Bellator XIII is set to go down tomorrow night at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino to kick-off the long awaited second season.
When I say long, I mean it, Bellator's first season wrapped up in June of last year. In the hyperactive world of MMA that's about the equivalent to the average sport as the distance between now, and the last time John Kruk was able to his toes without bending over.
Ok, maybe not that long, but you get the idea. Thankfully the good people at Bellator plan to reward us for our patience with back-to-back seasons.
This means we'll see 24 live-cards on "free" TV between now and All-Hallows-Eve. If all goes to plan all of the men's divisions from Featherweight-to-Heavyweight will have a champion, and some of them will have made their first title defense.
This inevitably means we'll learn an awful lot about Bellator's future prospects this year. And it all starts by unveiling its biggest capture to date, one "El Matador", Roger Huerta. In the main-event he'll face over-matched 8th seed, Chad Hinton.
The 38-year-old is a fun story, and the fight will likely be a stand-up affair as both fighters prefer to handle their business standing. However I can't see the Cincinnati native taking advantage of any of Huerta's stylistic debilities.
Thus, I fully expect "El Matador" to cruise to a one-sided unanimous verdict, with a possible finish.
In the second lightweight tournament bout Finnish wrestler, Janne Tulirinta will take on former All-American wrestler, Jaime Vanier in a battle of flawed prospects. Both fighters strengths lie in getting this fight to the ground, so this contest will be decided by who's top game reigns supreme.
In a battle of takedowns, I expect Tulirinta's experience to be enough in this fight. Nevertheless, with both submission and striking issues he's going to need to show tremendous improvements to make any challenge.
In the featured fight of the long awaited featherweight tournament, Joe Warren will take on Midwestern product, Eric Marriott.
The fight will be Marriott's first real test, after going 17-3 with soft competition. Despite a good showing against a much bigger Tyler Stinton, he's really never shown me any reason to think he could provide anything more than an annoying speed bump on Warren's road to bigger things in this tournament. I fully expect Warren to end this fight whenever he wants, however he wants.
The last fight in the televised portion of the card will be Georgi Karakhanyan taking on Elite-XC veteran Bao Quach.
While records and seeding would tell you Georgi should be a favorite I think differently. While I question Quach's chin, and Karakhanyan could be the guy to exploit that weakness, this fight should be decided on the floor. A place I expect the wily veteran to positionally dominate the former soccer star to a unanimous verdict.
All in all, not a bad way to kick off a season. While upsets wouldn't seem to be in the cards, it was one of the most endearing factors of Bellator's first stanza. Joe Soto this time last year was an afterthought to take home the gold, yet there he is. That's what makes watching prospects develop so much fun.
I hope you'll join me.
While Bellator events will be shown live on FSN, it's important to take the time to check your local affiliates to see if you have a game that will bump you back. In my interview with Bjorn he assured me the contract Bellator has with FSN clearly stipulates the event will be shown AFTER any important regional events. Because of this you may experience a tape delay of up to 3 hours.