Ben Saunders wants his shot at Bellator gold. | Photo: Keith Mills

“Killa B” appears to have found new life in Bellator Fighting Championships.

Once looked upon as a potential threat in the UFC welterweight division, Ben Saunders was released by the promotion following back-to-back losses in 2010. The lanky muay Thai specialist has not lost since, posting three straight wins in Bellator’s circular cage.

Now, Saunders sits poised for a possible shot against reigning Bellator 170-pound king Ben Askren. That is if he can navigate a red-hot Douglas Lima in the Season 5 tournament finals. The two will lock horns on Saturday at Bellator 57, going down from Casino Rama in Rama, Ontario.

Like Saunders, Lima has been impressive on his road to the finals, outpointing Steve Carl before finishing Chris Lozano in spectacular fashion in the semifinals.

“Douglas Lima definitely looked good in his fight with Chris Lozano,” Saunders said. “He looks like he has heavy power, and that was a very exciting fight to watch. I have to be prepared for whatever Lima is going to bring to the table. I don’t know what game plan he is going to come up with, so I just have to go with the flow.”

Saunders cites his versatility as a reason for his confidence heading into his confrontation with “The Phenom.” After knocking out Chris Cisneros in the round of eight, the American Top Team Orlando representative showed his ability off his back in the semifinals, stifling Luis Santos’ top game before finishing the fight with a keylock.

“To go in and dominate Santos from my back like I did put a smile on my face,” Saunders said. “For it to go that well and not take really any damage but still get to him and get the positive feedback from the fans, [those were] the biggest things.

“At the end of the day, wherever the fight [with Lima] goes, I am going to be comfortable,” he continued. “If I am on my back, I am very comfortable there. Wherever the fight takes place, I want to make sure my opponents aren’t having a good time. I’m always looking to finish.”

One aspect of the final pairing for which Saunders is especially excited is the use of elbows, a technique which the 28-year-old has used with great effectiveness throughout his career. Elbows were disallowed in the first two rounds of the tournament to prevent excessive lacerations that might throw off the timing of the tournament due to medical suspensions.

“I am excited to finally be able to use elbows,” said Saunders. “It’s something I have been waiting for. There is no doubt in my mind I will be trying to utilize them in the final fight.”

Though Saunders undoubtedly faces a tough test in Lima, the fighter is already talking about his plans for welterweight champion Askren, the man who owns what Saunders covets.

“In this fight, it is important that I make a statement,” said Saunders. “Ben Askren being my next opponent, I would love to make it a point to go out there and say, ‘Hey man, you’ve got your hands full with me, and here’s three or four fights as proof.’

“My drive is getting the belt. I’ve worked my ass off, and beating Lima is going to be a huge accomplishment because he is probably one of the biggest prospects in the world,” he added. “I have got to get that title. That’s all I want and all I need, and I will do whatever it takes to get it.”

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