pair of 6'7" heavyweights in Vinicius Queiroz and Alexander Volkov square off with a spot in the finals on the line. Queiroz found himself in trouble in the quarterfinals, as Mark Holata dropped him early into the fight. The Brazilian, however, showed a solid chin and maintained his composure, eventually setting up a slick armbar and getting the tap in the opening frame. It was the Queiroz's first career submission win, as his previous five wins were all by knockout. He'll need to keep his guard up against Volkov in the semis. The dangerous Russian picked Brett Rogers apart in the quarters and completely neutralized the offense of "Da Grim." Volkov showed excellent awareness of range and used his lengthy frame to dictate distance, turning the fight into essentially 15 minutes of target practice. Recent heavyweight convert Rich Hale awaits the winner in the tournament finals.

Rounding out the main card is a middleweight title between Brett Cooper and Darryl Cobb. The Illinois native Cobb fell victim to Giva Santana's trademark armbar in his Bellator debut last October and is out for his first promotional win. Currently riding the longest losing streak of his career, Cobb has his work cut out for him against Cooper. Holding a 3-2 record in Bellator, Cooper knows a win sets him up for an upcoming middleweight tournament. The scrappy Team Reign product is 5-1 is his last six fights, the lone blemish to two-time tournament winner Alexander Shlemenko.

Before the main card airs, Bellator 80 prelims stream live on bellatorlive.spike.com. The world class kickboxing of Cosmo Alexandre will be on display as he rematches the lone opponent to defeat him in his MMA career, the undefeated Josh Quayhagen. Shanon Slack and Sky Moiseichik also fight in a battle of once-beaten featherweights. Undefeated Cristiano Souza returns to Bellator and meets Robert Otani is a welterweight tilt. Check out the full Bellator 80 card.

Bellator 80 main card is live on MTV2 and EPIX2 at 8/7c
Prelims are live on bellatorlive.spike.com at 6e/3p

Image: Eric Coleman /Eric Coleman Photography /Bellator Fighting Championships