Bellator: The 25 Best Fighters

Dwight WakabayashiCorrespondent IIMarch 30, 2012

Bellator: The 25 Best Fighters

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    Bellator Fighting Championships has quickly become the next best thing in mixed martial arts fight production over the last couple of years. Everyone knows the king of the hill is the The Ultimate Fighting Championship with their top talent stable of fighters and top-notch marketing machine.

    Bellator is the reliable No. 2 with the intriguing tournament season and champion format that they have always thrilling fans with new and hungry talent. The Bellator roster of fighters is an absolute cobra pit of talent waiting to strike out and make a name for themselves at all cost.

    Here are the 25 best fighters in Bellator.

25. Patricky Freire

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    The older of the dynamic brother duo has fallen on a bit of hard times with his recent loss to Michael Chandler and his early exit from the lightweight tournament. Taking nothing away from Lloyd Woodard, Freire's loss was a surprise, and it slows his career a bit.

    The 10-3 Friere is one of the best lightweights on the roster and should get right back in the mix once he heals from his loss.

24. Mike Corey

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    This Team Curran prospect and former U.S. Marine is currently in the semifinals of the featherweight tournament after a tough win against veteran Ronnie Mann.

    Corey is a very solid wrestler with a big heart and who also has a draw against former IFL and WEC star Chris Horodecki.

    If Corey (12-2-1) can get past Team Vision wrestler Daniel Straus in his next fight, he could be the sleeper to take the Season 6 tournament.

22. Brian Rogers

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    Brian Rogers' stock just went up earlier this month with is beautiful flying knee finish of Vitor Vianna, but it is his Bellator body of work that puts him on this list.

    He is 2-1 with a loss to Alexander Shlemenko, but you look at the TKO's on his resume and you see all you need to know.

    The 9-3 Rogers gets another chance to stamp his place among the Bellator elite with a win in his semi-final match coming up.

    €He came up short against Shlemenko last year, but Rogers is the type of fighter who puts on a show win or lose and leaves a mark on your brain in the process.

23. Ben Saunders

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    Former UFC fighter Ben "Killa B" Saunders was on a three-fight Bellator win streak until he ran into Douglas Lima in last season's welterweight tournament. Saunders is 12-4 overall, and only 28 years old.

    He is once again signed up to participate in the Bellator welterweight tournament and his first round opponent is the undefeated Raul Amaya. Saunders has a very lanky frame that serves his striking and his submission game well.

21. Bryan Baker

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    Bryan Baker has already faced some of the toughest customers in Bellator in his early career and he has given more than he has taken in those fights. The 26-year-old American is 16-3 overall and 6-2 under the Bellator banner.

    Baker lost to Chael Sonnen in the WEC but has knockouts over such notables as Joe Riggs and Jeremy Horn on his resume.

20. Alexander Shlemenko

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    Alexander Shlemenko is a two-time middleweight tournament champion in Bellator with a 7-1 record all time. Only Hector Lombard has defeated him inside the Bellator cage. His record in eastern Europe is legendary and he can beat you with power or with a slick ground game.

    Shlemenko also shows a great chin and iron will in his fights, and is a fan favorite because of it. He has been involved in some of the best Bellator fights of all time.

    He is set to take on Ikuhisa Minowa at SFL 2 in India on April 7. It is unknown when we will see him compete in Bellator again.

19. Megumi Fujii

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    As far as I know, Bellator still has a women's champion in Zoila Gurgel and therefore a women's division is still in play for this list. Megumi Fujii is one of the most highly decorated and regarded female mixed martial artists in the world.

    She has only lost once in her entire career (25-1) and that was to Bellator title holder Gurgel. Fujii is a submission wizard who will never knock you out but will choke you out instead.

18. Brent Weedman

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    Brent Weedman is a 5-2 Bellator veteran who has placed himself back in the thick of things in his division with his recent victory over J.J. Ambrose.

    Weedman is a scrapper who now gets Thiago Michel in the semifinals. A win in that one will go a long way to getting this fighter some well-deserved recognition.

