Bellator's tenth season kicks off with a very intriguing show. It features the return to the Bellator cage of Rampage Jackson and this time he's in a tournament, albeit a four-man tourney. The stakes are high for his future as well as Mo Lawal, who desperately needs a win in the very same tournament to stay relevant as a premier MMA talent.
Friday's show also kicks off the season 10 featherweight tournament, which features some familiar names, UFC veterans and rising, international prospects. There's a lot to like on this card.
What: Bellator 110
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncassville,CT
When: Friday, the seven-fight preliminary card starts at 6:30 p.m. ET on Spike.com. The five-fight main card starts on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET.
I'll be honest and say I don't have high hopes for Jackson. He doesn't appear to yearn to fight, at least not from the outside looking in. And maybe he never really did, but he does take time to vocalize his interest in unrelated side projects. I know he only missed his first weigh-in by .5 pounds and easily sweated it off, but I heard he was having non-injury weight management issues weeks ago. Missing weight by that little is no scandal, but it also just feels like he's always doing just enough to get by.
The truth is, that's probably enough against M'Pumbu. I don't suspect this is a walkover where Rampage blasts him out in a round, but I do think he'll be the eventual winner. M'Pumbu is badly outsized and can't really match Rampage's remaining power. It's also true Jackson still has a tremendous ability to take a shot. M'Pumbu might be able to score in moments, but I can't see him doing enough to take the win. Still, it'll be interesting to see how Rampage looks. Getting by M'Pumbu is one thing. Beating whoever wins on the other side of the bracket is quite another.
Muhammed Lawal vs. Mikhail Zayats
This is one of those bouts where one wonders 'what if?'. What if Lawal had never suffered through debilitating staph infection complications? How much better would he be? We'll never know, but suffice it to say I'd have a much easier time picking him had that illness never struck him.
Because they did and because I think his nomadic training regimen helped early on and eventually hurt him, I'm going with the upset here. Zayats has real finishing skills, is hard to hurt and has rapidly improved in the last few years. If Lawal plays his wrestling game to an overly aggressive Zayats, the American can definitely win out. But if he's not sharp with his set ups or chooses to stand, I can't imagine this going overly well for him.
Nunes has had his share of hard times as a featherweight, but I doubt they continue here. Bessette is a decent talent, but has grinding tendencies. That'd be fine, but against someone else who likes to let things go long and is better at it and done so at a higher level, it's hard to see how that benefits the American.
Yamauchi is a wild man and a friend who has previously trained with Martinez tells me he's quite a bit better than his low-profile status would indicate. Still, Yamauchi is the top prospect in the game. He takes risks, yet, but is an attacker. He's always looking to create offensive moments, particularly as a ground operator. Martinez has good jiu-jitsu as well, but I don't suspect he's on Yamauchi's level.