Feb. 28 Preview and Predictions

February 27, 2013

Every week, the staff here at BellatorMMA.spike.com will be providing their picks and insights into the evening's event.

Spike.com's Editorial Staff is back with its picks for Bellator MMA.Last week, we learned two hard lessons: don't pick against Russian fighters, and don't question the projections of producer and senior sports writer Brian Dermody, who went 4-1 on the night and took the season lead with an impressive 11-4 record.This week, we find out who goes to the finals of the Season Eight Lightweight Tournament, and in our main event Atilla Vegh gets his shot at Light Heavyweight Champion Christian M'Pumbu.

Who ya got?


Christian M'Pumbu (c) vs. Atilla Vegh

Summer Series Light Heavyweight Tournament champion Attila Vegh gets his shot against Christian M'Pumbu, who will defend the title for the first time since he won it two years ago.

Kevin Marshall (Writer): All due respect to Christian M'Pumbu, but he's 35 and it's his first defense despite winning this belt almost two years ago. He's only fought once since then – a non-title decision loss to Travis Wiuff - and that was back in the Fall of 2011. I really don't like the chances of a guy that goes in with that level of inactivity, particularly against a dangerous fighter on a hot streak. I'm going with Attila Vegh to become our new Light Heavyweight champion.

Brian Dermody (Senior Sports Writer): Vegh beat Wiuff and Wiuff beat M'Pumbu, so Vegh beats M'Pumbu. I'm kidding; obviously it's not that simple, I just wanted to infuriate people for a second. That's not why Vegh wins here, but he does. In the past year, he's picked up four wins while M'Pumbu has been sitting around collecting ring rust. It's the biggest fight of Vegh's life, and he'll be in top form for it.

Michael Roberts (Social Media Editor): M'Pumbu returns to action for the first time since October 2011, when he was smothered by Wiuff's heavy top game and handed his lone defeat in the Bellator cage. Wrestling isn't M'Pumbu's strong suit, but that's unlikely to be a concern against fellow striker Vegh. The challenger's 4-0 Bellator record features both uninspired bouts he edged out decisions in and two emphatic beatings where he showed his full potential. My guess is we'll see the Slovak in prime form for this title bout, as he has to feel both acclimated to and confident in the cage. Vegh stays aggressive, finds an opening on the feet and seals the deal with a submission in the third.

Fred Richani (Coordinating Producer): Completely agree with Marshall. Vegh has the momentum, while M'Pumbu returns from MMA exile after going underground for over a year. Vegh wins the gold. This fight won't go the distance.


Will Brooks vs. Saad Awad

Dermody: Saad Awad is going to patiently wait for Will Brooks to make a mistake, which in itself might prove to be a mistake. But I think he holds on and uses his experience to grind out a decision.

Roberts: Brooks was quite impressive in his Bellator debut, soundly defeating Ricardo Tirloni. Awad's 31-second knockout in the quarterfinals was impressive, but Brooks isn't going to go away that easily. I'd expect Awad to be aggressive from the opening bell and for Brooks to set a measured pace. Ultimately, Brooks dominates from the top and he secures a submission in the second round.

Richani: The heavy-hitting Awad will definitely test Brooks' durability. Man, what a tough choice picking one of two impressive, young guns, but I'm taking Brooks via hard-fought Unanimous Decision.

Marshall: I grappled with this one quite a bit. I really think both are dark horses and could walk away from this season with the Tournament Championship, particularly with some of the upsets we've already seen and the departures of Tiger Sarnavskiy and Patricky Pitbull due to injuries. Both of these guys are hot prospects at 155, and from what I've seen it'll come down to the strength of Will Brooks' chin. I have a feeling it'll hold up and he'll take this one.

David Rickels vs. Jason Fischer

NOTE: Jason Fischer replaces Alexander "Tiger" Sarnavskiy, who unfortunately fractured his hand in route to his quarterfinal victory. Fischer and Rickels met back in November, where Rickels earned a Unanimous Decision victory.

Roberts: Very interesting rematch in this one and a huge (and well deserved) opportunity for Jason Fischer as he enters the tournament. Rickels' cardio proved the difference in his quarterfinal bout against Lloyd Woodard, but Fischer isn't likely to fade here. "The Finisher" lives every bit up to his moniker as regardless of the round, time or scorecards he's looking to take the judges out of the equation. Even so Rickels' experience in the tournament against higher level competition will make the difference, as "The Caveman" earns a razor-thin decision in an exciting, back-and-forth three rounder.

Richani: If "Caveman" Rickels takes Fischer lightly, despite beating him before, he could be in trouble. Fischer is going to be more aggressive than he's ever been, and make the most out of this opportunity -- or he'll be like Bryan Baker last week and end up looking at the lights. Rickels wins via Unanimous Decision, but Fischer will be a much tougher challenge than the first time around.

Marshall: The easy money here is on Rickels, who at this point is arguably the favorite the win the tournament. I'm not sure, though, that he isn't playing with fire lately by allowing it to go to the judges. One of the things that makes Bellator MMA's tournament format so arduous is that you're going up against a field of young, aggressive fighters with a quick turnaround. He's coming out of an absolute war against Woodard, and you have to wonder if that'll make a difference. I have this nagging feeling that it will, especially since Fischer ended it early in his last fight (which went down on the same card as Rickels/Woodard) and is on the upswing in his career. I'm calling Fischer with the upset by submission.

Dermody: There are few things I like doing less than saying "Michael Roberts is right", but here we are. I disagree with him on the decision, though, and I think it is "The Finisher" who will be finished, which could lead to some troubling post-fight trash talk. I see Rickels scrambling his way out of a bad spot and into a place to surprise Fischer with a submission.


Ed West vs. Josh Montoya

Richani: Ed West has come up short against Bellator's best, but he has more than held his own. On paper, Josh Montoya at 10-7 looks to be an easy fight, but West has never been known as a finisher. West's inability to finish could keep the dangerous (and at times, reckless) Montoya in this fight. One thing not to overlook is Montoya's age. At just 23, "The Destroya" has an opportunity to turn around what's been a mixed bag of an MMA career thus far in a nationally televised fight on Spike TV. But if West is still as good as we think he is, he takes this fight -- easily.

Marshall: West is on a two-fight losing streak, but they came at the hands of current Bellator MMA Bantamweight Champion Eduardo Dantas and his most recent challenger, Marcos Galvão. Considering those two fighters, it can hardly be held against him. On the other hand, there have been diminishing returns in his three appearances in the toughest tournament in sports. This is an important fight and a possible turning point for his career. But I think – and hope - his experience against a higher level of competition will win the day here.

Dermody: Everyone West has lost to in Bellator has at least fought for the Bantamweight Championship (as has West himself). Montoya is a decent prospect, but certainly finishable. West shouldn't have a ton of trouble here.

Roberts: West has certainly seen some tough draws as of late. Nevertheless, dropping consecutive bouts to Eduardo Dantas and Marcos Galvão is nothing to be ashamed of. Those guys are several classes above Montoya, who fits the mold for guys the former tournament finalist usually beats. Expect "Wild" West to have plenty of success on the feet, as he cruises to a clean sweep on the scorecards.