Welterweight might just be the most competitive, and therefore unpredictable, weight class in all of MMA, which is what makes Ben Askren that much more remarkable. Nineteen months into his professional career, he won the Bellator Welterweight Championship and has held onto it for over two years. Many reading this may not like him, given not only his propensity for grappling but also his lack of hesitancy in telling people he doesn't care if whether or not they're entertained by his fights. But you have to give the man his due.
The eight men in this season's welterweight tournament face an unenviable task. They're going up against arguably the most competitive field in all of Season 8, and waiting for them at the end of the line is a seemingly unstoppable and brash young wrestler.
Let's take a look at the field and break down the bracket:
MARIUS ZAROMSKIS vs. BRENT WEEDMAN
Zaromskis is a dangerous and fearless striker, as evidenced by the fact that he's still fighting at welterweight despite being one of the only fighters I'm aware of (and certainly the only one at this level) that actually walks around at just under 170. The idea is that his striking and his speed compensate for the size and strength disadvantage he brings into every fight. This time he's facing a bigger, stronger, but more importantly skilled and experienced opponent in Weedman, who has fought in three Bellator tournaments and appeared on an episode of Ink Master
this past season. Okay, that last part was just a cheap plug. Anyway, as much as I want to root for Zaromskis, I have to give this one to Weedman.
: Brent Weedman via Unanimous Decision
DOUGLAS LIMA vs. MICHAIL TSAREV
Lima, the season five tournament winner, is arguably the #2 welterweight in Bellator and has faced a higher level of competition than most in the tournament. Tsarev is a skilled submission practitioner who made quite a name for himself in Russia, and seemed to be en route to doing so here with Bellator in last season's welterweight tournament. Unfortunately he was finished by Lyman Good after what appeared to be an accidental eyepoke to Tsarev that the referee didn't see. As much as I'd like to see Tsarev get a break here, I don't think it'll come against Lima.
: Douglas Lima via Unanimous Decision
JOSE GOMES vs. RAUL AMAYA
Both are finishers looking to make a name for themselves in a crowded Welterweight field, with this being Gomes first fight ever outside of Brazil. Amaya made his debut in the season six tournament and had the misfortune to draw eventual finalist Ben Saunders in the opening round. What we see from Gomes is that he's an aggressive fighter; the kind that a skilled tactician can take advantage of. That might be Amaya.
: Raul Amaya via TKO, R2
KOFFI ADZITSO vs. BEN SAUNDERS
Adzitso is stepping up drastically in competition by being in this tournament, especially considering his first round opponent is Saunders, who has spent virtually his entire career competing at the upper echelon.
: Ben Saunders via TKO, R1
BRENT WEEDMAN vs. DOUGLAS LIMA
Weedman will have come out of his first fight at least having made a name for himself and ensuring future appearances in Bellator, but while he'll put up a valiant fight he'll be outmatched against Lima.
: Douglas Lima via KO, R2
RAUL AMAYA vs. BEN SAUNDERS
A rematch from the opening round of the season six welterweight tournament, and I see it going much the same way.
: Saunders via Unanimous Decision
BEN SAUNDERS vs. DOUGLAS LIMA
These two met before in the season five welterweight final. Saunders is one of those guys who's always come so close, but ended up short. I think this might be his time, though. Call it a gut feeling.
: Ben Saunders via Unanimous Decision
Well, there you have it. I don't know about you, but I'm eager to see it start.
How do you think the tournament will 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 welterweight tournament will kick off in our second broadcast on Thursday, January 24th on a card that airs live on Spike and will be headlined by Ben Askren defending the Bellator Welterweight Championship against Summer Series tournament winner Karl Amoussou.