The season 10 featherweight tournament moves on and the Bellator middleweight title go up grabs on Friday at Bellator 114. After surprising upsets of former UFC veteran Diego Nunes and Bellator stalwart Mike Richman, the semifinalists go to battle to see who can become a finalist and face whoever is the eventual champion (be it Pat Curran, Patricio Freire or Daniel Straus).
As far as the main event is concerned, it doesn't feature huge names, but promises to be one of the most action-packed bouts - as long as it doesn't get stopped - that Bellator can possibly even offer.
Will Alexander Shlemenko be able to withstand the pressure of Brennan Ward? Who will emerge as finalists in the featherweight tourney? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for tonight's fights.
What: Bellator 114
Where: The Maverick Center, West Valley City, Utah
When: Friday, the six-fight preliminary card starts at 7 p.m. ET on Spike.com. The five-fight main card starts on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET.
Alexander Shlemenko vs. Brennan Ward
I don't know how many of you watch Bellator or whatever your situation is. I know there isn't much buzz for this event tonight, largely because Bellator runs too many shows and it becomes hard to promote all of them. I also think Shlemenko hasn't quite become a break out star for them they'd hoped. But let me assure you, this fight is going to be bananas crazy. Ward is just a marauder with decent to good athletic ability and some wrestling skills. Shlemenko is all too happy to pocket trade with people because of his competitive courage and iron jaw. This has all the makings of complete and total chaos. I expect the Russian to come out on top because he's faced far better and the equally tough, but Ward wins typically by savaging opposition through force of will. We better hope the referee has a finely-tuned stoppage otherwise someone is going to get badly hurt.
Desmond Green vs. Will Martinez
This is a decent scrap. A current teammate of mine once trained with Martinez and offered a lot of positive things to say. Green's looked really good (for the most part) during his Bellator run. Of the two, Green is the better athlete and has the clear wrestling advantage. Martinez I'd give the submission edge. As for how things shake out, this is a question of how well Green responds to Martinez's pressure. Can he make sure to engage Martinez only at the times that make sense? Because of his speed and scrambling abilities, I'll give Green the nod here.
Daniel Weichel vs. Matt Bessette
This is a tough one to call. I didn't think Bessette was going to get past Nunes and he did. Weichel has shown moments of great ability, but never even consistency to really know how he's going to perform. I still have issues, though, about Bessette being able to land with enough frequency or really put it on Weichel in both striking and grappling dimensions long enough to win two rounds.
Kendall Grove vs. Brett Cooper
This one is hard to pick. Both fighters have fundamental flaws that often rear their heads at the most unexpected times. Grove has a decent guard and surprisingly good takedown defense, but not much ability to pump the jab or withstand damage. Cooper can keep a relentless pace, but often makes poor decisions that lead to him getting stopped. Who is going to make the first or second mistake tonight? That's really what this bout hinges on.