Breaking the Bracket is a series previewing Season 8's tournaments and providing the author's purely speculative picks. His opinions are his own and do not reflect those of Spike or Bellator.
PREVIOUSLY ON BREAKING THE BRACKET: SEASON 8…
The Light Heavyweights
STATUS: NOT YET BUSTED!
I went 2-2 in the quarterfinal picks, getting it right with King Mo and Jacob Noe's KO of Seth Petruzelli. Unfortunately, Babalu took an early exit and got overwhelmed by Mikhail Zayats, and I should have known better than to underestimate Emanuel Newton. But with my pick of a Mo vs. Noe final, I'm still in the game so to speak.
I correctly called all four quarterfinal winners. Trust me, I'm as shocked as you are, especially considering the depth and parity in this division.
STATUS: COMPLETELY, TOTALLY BUSTED
Oof. With Patricky Pitbull's unfortunate injury and the remaining three fights not going in my favor, my Lightweight bracket is totally, completely busted. I'm going to get ridiculed in the office all season for this one. You can't win them all!
And now we have the Featherweight Tournament. Pat Curran successfully defended his Featherweight Championship in the season premiere, but he has before him a field of potential contenders that include some veterans coupled with the hottest young prospects on the scene. Almost all of them, too, are super aggressive fighters and could provide the top to bottom most entertaining fights you'll see all year.
Let's take a look at the field and break down the bracket:
POPO BEZERRA vs. GENAIR da SILVA
Da Silva is a hot prospect, but unfortunately he's had trouble making weight in the past at 145. The last time out he was on point, but is it completely behind him? The rigors of the tournament at this weight class might be too much. And if he has a particularly bad cut, Bezerra's going to take full advantage and submit him.
: Alexandre Bezerra
MITCH JACKSON vs. MIKE RICHMAN
This could be the upset of the tournament. Richman was looking like a monster heading into last season's semi-finals, but got caught. Hey, it happens to the best of them. But Jackson himself is a hot prospect and a submission ace. If he can get it to the ground, Richman is in trouble.
: Mitch Jackson for the upset.
MARLON SANDRO vs. AKOP STEPANYAN
Stepanyan is a dangerous, quick fighter, but is taking a big step up in terms of competition in joining Bellator. Having to face Marlon Sandro, arguably the odds-on favorite to win the whole tournament, almost seems unfair.
: Marlon Sandro
FABRICIO GUERREIRO vs. FRODO KHASBULAEV
Both are very aggressive fighters, and their combined 31 stoppages in 35 fights almost guarantees a highlight reel finish, but give me Frodo here.
: Frodo KhasbulaevSEMI-FINALS
POPO BEZERRA vs. MITCH JACKSON
Jackson could be the Cinderella story of the tournament, but as much as I like his chances I have a hard time picking him over Bezerra.
: Popo Bezerra
MARLON SANDRO vs. FRODO KHASBULAEV
This would be an intriguing match-up and possibly the hardest one to pick. Sandro has, in my opinion, the strongest resume of any other fighter in the tournament. Khasbulaev, though, has been on an absolute tear the last year and hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. Call it a gut feeling (or a cop out), but something tells me that it's not going to stop here.
: Frodo KhasbulaevFINALS
POPO BEZERRA vs. FRODO KHASBULAEV
Am I insane?! Perhaps. But even more insane are the knockouts of Khasbulaev.
: Frodo Khasbulaev
And there you have it!
So, how do you think the tournament's gonna play out? Let us know in the comments and tune in LIVE this Thursday at 10/9c for the premiere of Bellator on Spike.
The featherweight tournament will kick off on the February 7th edition of Bellator MMA. The event will be headlined by top-ranked Russian middleweight Alexander Shlemenko taking on Maiquel Falcão for the vacant Bellator Middleweight Championship.