By Hobson Lopes,

When Eric Prindle entered the season five Bellator heavyweight tournament, he wasn't a known commodity. At that point in his career, he was 5-1 with the majority of his wins coming via stoppage and he was ready for his chance to become a star in the sport of mixed martial arts. He had fought just once in Bellator, defeating Josh Burns in his debut fight via TKO (doctor's stoppage) prior to the tournament, but he did enough to earn his spot.

In the opening round of the tournament, he defeated Abe Wagner via unanimous decision. Four weeks later, he took to the cage to battle Ron Sparks and needed just 40 seconds to earn the knockout victory, advancing to the finals to fight Thiago Santos.

Santos wasn't originally in the tournament, but he earned his chance after defeating Burns in a reserve bout and took the place of Mike Hayes after he suffered an injury. He would defeat Neil Grove via submission at 38 seconds of the first round in his lone tournament fight, setting up the final with Prindle.

On Nov. 26, Bellator 59 was the home to the heavyweight finals, pitting Prindle against the tough Brazilian. Prindle found the mat early and as he was kicking at Santos' leg, Santos landed an inadvertent groin shot, ending the fight after Prindle was unable to continue. The last fight of season five was forced to season six.

The two men were set to fight on March 16, but "flu-like" symptoms forced the postponement of the finals. It was announced during the telecast of Bellator 60 that the two men would fight at Bellator 61 to determine who would go on to fight Cole Conrad for the Bellator heavyweight title.

During the weigh-ins for Bellator 61, Prindle came in at 265.2 pounds, but Santos weighed in at 277.8 pounds, 11.8 pounds heavier than allowed. The fight was cancelled and Prindle was awarded the tournament victory.

It has been a long, turbulent six months for Prindle. This span saw him enter the heavyweight grand prix, win his first two fights with ease, get kicked where no man ever wants to be kicked, get the flu and then when finally ready to fight, doesn't get the chance, but earns a title shot anyway because of his opponent missing weight.

Only in the sport of MMA can something like this happen.

For a look at the best fights for some of the most popular fighters in the UFC and 2011 division recaps, go here.

More from this contributor:

Ronda Rousey the new Face of WMMA

Interview with Invicta FC VP/Owner, Shannon Knapp

What's next for Quinton Jackson Following UFC 144 Loss?

2011 MMA Awards

Who will replace MMA stars of yesterday?

Hobson Lopes has been a fan of mixed martial arts since the days of Tank Abbott and can be followed on Twitter @HobsonLopes.

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