The Bellator train rolls on Friday as the number-two promotion in MMA debuts their heavyweight tournament to find a challenger for Alexander Volkov (or Vitaly Minokov depending on how things go). There's also a middleweight semifinal on the card as well as a bantamweight Summer Series final. The action, in other words, is varied enough to cater to nearly any fan's particular interests.
Will Kongo get the world title he desperately wants? Who is moving on in the middleweight tourney? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Friday's action.
What: Bellator 102
Where: Visalia Convention Center, Visalia, CA
When: Friday, the six-fight preliminary card starts at 7 p.m. ET on Spike.com. The five-fight main card starts on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET.
Kongo's ability to withstand damage isn't close to what it once was and despite Bellator's heavyweight division sorely lacking, anyone there has enough power to shut his lights out. Still, Kongo is more than capable of returning the favor. Godbeer can't be completely counted out here, but Kongo has the cleaner and more varied stand-up skills of the two. I'll give the nod to the UFC veteran.
Lavar Johnson vs. Vinicius Quieroz
For all of Johnson's issues, I'd be surprised if Quieroz is able to do much of anything here. I honestly expect him at some point - probably sooner rather than later - to get viciously knocked out.
This is a sensational bantamweight fight, but the problem Leone faces is that Silva's skillset matches Leone's...but he's basically (or at least arguably) better. Leone's realistic chance of winning this is with a submission on the floor and I just don't see that as particularly likely.
I'm not super high on Butcher. He certainly earned his victory over Giva Santana after nearly being submitted, so he's shown he can come back from a deficit and that he has plenty of offensive firepower. I do worry he might get blasted out by Parlo, but in the end, I have to give the nod to the more varied Butcher. Parlo is the favorite here and he's certainly a great striker, but Butcher wins by doing just enough to stay away from Parlo's strengths.
This might be my favorite fight on the card. Pacheco has looked like one Bellator's best prospects while Ward's success thus far as a late tourney replacement has been remarkable. Both have a ton of grit and fight hungry. Skill for skill, though, it's hard to not see Pacheco as the better man. Ward's a gamer and I can see him winning bouts where he isn't favored on determination alone, but Pacheco should have enough answers.