Bellator 61 Preview

March 14, 2012

Bellator Fighting Championships heads south and continues its sixth season with the middleweight quarterfinals. Bellator 61 features four explosive matchups at 185 pounds, with equal parts familiar faces and new blood. Catch all of the action this Friday, March 16th from Bossier City, Louisiana starting at 7/6c on and continuing at 8/7c on MTV2, and in HD on Epix2.

Originally expected to showcase the season five heavyweight tournament championship rematch between Eric Prindle and Thiago Santos , a last-minute illness forced Prindle out of the fight. The pair will meet later this season.

A middleweight quarterfinal between Maiquel Falcao and Norman Paraisy, a pair of promotional newcomers with international experience, will now headline the card. Paraisy enters his Bellator debut on the heels of wins over former WEC-champ Paulo Filho and Jack Mason. The Frenchman practically turned Filho into a punching bag in the latter half of the fight, throwing a barrage of knees and punches en route to a unanimous decision win. In the Mason fight, Paraisy turned in a lackadaisical two rounds, dropping his hands and taunting his opponent, before throwing a flying knee in the third round and getting the finish. Against the shorter and stockier Falcao, Paraisy will need to deviate away from his tendency to throw lead hooks, and instead rely on his length and straight punches to keep the powerful Brazilian at bay. Falcao, a UFC veteran, earned a unanimous decision in his lone octagon experience before issues in his native Brazil led to his perplexing release. "Big Rig" has only lost once in his last 11 fights, a submission loss in a bout he dominated on the feet. Surrounding that loss are two first-round finishes in less than two minutes combined, including a 27-second TKO over Julio Cesar Bilik. The Brazilian's last fight against Douglas del Rio showcased his superb killer instinct; Falcao came out patient and swarmed as soon as del Rio was rocked to earn his 23rd knockout in 28 victories.

A pair of season five vets square off, as explosive striker Brian Rogers battles dangerous jiu-jitsu ace Vitor Vianna. Rogers moved his incredible streak of first-round knockouts to seven in the quarterfinals last year against Victor O'Donnell. In the semis, "The Predator" squared off against tournament favorite and previous tournament winner Alexander Shlemenko. The two engaged in a back-and-forth affair at Bellator 54, which saw Rogers nearly finish the Russian in the first before he was controversially TKOed in the second-round. The Strong Style representative felt his dreadlocks were used against him and put his clippers where his mouth is, and shaved his head days after the fight. Vianna enters the quarterfinal fight also having tournament experience. The Wand Fight Team BJJ coach made it to the finals last season, but looked uninspired in dropping a decision against Shlemenko. A grappler at heart, Vianna's offense simply stalled. Now refocused with personal issues behind him, Vianna looks to return to the form that saw him demolish Bryan Baker in less than a minute last October and make a successful return.

The third quarterfinal sees Vyacheslav Vasilevsky and O'Donnell clash in a match-up of two bright prospects. In last season's quarterfinals, O'Donnell was defeated early on and a bit prematurely. After absorbing a head kick, he fell to the canvas and ate several more shots before the ref halted the action. A clear-eyed O'Donnell immediately protested the stoppage and stood up on stable legs. The Team Vision product returns to season six ready to make the most of his second chance. Though nine of O'Donnell's 11 wins have come by way of submission, the Cincinnati native is better-rounded than those stats suggest. Holding wins over UFC veterans Forrest Petz and Rafael Natal, O'Donnell faces one of his toughest tests in Vasilevsky. "Slava" enters Bellator as one of the hottest international prospects in the game. Having compiled a 15-1 record, the 23-year-old Russian brings a 14-fight winning streak into the fight. His quick footwork and solid striking aided him in his incredible unbeaten stretch that saw him capture an M-1 belt. Dropping down to middleweight will only enhance the speed of "Slava."

Rounding out the quarterfinals are two Brazilians on hot streaks, as Giva Santana battles newcomer Bruno Santos. Going a perfect 12-0 to open his MMA career, Santos is workmanlike with his approach. His decision-heavy record reflects someone with an incredible talent still carving their identity in the sport. At only 24 years of age, Santos is still in bloom and has yet to taste defeat. He attacks single-leg takedowns and utilizes a heavy top game to grind his opponents away. Against Santana this approach may be ill-advised. Nicknamed "The Arm Collector," Santana has a penchant for armbars, having ending an incredible 13 of his 17 wins with them. His sole blemish dates back to a 2008 split decision loss. The veteran Santana, though a decade the elder of his opponent, has yet to absorb significant damage in his career, making him a serious threat for a tournament run.

Before the main card airs on MTV2 and Epix2, brings you the prelim fights live at 7/6c. Local favorite Josh Quayhagen returns to Bellator for the first time since his upset win over kickboxer Cosmo Alexander. Additionally, Trey Houston battles Jeremiah Riggs, who has appeared on IMPACT WRESTLING. Check out the full Bellator 61 card on

Prelims are live on this Friday at 7/6c
Main card is live on MTV2, Epix2 and this Friday at 8/7c
More fights air live on this Friday at 10/9c