Brent Weedman owns an 8-3 record in Bellator. | Photo: Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
Bellator MMA returns to Spike TV on Friday for another episode of caged combat. This week will feature the semifinals of the Season 9 welterweight tournament and showcase the Bellator debut of the man who broke Badr Hari’s jaw.
Bellator 104 takes place at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and marks the promotional debut of arguably the second-best fighter in the world with an arachnid-centric nickname. Here is what to watch for at Bellator 104:
Weedman’s Gun Show
Brent Weedman is back at welterweight, and he is looking mighty fine.
Did you see his quarterfinal fight against Justin Baesman? This was not your grandfather’s Weedman. He looked like he just got back from a boot camp hosted by that clay-faced P90X guy. The functional muscle mass Weedman put on this year paid big dividends at Bellator 100, as he grounded Baesman and manhandled him on the mat, passing his guard and locking up a slick armbar.
The Weedman I saw last month was a far cry from the wiry welterweight who stumbled in Seasons 4 and 5 and a country mile from his drawn-out state during his short-lived experiment at 155 pounds. Weedman will now face Rick Hawn, the man who ended his run in the Season 6 final. Can the man from Kentucky even the score?
Another Go-Around for ‘Genghis’
In Hawn, Weedman faces a man likely best suited to the lightweight class but is nevertheless capable of beating most welterweights. Though Hawn stepped up on short notice to accept this tournament bid, it did not appear to affect the Olympic judoka, who methodically broke down Herman Terrado with little issue in the quarterfinal round.
Hawn has gone from prospect to measuring stick in a short period of time, and his ascension has been well-deserved. Debuting at 170 pounds, Hawn fought his way to the Season 4 welterweight final before topping a Season 6 lightweight field that included Weedman to earn his ill-fated title shot against Michael Chandler. Put simply, Hawn is a nightmare to take down, and his right hand is a force to be reckoned with at both 155 and 170 pounds.
Can “Genghis” turn the same trick twice and send Weedman packing?
While War Machine showed signs of rust fighting against Blas Avena, I expected the welterweight to show marked improvement in his quarterfinal appearance. After all, who among us would not need a little cage time to shake off the cobwebs after spending a year in jail and tearing his ACL? The Machine did not disappoint. He granted Vaughan Anderson no quarter at Bellator 100, taking the 35-year-old to the mat before rendering him unconscious with a rear-naked choke. The man formerly known as Jon Koppenhaver seems to have found the focus and stability that were previously absent in his life, and I think that makes him a threat to every welterweight on the Bellator roster.
Can he get past Ron Keslar and earn a berth in the Season 9 final?
‘Rolling Thunder’ from Down Under
If you like combat sports and you have never seen Peter Graham’s 2006 knockout of Hari in the K-1 ring, I order you to spend no less than two minutes in the Sherdog penalty box, during which time you will watch Graham’s heel connect with Hari’s jaw over and over again.
This was not an isolated instance for the Australian, who used his “Rolling Thunder” kick to bludgeon plenty of foes during his 13 years as a kickboxer. The technique is unique in that it resembles a spinning heel kick until Graham turns his hips over, almost creating an axe kick angle at the release point. The heavyweight often comes completely off the ground to accomplish this, which, as you might imagine, looks pretty cool.
We can only hope that “Rolling Thunder” makes an appearance against Eric Prindle, but even if it does not, Graham is by no means a one-trick pony. As you would expect from a man with 68 pro kickboxing fights, the 38-year-old possesses devastating leg kicks and a jackhammer right hand.
Since the departure of Cole Konrad, Bellator has been left without any elite wrestlers in the heavyweight division -- a fact that clearly bodes well for Graham. Can the K-1 veteran best a former title challenger in Prindle and make a case for his inclusion in the next heavyweight tournament?
Debuting ‘Da Spyder’
What type of impact will Kendall Grove make in Bellator’s middleweight division?
The long, lean 185-pounder has fought with mixed results since departing the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2011, rattling off five wins in his first six appearances outside the Octagon before dropping three straight bouts from December to June. Grove returned to his winning ways in his last outing, however, when he stopped Danny Mitchell with strikes under the Global Warrior Challenge banner just three weeks after his June 8 defeat to Michal Materla in Poland.
The 30-year-old will now face fellow UFC veteran Joe Vedepo, who looks to rebound from a first-round knockout at the hands of Louis Taylor in December. Can Grove use his length and dangerous knees from the clinch to begin his Bellator career on a positive note or will Vedepo spoil “Da Spyder’s” debut?