An opportunistic Peter Graham became a short-notice finalist. | Photo: Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
Six days removed from its Spike TV mega card, Bellator MMA returns to business as usual on Friday, when Bellator 107 goes down from the Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla. While the bill does not feature a trio of title fights, as its predecessor did, it nevertheless contains a handful of intriguing matchups worth closer examination.
Here is what to watch for at Bellator 107:
Peter Graham may not have started off as a Season 9 tournament participant, but the Aussie may nevertheless become Bellator’s next heavyweight title contender.
Following a dominant showing against former tournament winner Eric Prindle, Graham was tapped to replace an injured Vinicius Kappke de Queiroz, placing “The Chief” just a victory away from earning a shot at champion Alexander Volkov.
Standing in his way will be Cheick Kongo, who decimated Mark Godbeer in the tournament’s opening round, blasting the Brit with brutal knees against the fence en route to a second-round technical knockout. The longtime Ultimate Fighting Championship talent will likely need to utilize that clinch game and his physical strength to stifle Graham, who might be the best pure striker in Bellator’s improving heavyweight division.
Can Kongo fulfill expectations as the tournament favorite or will the K-1 vet take full advantage of his opportunity and topple the UFC alum?
Train Kept A-Rollin’
Not many people seem to be talking about Travis Marx, and that is unfortunate, because I think “T-Train” is going to be quite competitive with Joe Warren.
Marx is a seriously strong bantamweight who has used a well-rounded attack to win six of his last seven fights, with his only loss in that span coming to Marcos Galvao in 2012. Marx was particularly impressive in his first Season 9 tournament appearance, stopping Brandon Bender with a knee to the body and then pounding him out with punches to advance to the final.
Warren, of course, needs little introduction. While it is unlikely that a bantamweight is actually the “Baddest Man on the Planet,” the former Greco-Roman world champion has been involved in some of Bellator’s most memorable bouts. Warren has certainly suffered his setbacks, but he always comes to fight, as he did in his second-round submission win over Nick Kirk at Bellator 101.
Will Marx earn the biggest win of his career by taking out Warren or will the former featherweight king move one step closer to winning his second Bellator belt?
Most casual observers are probably not hip to Brennan Ward and Mikkel Parlo, and that is their loss.
Both middleweights have put on memorable, entertaining performances in their run to the Season 9 tournament final, with Ward entering the bracket as a last-minute replacement for Andreas Spang. “The Irish Bad Boy” proceeded to score two consecutive finishes, knocking out Justin Torrey before tapping Joe Pacheco with a guillotine choke on Oct. 4. Like Ward, Parlo is another once-beaten prospect who has put his fists to good use in rousing unanimous decision victories over tournament staple Brian Rogers and the previously undefeated Jason Butcher.
While it is doubtful the Dane can match Ward’s athleticism, he may nevertheless find the American’s chin should he stuff a few takedown attempts. Conversely, if Ward can keep his stocky foe off-balance with his speed and level changes, he should see his hand raised. Which man will control the cage and force the other out of his comfort zone?
The ‘Pitbull’ Pit
Ahead of Patricky Freire’s September meeting with undefeated prospect Derek Anderson, I wrote that the Brazilian might be viewed as a fighter who could not win the big one when his career is finished. At this point, I imagine Freire’s fans would settle for a win of any kind.
With a unanimous decision defeat to Anderson now in his rearview mirror, “Pitbull” has lost three straight fights and four of his last five after beginning his career 9-1. He faded significantly down the stretch against Anderson, and the American showed him no quarter, pressing the action en route to a 29-28 victory on all three scorecards.
Freire is now matched with 28-fight pro James Edson Berto in what appears to be designed as a confidence building matchup for “Pitbull.” Berto has lost six of his last nine but nevertheless enters the matchup coming off a first-round submission of Bruno Carvalho. This is do-or-die time for Freire. Can he return to his winning ways?