Bellator's sixth season rolls on tonight with the return of their welterweight champion Ben Askren. In the main event this evening, he'll defend his title against Douglas Lima, the winner of the season five Bellator welterweight tournament. Also on tonight's card, Brazilians Marlon Sandro and Alexandre Bezarra fight for a spot in the featherweight. Longtime bantamweight standout Masakatsu Ueda makes his Bellator debut in one of two bantamweight tournament quarterfinal bouts.
Last, but certainly not least, former WEC and IFL featherweight Chris Horodecki returns to the Bellator cage on the preliminary portion of the card.
When: Friday, the MTV2-televised card begins at 8 p.m. Eastern on Friday. However, Spike.com will carry the entire fight card.
Where: Caesars Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada
Predictions below for the welterweight title fight, a featherweight tournament semi-final and two bantamweight quarterfinals.
Ben Askren vs. Douglas Lima (for the welterweight title)
I expect an early start for Askren and to have not a ton of difficulty taking Lima down. But Askren's had real difficulty finishing anyone at this level. He's also a little too hittable for my tastes, which is in part a function of how long his fights against higher-end competition go. Lima's had problems in the past and will have to work around Askren's relentless takedown attempts, but over time I believe he can tag and hurt the champion both coming in and standing flat-footed at range (which Askren sometimes does).
Marlon Sandro vs. Alexandre Bezerra (featherweight semi-final bout)
I really think highly of Bezerra. He's a great athlete with effective offensive wrestling and a well-rounded skill set. He's only been to the third round once in his career (a fight he won) and his lone loss came in 2009 to now UFC featherweight Charles Oliveira. I suspect he can give Sandro, the prohibitive favorite, a much tougher time than most imagine. He is a touch sloppy with his striking and needs seasoning, so Sandro should walk away victorious. But I am betting this will be much closer than most imagine.
Travis Marx vs. Masakatsu Ueda (bantamweight tournament quarterfinal)
This is frankly Ueda's fight to lose. Marx, a bantamweight product out of Greg Jackson's camp, is no slouch and brings a lot of in-cage experience to the fight. Ueda is also long in the tooth and has probably already seen his best days. I'll grant Marx has done well fighting above his natural weight class. Still, the level of competition Ueda has faced and defeated is categorically better than even Marx's best win.
Rodrigo Lima vs. Hiroshi Nakamura (bantamweight tournament quarterfinal)
This one has fireworks written all over it. Lima is a ferocious prospect out of Brazil who's only gone to the third round once, a fight which was his pro debut (a victorious one at that). He's got good athleticism, excellent power and surprisingly quick submissions. I worry a bit about his inexperience, which is why his opponent in Nakamura is such a good test for him. A veteran of DEEP, Nakamura is a much more patient fighter with a reliable double leg he times nicely off of counter strikes. This will be a tightly contested fight.
From the preliminary card:
Not much to say about this one except that Horodecki should have his way here. It's true the USMC-veteran in Richman has done well for himself on the regional circuit and Horodecki's stock value has certainly come back to earth. Even still, there's a pretty clear gap in ability.