Breaking Down the Bellator 121 Matchups
Bellator MMA kicks off its 2014 "Summer Series" on Friday night from the Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. The four-fight main card features the Bellator debuts of well-known fighters Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou and James “Colossus” Thompson.
Sokoudjou takes on Terry Davinney in a light heavyweight feature fight, and Thompson takes on eight-fight Bellator veteran Eric Prindle in the main event. Bellator 121 also features three light heavyweight tournament quarterfinal bouts, two of which take place on the main card.
How will Bellator follow up its first successful foray onto pay-per-view? Which fighters will move closer to a shot at the light heavyweight championship? Who will win in the battle of hard-hitting heavyweights?
Here is a breakdown of the action on the main card of Bellator 121.
Carlos Eduardo vs. Egidijus Valavicius
The opening fight on the main card is a quarterfinal bout in Bellator's Summer Series light heavyweight tournament. Carlos Eduardo lost a unanimous decision to Rodney Wallace at Bellator 112, which snapped a nine-fight winning streak that dated back to May 2008, when he lost to a young Jon “Bones” Jones.
Valavicius made an impressive Bellator debut at Bellator 110, ending the fight with a devastating knee to Atanas Djambazov within the first minute.
If the Lithuanian comes out looking like he did in his last fight, he’ll likely put Eduardo away and punch his ticket to the next round. I’m going to give the edge to Valavicius, who's had more than twice as many fights as the Brazilian. I’ll even go out on a limb and make him my early pick to win the tournament and get a shot at the winner of Emanuel Newton and Quinton Jackson, if those two decide to fight.
Prediction: Valavicius by first-round knockout
Austin Heidlage vs. Phelipe Lins
The next tournament quarterfinal is between two undefeated finishers in Austin Heidlage and Phelipe Lins. Lins returned to mixed martial arts in 2013 after a two-year absence and has rattled off three impressive wins, including his first-round rear-naked choke against Travis Clark at Bellator 116 in April.
Heidlage has a 100 percent finishing rate in his seven professional fights, and only one of those has gone beyond the first round. Someone is going to leave the Bellator cage with his first loss, and my gut feeling is that will be Lins.
Prediction: Heidlage by first-round submission
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou vs. Terry Davinney
Both of these guys are coming into this bout on two-fight skids. Sokoudjou suffered back-to-back KO/TKO losses to Evgeny Erokhin and Konstantin Erokhin in 2013 and is looking to avoid a third straight loss in his Bellator debut.
Davinney was submitted via rear-naked choke by Ray Lopez in February and followed that up with a first-round TKO loss to Travis Wiuff in April.
Prior to the two losses, Davinney floored Matt Van Buren with a one-punch KO in his Bellator debut at Bellator 82 in 2012, so he is capable of landing a fight-ending punch. The winner of this fight may be bracketed into a future 205-pound tournament or perhaps even a fight with the recently victorious Tito Ortiz.
Sokoudjou has faced some of the best fighters at light heavyweight over the past eight years, and that depth of experience is going to be the difference-maker in this fight.
Prediction: Sokoudjou by first-round TKO
James Thompson vs. Eric Prindle
The main event of Bellator 121 features a heavyweight fight between James “Colossus” Thompson and Eric “The American Soldier” Prindle. Thompson is making his Bellator debut and comes in on a three-fight winning streak. He most recently submitted Colin Robinson at Underdog Xtreme Championship 2 back in March via a second-round arm-triangle choke.
Meanwhile, Prindle has lost four of his last five fights and also last competed in March, when he suffered damage to his right eye that forced a doctor’s stoppage in the third round against Javy Ayala at Bellator 111.
These guys have both made a career out of slugging it out with other hard-hitting heavyweights, and both have found themselves on the wrong end of some powerful punching exchanges in the past. Bellator’s heavyweight division isn’t too shabby these days, with guys like Alexander Volkov, Cheick Kongo and reigning champion Vitaly Minakov. A win for either fighter will most likely earn him a spot in an upcoming heavyweight tournament.
Thompson will be looking to take the fight to the mat and finish from there. Prindle has shown in the past that he has difficulty getting out from underneath his opponent when taken down, and Thompson has looked dominant in top position. If Prindle can press Thompson up against the fence and land some hard, short shots, he has a chance, but I see Colossus leaving with a TKO victory.
Prediction: Thompson by second-round TKO