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mikhail-zayats.jpgMikhail Zayats has been doing some scouting, and he likes the way things are lined up in front of him.

Zayats (21-6 MMA, 2-0 BFC) on Thursday meets Emanuel Newton (20-7-1 MMA, 3-1 BFC) in Bellator’s Season 8 light heavyweight tournament final. He’s seen what Newton brings to the table, and if he gets past Newton, he knows what a title fight brings to the table, too.

Bellator 94 takes place Thursday at Sun Dome at the University of South Florida in Tampa. The main card, including Zayats-Newton, airs on Spike TV following prelims on Spike.com.

“Emanuel Newton is unorthodox and tough, and he’s proven that you can’t underestimate him,” Zayats told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “He is also kind of awkward in everything he does in the fight. He’s unpredictable. He throws punches and kicks in weird trajectories. And he’s very tough.”

Zayats was cage side to watch Newton pull off the year’s biggest MMA upset when he knocked out Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal this past month. But Zayats said the way Lawal was fighting, that knockout didn’t surprise him at all.

So how much, really, can he take from that Newton performance, other than he has some power? He thinks he might be able to finish him.

“During Emanuel Newton’s fight with ‘King Mo,’ we sat next to (Bellator CEO) Bjorn (Rebney) and we told him that if Mo would keep fighting like he was – he was way too relaxed – that he would have problems,” Zayats said. “I think my ground game will be a major advantage over Newton. I also I think I can fight smarter than him. He relies on his instincts too much.”

Of course, his instinct is in part what led to his spinning backfist knockout of Lawal.

Zayats, from Russia, is banking on the tournament win to help him buy a house for his wife and two children. The winner, of course, gets $100,000 in total tournament prize money. But he also gets a shot at light heavyweight champion Attila Vegh, who beat Christian M’Pumbu for the title.

Zayats was in the prediction game when he fought Jacob Noe in the semifinals. He stopped Noe with a first-round submission giving him seven straight wins and back-to-back Bellator stoppages in the United States.

“When I fought Jacob Noe in the semifinals, I thought I would be able to finish him in the first or second round,” he said. “My team and I analyzed what he does in the fight, and we saw a lot of gaps in his game and prepared for them in training. That’s why I was confident that I would be able to submit him.”

Vegh has been where Zayats is trying to go, which is a tournament title. But once he finally got that fight with M’Pumbu, which was delayed multiple times, Zayats fails to see how he was super impressive.

Zayats is nothing if not confident, even though one of his goals as a fighter is to “try to be simple and humble.”

“Attila Vegh is a good, tough fighter, and one whom I would like to beat,” he said. “I was not really impressed with Vegh’s victory over Christian M’Pumbu to become the champion. M’Pumbu fought in a strange way. I don’t know – maybe he had a reason to fight like that. Maybe he was sick or injured. But he didn’t try to do anything in that fight.

“I feel confident that I will beat Attila Vegh if we get to fight.”

For more on Bellator 94, stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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