Season 7 of Bellator Fighting Championships
continues and the heavyweights are up for the tournament quarterfinals. Stakes are higher than usual in this bracket, as the shocking retirement of inaugural Bellator heavyweight champion Cole Konrad opens the door for the tournament winner being crowned world champion, but Bellator CEO/Chairman Bjorn Rebney is yet to make an official announcement. Regardless, eight heavyweights, including a former No. 1 contender, a tournament finalist and several newcomers, are ready for battle. The action gets underway Friday, October 5 at 8/7c on MTV2, in HD on EPIX2 and in Spanish on mun2.
A tense rivalry will finally be settled, as Eric Prindle and Thiago Santos meet once again in the featured bout of the night. When the two clashed in the Season 5 heavyweight tournament finals, an inadvertent groin kick by Santos ended the fight early on and it was declared no-contest. Prindle falling ill and Santos missing weight thwarted two attempts at a rematch last spring, and Prindle was ultimately crowned the de facto tournament champion. The story remains the same for "The American Solider," his ground game still remains a weak point as shown in his title fight against Konrad. His hands, nevertheless, remain a lethal asset capable of ending fights in seconds, as displayed in his knockout of Ron Sparks. After missing weight last spring, Santos moved away from his native Brazil and set up shop at American Top Team. Consistent training with world class talent is only improving the already dominant ground game of "Big Monster" ahead of Friday's fight as even though his striking is progressing nicely, he'll have a definitive advantage on the mat.
Longtime light heavyweight Rich Hale makes the leap up to heavyweight as he battles Mike Wessel. In his Bellator debut last August, Wessel shut down Ryan Martinez to capture his first promotional win. The vet showed solid fight IQ throughout and pushed the pace when appropriate, utilizing a healthy dose of efficient counterpunching and solid takedown defense to earn the nod. It was Wessel's fourth win his last five fights. He meets Hale, who after several impressive performances at 205 is looking to test the waters at heavyweight once again. If his last outing against former heavyweight Josh Burns
is an indication, Hale's frame will hold steady up a weight class. "Rare Breed" showcased finishing power at 205, winning his last two fights by knockout in a combined 56 seconds, and his anticipated speed advantage over most in the field makes him the tournament's dark horse.
Blinking isn't recommended when Mark Holata takes on Vicius Queiroz. The Brazilian Queiroz enters his Bellator debut with knockouts in all five of his pro wins, including four in the first round; statistics that perfectly illustrate his Chute Boxe roots. "Spartan" stands 6'7" making him tied for the tallest heavyweight in the field. In Holata, he meets an opponent with a history of quick fights. Holata has yet to leave the first round in his four Bellator appearances. His 3-1 promotional record features a one punch knockout of Shawn Jordan. In his last outing against Abe Wagner, he scored his first non-striking submission win in Bellator with an Achilles lock, revealing another weapon in his arsenal.
Rounding out the tournament is the heavy handed Brett Rogers taking on rising prospect Alexander Volkov. At just 23 years of age, the 6'7" Volkov is still growing into his frame. The Russian, nevertheless, has compiled at 16-3 record fighting overseas. He makes his Bellator and U.S. debut riding the momentum of a seven fight winning streak, which includes six knockouts. Volkov squares off against Rogers, who has put his controversial past behind him and aims to build another winning streak. "Da Grim" became a household name overnight after knocking out former UFC champ Andrei Arlovski in just 22 seconds. While a rough 1-4 stretch would follow, the numbers don't tell the full story, as three of those losses came to current or former champions. The refocused Rogers made a successful Bellator debut last June, pounding on Kevin Asplund for 10 minutes before a doctor halted the action. Rogers, like Santos, made the move to American Top Team in preparation for the tournament.
Before the heavyweights enter the cage, the prelims are live on bellatorlive.spike.com
starting at 6:30e/3:30p. Season 5 bantamweight tournament competitor Chase Beebe returns to action hoping to earn another tournament slot, as he takes on promotional newcomer Bo Harris. Heavyweights Martinez and Manny Lara face off, with each looking for their first win under the Bellator banner and secure a spot in an upcoming tournament. Check out the full Bellator 75 card
Bellator 75 Main Card is live at 8/7c on MTV2, EPIX2 and in Spanish on mun2
Bellator 75 Prelims are live at 6:30e/3:30p on bellatorlive.spike.com
Image: Eric Coleman /Eric Coleman Photography /Bellator Fighting Championships