Bellator is picking up steam ever since their deal with Spike TV and they will return with their ninth season in September once they finish up with their summer series.
The staple of the organization is their tournaments, which they hold every year. The winner of the tournament gets a title shot at their division's champion.
The champions in Bellator are Alexander Volkov (heavyweight), Attila Vegh (light heavyweight), Alexander Shlemenko (middleweight), Ben Askren (welterweight), Michael Chandler (lightweight), Pat Curran (featherweight) and Eduardo Dantas (bantamweight). Most of them currently have top contenders and will likely defend their belts in season nine.
Here are some potential tournaments we could see, excluding the bantamweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions, since they took place during the summer series.
Diego Nunes vs. Joe Taimanglo
Shahbulat Shamhalaev vs. Chas Skelly
Rad Martinez vs. Akop Stepanyan
Marlon Sandro vs. Mike Richman
The featherweight tournament is a for-sure and has been one of the busiest weight classes in terms of tournaments utilized by Bellator.
Patricio Freire would be a guy that I include in this tournament, however he will be fighting at the summer series finale against Jared Downing. Therefore, he was excluded.
Diego Nunes was a high-profile sign since his departure from the UFC. Putting him against an up-and-comer with an impressive skill set like Joe Taimanglo would show if he's recovered from his cut ties or if Taimanglo is the real deal.
Shahbulat Shamhalaev is fresh off his title loss to Pat Curran, but is still a top featherweight in Bellator. He should re-enter the tournament to try and earn another title shot, perhaps against Chas Skelley, who earned a recent win in the summer series against Jarrod Card.
Rad Martinez is another former finalist in a tournament with a high-level skill set and great back story. He is a tough out for anybody, as is Akop Stepanyan, who I have him matched up with. After watching Stepanyan dismantle Chris Saunders, it was decided that he should earn a spot in my eyes.
Finally, two staples of Bellator's recent tournaments have been Marlon Sandro and Mike Richman. Both are fan favorites, consistently bring solid fights and round out a tournament with all sorts of talent.
Rick Hawn vs. Saad Awad
Alexander Sarnavskiy vs. Paul Sass
Marcin Held vs. Rob Sinclair
John Alessio vs. Patricky Freire
The lightweight division added some depth after season eight with three British signings. Two of those signings, Paul Sass and Rob Sinclair, are among the top Brits at 155.
Both should get a shot. A big test for Sass would be Alexander Sarnavskiy, who is young and talented, but has run into a string of bad luck with the company.
Sinclair needs a test as well, even though I have long voiced my opinion that he should be with the UFC. Marcin Held is an up-and-comer that is a former finalist in the 155-pound tournament that could expose Sinclair as a contender or pretender.
Placing former title challenger Rick Hawn back in the tournament would be a key piece to the season. He has looked extremely good at 155 thus far, so pitting him against former tourney finalist Saad Awad could make for an entertaining and important bout.
Lastly, it has been a little bit since Patricky Freire has participated in a tournament, so it may be time for him to get back on the horse. A date with UFC veteran and Canadian veteran John Alessio would be one of the closest matchups in the season-nine bracket.
Paul Daley vs. Fight Master winner
Karl Amoussou vs. Brent Weedman
Matt Riddle vs. Marcus Davis
War Machine vs. Luis Melo
The welterweight division is in a stranglehold with Ben Askren at the top, but it continues to pump out contenders. Askren will have the pleasure of throwing down with Andrey Koreshkov in the summer series finale and then will meet the winner of Ben Saunders-Douglas Lima.
Paul Daley was one of the biggest acquisitions in a while for Bellator, and now that his visa issues are cleared up, he should get a bout with Bellator in the tournament. Being a top seed, he should meet the bottom seed, which would be the winner of the Fight Master reality show.
Former tournament winner and championship contender Karl Amoussou should makes his return in the tournament. It shouldn't be an easy fight though, which is why I have him matched up with Brent Weedman (who left his last tournament due to injury).
Two former UFC veterans could also grace the the tournament opposite of one another. Matt Riddle, who just got his walking papers, would need to stay off the wacky-tobacky and prove his worth against the scrappy Marcus Davis.
Lastly, fan favorite War Machine will likely be in the tournament, barring any unforeseen injury. He could meet Luis Melo, who likely earned his spot after a win in season eight over Trey Houston.
Former champion Hector Lombard, now with the UFC.
Maiquel Falcao vs. Dan Cramer
Bruno Santos vs. Brian Rogers
Keith Berry vs. Giva Santana
Slava Vasilevsky vs. Tom DeBlass
The middleweight division may be the most talent-shy of divisions in Bellator. In fact, now that Hector Lombard is gone, Alexander Shlemenko may dominate the division.
Maiquel Falcao may be a controversial choice for this tournament considering his recent brawl in Brazil that got him booted from his fight team, but consider the 185-pound division. They are in need of somebody talented to help carry the tournament. Plus, Bellator can make him earn his way into the semifinals by pitting him against a grinder like Dan Cramer.
Bruno Santos' last appearance in a Bellator tournament saw him bow out of the competition due to injury after winning his quarterfinal bout. Let him try and gain redemption against a fan favorite and tournament staple Brian Rogers.
Keith Berry is a Strikeforce vet that has already gone 2-0 in his short Bellator career. Let him try and continue his momentum in the tournament against the armbar king that is Giva Santana, a tournament veteran himself.
If Tom DeBlass feels he can still comfortably cut to middleweight, this tournament may be a great option for the UFC veteran. Test him by putting him up against tournament veteran Slava Vasilevsky, who has gone 4-0 since his last Bellator fight with three finishes.