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.
NON-TOURNAMENT BANTAMWEIGHT FIGHT
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.