Roger Huerta Signs with Bellator: Who Will "El Matador" Fight First?

Mitchell CiccarelliAnalyst IMarch 15, 2010

Former UFC lightweight contender Roger Huerta was announced today as the newest member of the Bellator Fighting Championships.

Huerta, who made MMA history as the first UFC fighter to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated, will take part in the season two lightweight tournament beginning Apr. 8 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

If victorious in the tournament, Huerta will square off against Eddie Alvarez, the third ranked lightweight in the world and current reigning Bellator champion, for the coveted lightweight title.

Huerta is coming off back-to-back decision losses to top-ranked contenders Kenny Florian and Gray Maynard but is still highly regarded for his incredible heart and willingness to go toe-to-toe with any man on the planet. He is by far the biggest name signed in the one year existence of the Bellator Fighting Championships and could potentially take the upstart promotion to new and exciting heights.

While fans and media alike are already looking ahead to a potential “super fight” against Alvarez, it would be unwise to look past the other competitors featured in this tournament. “El Matador” will not have an easy road to the championship and will have to fight his way through some of the sport’s most dangerous unknown fighters in order to get to Alvarez.

With that said, let’s take a look at who Huerta may be matched up with in the opening round bracket.

Mike Ricci (5-0 MMA)

Training alongside UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre at Tristar gym, Ricci is a dark horse entering this tournament. The undefeated lightweight has been making waves in the Canadian MMA scene and is ready to explode into a worldwide MMA superstar.

What better way to do so than to defeat the highly touted Huerta in the first round of Bellator’s lightweight tournament? Such an accomplishment would put Ricci on the fast track to supremacy in the 155-pound division.

Chad Hinton (6-0 MMA)

Fighting out of Columbus, Ohio, Hinton has been on a tear since making his professional debut in 2007. The 38-year-old wrecking machine opened eyes last April with a destructive knockout over two-time UFC veteran Jeff Cox.

Hinton enters Bellator with little fanfare but that could change drastically should he upset Huerta in his debut with the organization.

Janne Tulirinta (12-3 MMA)

A product of M-1 Global, Tulirinta has risen to international fame through his participation in the M-1 Challenge in Russia, Finland, and Korea, as well as competing in the United States. A police officer out of Scandinavia, Tulirinta has only tasted defeat a mere three times in 15 professional bouts and is very eager to claim a major championship in the United States.

Ferrid Kheder (16-5 MMA)

Nicknamed “The Hurricane” for his explosive fighting style, Kheder is world-renowned for his Judo skills. He began studying Judo in 1979 at the young age of four and eventually went on to win medals seven times in the World Cup as well as placing seventh at the 2000 Olympic Games.

In MMA, Kheder has added a strong striking and ground game to his already established Judo prowess. The Frenchman is currently riding a three fight win-streak and would match up very well against the always-exciting Huerta.

Carey Vanier (7-2 MMA)

Vanier is an All-American wrestler who trains under the tutelage of MMA guru Greg Jackson in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The hot young prospect is 6-0 in his last six fights heading into this tournament and would like nothing more than to test his merits against the former Sports Illustrated cover boy.