Bellator’s upcoming four-man heavyweight tournament will begin June
19 and will feature Richard
Kappke de Queiroz, Vitaly
Minakov and Ron
Bellator officials announced the news Wednesday morning, revealing
that Minakov will face Sparks while Hale meets “Spartan” at
Bellator 96. The event takes place at Winstar World Casino in
Thackerville, Okla., and airs live on Spike TV. The six-fight main
card will also see Muhammed
Sobral and Jacob Noe
compete in the light heavyweight tournament semifinals, while
Chandler defends his lightweight title against Season 7
tournament winner Dave Jansen
in the evening’s main event.
Hale, 27, has competed at both heavyweight and 205 pounds under the
Bellator banner, most recently fighting his way to the finals of
the promotion’s Season 7 heavyweight draw. “Rare Breed” saw his run
halted there, however, as he was outpointed by Alexander
Volkov on Dec. 14.
De Queiroz also met his demise at the hands of Volkov in the Season
7 draw, as “Spartan” was stopped with just one second remaining in
the first round of their semifinal contest this past November. De
Queiroz owns five of his six victories by way of knockout and has
gone the distance just once as a pro.
Minakov, meanwhile, has been perfect in his 10 pro outings, earning
five knockouts and four submissions to begin his career. The
28-year-old Russian made his Bellator debut on Nov. 2, when he
knocked out Vladimir
Starcencov at Bellator 79.
Sparks, 38, has not competed since October 2011, when he was
knocked out in just 40 seconds by Eric
Prindle in the Season 5 tournament semifinals. Prior to that
setback, “The Monster” had never lost, rattling off six knockouts
in his first eight bouts.