Season 7 of Bellator Fighting Championships
continues this Friday with the start of the tournament semifinals. The welterweights are up first, as former champ Lyman Good battles Michail Tsarev and strikers Andrey Koreshkov and Marius Zaromskis collide with a place in the finals on the line. Also on the card, which takes place in Dayton, Ohio, are some of the Buckeye State's finest, as Brian Rogers, Daniel Straus and women's champion Zoila Gurgel all return to the Bellator cage. Bellator 78 takes place Friday, October 26, with the main card live on MTV2 and EPIX2 at 8/7c.
Their combined record of 37-4 speaks for the talent both Good and Tsarev possess. The Russian is a bit of an oddity compared to his Rusfighters Sports Club teammates, as he favors grappling over striking. His Bellator debut last month saw more of the same, as he transitioned beautifully to lock up a rear naked choke and force Tim Welch to tap, earning his 19th career submission win in the process. It was the lone finish in the welterweight quarterfinals
. Tsarev takes another step up in competition against Good, Bellator's first welterweight champion. "Cyborg" enters the semis coming off of a dominant performance against Jim Wallhead, where the New York native battered Wallhead for the better part of three rounds. Good utilized short hooks and uppercuts from the clinch early before opening up to boxing range and peppering him with a jab later on, earning a clean sweep on the scorecards. The former champ has only been bested by elite company in Olympians Rick Hawn and Ben Askren.
Completing the semifinals is a battle of the tournament's most prolific strikers in Koreshkov and Zaromskis. The quarterfinals
were almost a true return to form for Zaromskis, who looked the best he has since his vicious run of head kicks in Japan. "The Whitemare" dropped Nordine Taleb with a spinning back fist that few in the division would have survived and stayed aggressive throughout the fight, landing the harder shots for the decision win. He'll meet fellow striking enthusiast Koreshkov in the semis. The young Russian certainly overcame adversity against Jordan Smith to keep his perfect record intact, as he survived a tight rear naked choke in the second round and hung on to win the decision. It was a necessary learning experience for the 22-year-old Koreshkov, who went a full three rounds for the first time in his 11-fight career. Between Koreshkov and Zaromskis' mutual love for unorthodox striking techniques, expect plenty of wild exchanges while this one lasts.
Knockout of the Year frontrunner
Brian Rogers is back in the cage, as he faces Dominique Steele. A predominantly standup affair is expected between this pair of Ohioans. Steele's 6-2 record includes four first-round wins, all due to strikes. While he's no novice on the ground, Steele certainly remains the most comfortable in striking exchanges. Those are likely to be plentiful against "The Predator." Rogers put together an incredible streak of seven consecutive first-round KOs from 2009-2011, including his Bellator debut. After being on the wrong end of finishes against two-time tournament winner Alexander Shlemenko and Season 6 finalist Andreas Spang, look for a slightly more reserved but equally as dangerous Rogers come Friday night.
Despite being guaranteed a title shot and already having fought three times in a tournament winning effort
this year, Daniel Straus is keeping busy and meets Alvin Robinson. "Kid" Robinson enters his Bellator debut having posted three wins in his last four fights. The four-time UFC veteran has scored submissions in 11 of his 12 career wins. Straus is unquestionably one of the sport's true grinders, as this will mark the fifth bout for the Season 6 featherweight tournament champion in the last 12 months. Straus displayed vastly improved striking last spring which, along with his trademark powerhouse wrestling and grueling pace, saw him defeat the likes of Mike Corey and Marlon Sandro en route to claiming the tournament championship. With current world title holder Pat Curran recovering from an orbital injury and Patricio "Pitbull" Freire first up for a title shot, Straus opts to stay busy instead of letting potential cage rust build up.
Before the main card airs live, Spike.com
streams the prelim card live at bellatorlive.spike.com
at 6e/3p. Women's champion Zoila Gurgel returns to action for the first time since March 2011 after being sidelined by a devastating ACL injury. Gurgel fights 10 pounds north of her championship weight class and takes on Casey Noland at 125 pounds. A pair of unbeaten middleweights clash, as Jason Butcher returns to Bellator to take on Shaun Asher. Yet another unblemished record owner enters the cage Friday, as Trey Houston fights for the second time under the Bellator banner when he faces Billy Horne. Check out the full Bellator 78 card.
Bellator 78 main card is live Friday, October 26 on MTV2 and EPIX2 at 8/7c
Prelims are live on bellatorlive.spike.com
Image: Eric Coleman /Eric Coleman Photography /Bellator Fighting Championships