The eighth season of Bellator is nearly its close, but isn't quite done. Tonight the organization features two middleweight tournament semifinals as well as two featherweight semifinals.
Can Marlon Sandro get past 'Frodo' to earn a shot in the finals? Will Dan Cramer follow up on his strong performance against Brian Rogers to move closer to a title shot? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for tonight's fights.
What: Bellator 92
When: Thursday, the Spike TV-televised card begins at 10 p.m. Eastern. Spike.com will broadcast the preliminary fight card beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern.
Where: Pechanga Resort & Casino, Temecula, CA
Cooper shouldn't lose this fight, but he might. If he sticks to his wrestling like he did in the quarterfinals, he should be fine. It may not be pretty, but he'll at least get the win. The problem is Cooper sometimes elects to slug it out in firefights. Cramer's much improved from his days on The ultimate Fighter, but he shines best when he can exchange in the pocket. I like Cooper's chances, but not if he backslides into the kind of game where Cramer has the advantage.
If Bellator is gonna Bellator, Marshall's going to win this entire thing. He's gotten this far, which has surprised me, but whatever. MMA is chaotic and even brawlers can have good days (or tournaments). But all things being equal, Aliev is the more talented fighter with more tools to win. I worry a bit about him getting hit early, but I'll side with the rational choice anyway.
This is, by far, the best fight on the card or at least the best match-up between elite talent. I'm torn on who will win as a result. Ultimately, I'm going to say the wrestling of Bezerra - while he mixes it up amidst forward pressure - is going to be the key difference maker. Richmand can strike hard, fast and accurately, but I suspect the takedowns of the Brazilian are going to get him to think twice. From there, it's Bezerra's fight to lose.
Magomedrasul Khasbulev vs. Marlon Sandro
If I'm being honest with myself, I just don't think Sandro has 'it' anymore. Certainly not like he used to and that's without romanticizing the past. Frodo has his limits, but he is going to push Sandro on his heels and force him to make a mistake, likely in the striking department. I see him counterstriking while stalking forward, getting Sandro to strike out of position.