    Weedman is a 19-7 veteran who tried his hand in the welterweight division before dropping down to lightweight just this year.

17. Zoila Gurgel

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    Zoila Gurgel is the current Bellator Women's World Champion and that lands her on this list. The 11-1 black belt in Tae Kwon Do, won the belt by defeating Megumi Fujii in a controversial split decision.

    She is undefeated in Bellator with her only loss coming to Miesha Tate under the Strikeforce banner. Gurgel is currently sidelined with a torn ACL and will be out for six to eight months.

    Look for a rematch with Megumi Fujii when Gurgel gets healthy.

16. Maiquel Falcao

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    Maiquel Falcao goes against the grain on this list due to the fact that he only has one fight under the Bellator promotion and does not really qualify.

    However, I see Falcao fully engaged to make waves in the middleweight tournament that is currently underway.

    The 29-4 Brazilian has had his issues in his career and got signed and released by the UFC due to problems stemming from a 2002 assault charge. Falcao has dangerous power in his hands, with 23 of his wins coming via knockout.

15. Alexandre Bezerra

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    Young Brazillian Alexandre Bezerra is on a five-fight win streak in Bellator, including a first-round win over Kenny Foster in the Season 6 Featherweight tournament. Bezerra has eight submission wins in his 13-1 record and he can slap it on you from anywhere in the cage.

    Bezerra is one of the most exciting up-and-coming fighters on the Bellator roster and should be a known commodity by the end of the year.

14. Eric Prindle

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    Eric Prindle is currently the undefeated No. 1 contender for the Bellator heavyweight belt and that lands him high on this list.

    Prindle landed the Season 6 tournament win and contender spot in very controversial fashion, without having to win the final fight.

    Regardless, Prindle finds himself at the top of the Bellator heap with a shot at champion Kole Conrad later this year.

13. Jay Hieron

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    Former UFC fighter Jay Hieron just recently lost his shot at the Bellator welterweight title to Ben Askren, and may be on the down side of his career, but he is still one of the top fighters on the roster.

    His experience against big-fight, big-name opponents says all you need to know about Hieron.

    The 35-year-old out of Extreme Couture in Las Vegas is also a former IFL welterweight champion to go along with his resume. Hieron has a very well-rounded game.

12 Eduardo Dantas

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    Eduardo Dantas is coming off an impressive Season 5 Bantamweight Tournament Final win over Alexis Vila last November.

    That win earned him a title shot against Zach Makovsky later this year and proves he belongs with the very best in Bellator.

    Dantas is 13-2 in his career so far and at 23 years old, he has plenty of time to improve his finishing game. The Brazilian should have no trouble doing that as he trains at the famed Nova Uniao camp.

11. Christian M'Pumbu

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    Christian M'Pumbu is holding the Bellator Light Heavyweight title after winning the Season 4 tournament and that is what puts him this high on the list. If you are a champion in the tough promotion, you deserve recognition, but M'Pumbu is coming off a loss.

    M'Pumbu is 18-4 in his career with a notable win over UFC heavyweight Stefan Struve. He lost to Travis Wiuff via unanimous decision in a non-title bout in October and needs to get back in the win column to legitimize his title.

10. Cole Konrad

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    Cole Konrad is the undefeated king of the Bellator big men right now and has a date with Eric Prindle set for later this year. Konrad has an 8-0 record with six of his wins coming under the Bellator banner.

    Konrad is the first and only heavyweight champion Bellator has ever had, and the sky is the limit for him.

    Konrad is a former NCAA wrestling standout who now trains out of Minnesota with Brock Lesnar and Team DeathClutch.

9. Patricio Freire

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    The younger of the brother duo is 17-1 and one of the most exciting young fighters in the game today and is right at the top of the Bellator heap.

    Freire is recovering from a broken hand suffered in his Season 4 tournament final win over Daniel Straus last May.

    That win earned him a shot at the featherweight title vs. Joe Warren; however, Warren has since lost the title in devastating fashion to Pat Curran.

