SAN DIEGO - Four title fights highlight the first three events on the Bellator 2015 schedule.
The first event under the company's new monthly schedule, Bellator 132, will be held on Friday, January 16, at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif., as Patricio "Pitbull" Friere (22-2) will defend his Bellator featherweight title against former champion Daniel Straus (23-5).
Friere, a 27-year-old from Natal, Brazil, defeated Pat Curran via unanimous decision in September to win the title. Curran, in turn, had won the title from Straus in March via a miracle fifth-round submission, in a rematch after Straus had defeated Curran to win the belt in November.
Bellator 133 will be held on Friday, Feb. 27 at one of the company' most successful venues, Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.
Four fights have been announced for this card, including two title fights.
*In the main event, veteran Paul Daley (35-13), competing in Bellator for the first time since 2012, will get a shot a welterweight champion Douglas Lima (26-5). The 31-year old Londoner has won six of his last seven bouts, with all of the wins coming via KO or TKO. Lima, meanwhile, has won five in a row, including a TKO of Rick Hawn in April to fill the belt left vacant by Ben Askren.
*Light heavyweight champ Emanuel Newton (25-7) aims for his eighth straight win when he takes on unbeaten challenger Liam McGeary (9-0). McGeary has won all of his fights via stoppage, seven of them in the opening round.
*In what could be termed a "fun fight," Bobby Lashley (12-2) meets veteran James Thompson (20-14) at heavyweight. Lashley, a pro wrestler, returned to MMA this fall after a year's absence and scored a pair of Bellator wins. Thompson, a 35-year old Brit, will forever be remembered on these shows when he ear basically exploded in a fight against Kimbo Slice on the first prime-time, network television MMA card in 2008, in front of one of the largest television audiences ever to watch the sport. Thompson has won four straight fights, including his Bellator debut against Eric Prindle in June.
*A light heavyweight bout between veteran Rameau Theirry Sokodjou (16-12) and Linton Vassell (11-4) was also announced.
Also, while not officially announced, a source indicated to MMAFighting that undefeated Michael Page's next fight will likely be on the Mohegan Sun card.
The final event on the spring calendar is on Friday, March 27, as Bellator 134 emanates from the Winstar Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. A bantamweight title main event between champion Joe Warren (12-3) and Marcos Galvao (16-6-1) was announced. The 38-year old Warren, a former Bellator featherweight champ, upset Eduardo Dantas to claim the belt in October. Galvao has won his past three fights.
The lineup is the turning point for new Bellator CEO Scott Coker's vision of the company, as it pivots away from the old weekly, seasonal format pegged to tournaments, and goes to a more traditional promotional approach. Bellator's 2015 plan is for monthly Friday night cards, supplemented by quarterly major events on Saturday nights. A source indicated to MMAFighting that the first such Saturday night card is being targeted for May and will likely feature Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.
In the meantime, Coker is still in the process of fulfilling previous Bellator deals; as the casino locations for the first three shows, familiar to Bellator fans, are all dates on existing contracts. Coker also promised to honor title shots for fighters who earned them through the previous tournament format, which applies to McGeary's shot at Newton's belt.