Saunders wants his shot at Bellator gold. | Photo: Keith
“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
Saunders cites his versatility as a reason for his confidence
heading into his confrontation with “The Phenom.” After knocking
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.”