Bellator 99 predictions

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Bellator is now officially on Friday night and to kick off the time slot shift they've put together a pretty sensational card that is largely comprised of its season 9 featherweight tournament. There are some old Bellator warhorses in Patricio Pitbull as well as UFC vets to fill out the tourney bracket. Regrettably, the card also has a dreadful light heavyweight bout, but on the whole, it's a very commendable effort from MMA's number two organization.

Can Diego Nunes make the transition to Bellator successfully? Who will move onto the semifinals of the featherweight tournament? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Bellator 99.

What: Bellator 99

Where: The Pechanga Resort & Casino, Temecula, Calif.

When: Friday, the six-fight preliminary card starts at 7 p.m. ET on The five-fight main card starts on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET.

Patricio Freire vs. Diego Nunes

It's a shame this fight is in the quarterfinals because win or lose, it should be a really exciting, competitive scrap. It'd also be preferable if the guy with the UFC background went to the semifinals. Alas, I don't think that's going to happen. Pitbull's takedown defense in the center of the mat is borderline immediate. Against the fence, he creates separation without much hesitation. That means this fight is likely to be decided on the feet. Freire doesn't move his head much, but he's a far superior striker to Nunes. I believe the Bellator mainstay is going to cruise.

Pick: Freire

Vladimir Matyushenko vs. Houston Alexander

This is a remarkably bad fight. I don't think there's any other way to describe it if we're committed to any sense of candor. When a bout will likely be decided by which fighter's glaring weakness shows up first, you're not really in for a treat. And when you can't tell which glaring weakness will make itself known first, well, you get the idea. I'll give Matyushenko the nod, but if he goes limp after being clipped by a desperate Alexander shovel punch, will anyone be surprised?

Pick: Matyushenko

Desmond Green vs. Fabricio Guerrero

Guerrero is a top prospect who just ran into a brick wall against against Frodo Khasbulaev in last season's featherweight tourney. I don't think for a second Green is even close to being on the same level as the Russian, meaning, Guerrero should be able to rebound nicely after a disappointing Bellator featherweight tournament start with his well-rounded skill set and proactive offense.

Pick: Guerrero

Joe Taimanglo vs. Andrew Fisher

This fight should (or could) be the most exciting on the card. I was blown away by Taimanglo's Bellator debut and his ability to finish from north-south after threatening nearly everywhere first. Fisher is decent in most facets of the fame and better than Taimanglo with his hands, but the PXC vet should be slightly faster and more capable of mixing up his offense to get Fisher reacting.

Pick: Taimanglo

Justin Wilcox vs. Akop Stepanyan

The short notice for Wilcox concerns me a bit, but not enough to pick against him. Wilcox was on his way towards putting together a stellar resume as a MMA prospect before unexpected pratfalls against Caros Fodor and (to a significantly lesser extent) Jorge Masvidal. Stepanyan doesn't have shoddy takedown defense, but it's not enough to stop Wilcox if he chooses to put and keep the fight on the mat. If he stands with Stepanyan, it doesn't favor his chances, but I'm assuming he's going to leverage what works for him and where he has the comparative advantage.

Pick: Wilcox

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