Bellator kicks off their ninth season in not so great style as they try to put a humpty dumpty of a damaged fight card from injuries and other commission issues back together again. There are some decent scraps here and a couple of very good prospects to watch as part of this season's middleweight tournament, but all told, the loss of the 'Fight Master' finale between Joe Riggs and Mike Bronzoulis, as well as the presence of Joe Warren, is being felt.
What: Bellator 98
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut
When: Saturday, the five-fight Spike.com card starts at 6:00 p.m. ET and the six-fight main card kicks off on Spike TV at 8 p.m. ET.
This is not a particularly great card for a number of reasons, not least of which is the main event is being propped up with an injury replacement fighter...who has already fought the champion (when he wasn't champion) and lost. Cooper's a talented guy, but I don't believe he'll able to consistently get the takedown long enough to avoid being damaged on the feet. It really comes down to that and not much else.
This is likely to be a fun scrap because both middleweights are fearless strikers in the pocket. Both have sizable power, but of the two, I'd say Parlo is the cleaner technician. Rogers might be quicker and maybe that's enough, but I'm leaning towards the idea he's going to over extend himself to the point when Parlo is able to take advantage.
As long as the time off and away from the sport hasn't terribly hurt Torrey, I like him to win here. He's a qualified striker with enough well-roundedness to his game to make it count. Ward is a guy who can overwhelm others with aggression, but is going to leave a lot of openings for better fighters to notice and capitalize on. Torrey should, all things considered, get the nod.
Kimball is your dark horse in this entire tournament. I was a believer in his upside, despite his somewhat odd personal appearance, after he put away Chidi Njokuani. He's extremely tough, fights very tactically and has a suprising range of ability. Look for him to make some noise.
Giva Santana vs. Justin Butcher
Santana's game is bit gimmicky (although he does have a recent kneebar submission), but at this level of the game it's still effective. Butcher has some skill, but enough to keep distance, create separation and more? I doubt it.
As long as Pitbull minds his p's and q's, he should be fine. He's not the talent his brother is, but he is a considerable threat and should be able to knuckle up Anderson at range. Anderson has a sneaky guillotine and a few other tricks, so he could make things interesting, but this is Pitbull's fight to lose.