8. Joe Warren

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    Joe Warren is a veteran warrior of this sport and one of the best fighters on the Bellator roster. Warren was the featherweight title holder until he ran into the wall that was Pat Curran in March.

    Warren also tried his hand in the bantamweight division the fight before and suffered a surprising loss to Alexis Vila.

    There is no doubt the 7-3 Warren needs a bounce back after he has had ample time to recover, but his place on the Bellator pound-for-pound list is secure for now.

7. Zach Makovsky

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    It seems like forever ago when Zach Makovsky won the Bellator bantamweight title and 2011 saw him fight in two non-title fights. it didn't seem to matter what was on the line as Makovsky defeated both Chad Robichaux and Ryan Roberts last year.

    Makovsky remains undefeated in his time in Bellator and will finally make his first title defence at Bellator 65 on April 13. Makovsky can beat you any way he wants and has six submissions in his 14 victories in the cage.

6. Ben Askren

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    27-year-old Ben Askren is still very early in his career as a mixed martial artist, but the 9-0 fighter already holds the Bellator welterweight title. Askren has defended the title as well, defeating Jay Heiron via decision in October.

    Askren is now faced with a tough challenge on April 6 when he defends against up-and-coming phenom Douglas Lima at Bellator 64 in Windsor, Ontario. He is a perfect 6-0 in Bellator.

5. Douglas Lima

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    Douglas Lima is an MMA star on the rise whose name you will recognize very soon. The 24-year old Brazilian fighting out of Atlanta is on an incredible nine-win run right now, with notable knockouts over Chris Lozano and Ben Saunders.

    Lima also ran through some notable names in his time in Canadian promotion Maximum Fighting Championships with finishes over Ryan Ford and Terry Martin. Lima is poised to gain the title next weekend.

4. Michael Chandler

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    Michael Chandler burst on to the Bellator scene last year with his upset win over Patricky Freire to win the lightweight tournament and get his shot at title holder Eddie Alvarez. Chandler then shocked the MMA world by taking out Alvarez in aggressive fashion to win the title.

    The 25-year old is still very young and fresh in his career and he now must face all comers looking to take his gold.

    He is undefeated at 9-0, and if he can maintain his aggression and defend his title again this year, it will go a long way towards proving this run is no fluke.

3. Eddie Alvarez

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    Eddie Alvarez was once seen as the best fighter outside of the UFC and many people feel that he still holds that title. The 22-3 lightweight was on a seven-fight roll before he ran into a surprising Michael Chandler in November and lost his title.

    While the loss to Chandler was no fluke, it was not enough to erase the momentum that Alvarez had built up in his career before that. He is now in a tough position where he does not hold a title and he is also not in the current tournament for a shot at the title.

    Alvarez is expected to rematch Shinya Aoki in a Superfight at Bellator 66 in April.

2. Pat Curran

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    Fresh off a devastating knockout of then-champion Joe Warren, Pat Curran is the real deal. The 24-year-old Team Curran protege out of Illinois is 17-4 and enjoying his time in his natural weight class.

    Before making the shift down to featherweight, Curran battled Eddie Alvarez for the Bellator Lightweight title only a year ago.

    Curran is now set to defend his title against the winner of the season 6 tournament, and a couple more impressive wins should move him into a spot amongst Jose Aldo and the best featherweights in the world.

1. Hector Lombard

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    Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard has been the baddest man in Bellator for quite some time now. The 34-year-old knockout artist is an incredible 31-2 in his career with his only losses coming to Gerard Mousasi and Akihiro Gono way back in 2006.

    Lombard is on a 25-fight unbeaten streak and is 8-0 in Bellator. He is the first man in Bellator to successfully defend his title and he has held it since 2009.

    It is a mystery why this chiseled power puncher has not made the step up to the UFC yet in his career, but he remains the best fighter under the Bellator banner.

     

    Dwight Wakabayashi is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA, MMA Editor at CKSN.ca and guest blogger for Sportsnet.ca.

    Catch him on Facebook and Twitter at wakafightermma.