patricio-freire-1.jpgThe field is set for Bellator’s Season 9 featherweight tournament, and it will feature two recent title challengers and a UFC veteran.

Bellator 99 returns to Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, Calif., on Sept. 13. The card will be headlined by a light heavyweight bout between the recently signed Vladimir Matyushenko (26-7 MMA, 0-0 BFC) and former champion Christian M’Pumbu (18-5-1 MMA, 3-2 BFC), and the featherweight tournament’s opening round starts the same night.

The Season 9 featherweight tournament includes opening-round bouts featuring Patricio Freire (17-2 MMA, 5-2 BFC) vs. Diego Nunes (18-4 MMA, 0-0 BFC), Shahbulat Shamhalaev (12-2-1 MMA, 3-1 BFC) vs. Akop Stepanyan (13-5 MMA, 1-2 BFC), Desmond Green (8-1 MMA, 0-0 BFC) vs. Fabricio Guerreiro and Andrew Fisher (12-4-1 MMA, 0-0 BFC) vs. Joe Taimanglo (18-4 MMA, 1-0 BFC).

Bellator MMA officials on Thursday announced the event’s main card. Bellator visited the same venue earlier this year for Bellator 92, part of Season 8. Bellator 99 will have a main card that airs on Spike TV following prelims on Spike.com.

Matyushenko will fight for the first time since being released by the UFC on a two-fight losing skid that saw him drop a TKO to upcoming 205-pound title challenger Alexander Gustafsson and get submitted by Ryan Bader in 50 seconds in January. But before that, “The Janitor” had won four of five in his second stint in the promotion, with the lone loss coming to then-future champion Jon Jones.

“This is exactly what I wanted entering Bellator – a tough test right from the start,” Matyushenko stated. “I still have a lot of fights left in my tank, and this is the start of a new chapter in my career.”

M’Pumbu will try to snap a two-fight losing skid in his first fight since losing Bellator’s 205-pound title in February with a unanimous decision loss to Attila Vegh. That was his first fight in 16 months after losing a non-title fight against Travis Wiuff.

“PItbull” Freire will fight for the first time since his split-decision loss to featherweight champion Pat Curran in January, and he’ll be looking to make another successful run through the tourney to get another crack at the belt. Nunes will fight for the first time since being released from the UFC after going 3-3, but never putting a win streak together. In January, he dropped a decision to Nik Lentz in Brazil. Before the merger with the UFC, he went 4-1 in the WEC. But despite starting his career with 11 stoppage, he fought to 11 straight decisions under the Zuffa umbrella.

“This is exactly what I wanted entering Bellator – a tough test right from the start,” Matyushenko stated. “I still have a lot of fights left in my tank, and this is the start of a new chapter in my career.”

Like Freire, Shamhalaev will fight for the first time since a title-bout loss to Curran. At Bellator 95, he was submitted with a guillotine choke in the first round after rolling through the Season 7 tournament with three knockout wins. Stepanyan in March picked up his first Bellator win when he stopped Chris Saunders with a body kick in the third round. Prior to that, the former lightweight twice was bounced from Bellator featherweight tournaments in the opening round, being submitted by Wagnney Fabiano in Season 7 and losing a majority decision to Marlon Sandro in Season 8.

Green will make his Bellator debut on a two-fight win streak this year. The New York-based fighter, who trains at the former training home of UFC light heavyweight champ Jones, Team Bombsquad, has six of his eight wins by decision. Guerreiro made his Bellator debut in February, but was submitted by Magomedrasul Khasbulaev in the second round. Now the Brazilian will try to get back on track after having his five-fight win streak snapped.

Fisher, from England, will make his Bellator debut on a seven-fight unbeaten streak, including four straight stoppage wins. His seven-fight run includes six stoppages and a draw. Most recently, he stopped Shay Walsh in June under the Olympian MMA banner in his native country. Taimanglo has won nine straight, including a submission of Ronnie Rogers this past March in his Bellaotr debut. The former bantamweight, from Guam, now gets a shot at featherweight glory.

With the official additions, the Bellator 99 card now includes:

  • Vladimir Matyushenko vs. Christian M’Pumbu
  • Patricio Freire vs. Diego Nunes – featherweight tournament opening round
  • Shahbulat Shamhalaev vs. Akop Stepanyan – featherweight tournament opening round
  • Desmond Green vs. Fabricio Guerreiro – featherweight tournament opening round
  • Andrew Fisher vs. Joe Taimanglo – featherweight tournament opening round

For the latest on Bellator 99, stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of the site.

(Pictured: Patricio “Pitbull” Freire)

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