Lavar Johnson has gone the distance once in 26 professional bouts. | Photo: Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
Bellator MMA will return to Spike TV on Friday, one week removed from Bellator 115 -- which saw two main card fights scrapped the day of weigh-ins.
Let us hope that with a little luck and perhaps a blessing or two from the fight gods, this card will move forward in its entirety. The bill takes place at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif., and, if all goes according to plan, there are several fights on this card worth watching. Here is what to watch for at Bellator 116:
Lavar Johnson has said that this Season 10 tournament run is likely his last chance to win a world title, and his quarterfinal performance seemed to indicate he believes those words.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran went toe-to-toe with fellow heavy hitter Ryan Martinez, and it was “Big” who walked away from the confrontation with a knockout. The limitations of Johnson’s game have been well-documented, but it has never been said that the heavyweight does not possess the power to end a fight decisively with his fists.
The 36-year-old will now do battle with another dangerous opponent in Blagoi Ivanov. The former combat sambo world champion not only holds power in his hands, but he will also no doubt enter into this heavyweight tournament semifinal with significant advantages in the wrestling and submission departments.
If Johnson hopes to advance to the final and keep his title hopes alive, he must stay off his back. Can he avoid the unbeaten Bulgarian’s takedowns and power punching in order to land a fight-ender of his own?
RIFLE VS. CANNON
In the other heavyweight semifinal exists not a mismatch but a comedy of stylistic differences.
In one corner stands former heavyweight champion Alexander Volkov, a 6-foot-7 beanpole who might resemble the character for which he was nicknamed if Ivan Drago came off the juice and ate nothing but watercress for six months.
Across the cage will be Siala-Mou Siliga, better known to kickboxing fans as “Mighty Mo.” The stocky 43-year-old will give up a half-foot of height and 18 years of youth to his opponent, but he might be able to make up for those deficits with his superior punching power.
Volkov has previously proved he can fend off bigger, stronger men with an accurate and busy striking game that works from the outside in -- see his one-sided beating of Brett Rogers for proof. Meanwhile, Siliga does his best work with hooks on the inside, and standing in the clinch with this man is a great way to get your ribs absolutely roasted.
Who will emerge from this “Odd Couple” clash to earn a spot in the heavyweight final?
JANITOR’S LAST DAY
Vladimir Matyushenko may not be the competitor he once was, but at 43, he is nevertheless a fighter worth watching in his final bout.
“The Janitor” last week stated that his showdown with Joey Beltran would signal the end of his 34-fight career, which began in 1997 and saw him notch two stints in the UFC and a run as International Fight League light heavyweight champion. Matyushenko may never have been the best 205-pounder in the world, but for a time, he was not that far off. In his younger days, the Belarusian possessed some of the better wrestling in the light heavyweight division and picked up notable victories over the likes of Vernon White, Yuki Kondo, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Pedro Rizzo.
In Beltran, Matyushenko now faces a fellow UFC veteran who is known for his durability and resolve. Can Matyushenko outmaneuver “The Mexicutioner” and score a victory to close out his 16-year career?
Andrey Koreshkov’s flu prevented him from competing in his welterweight semifinal with Sam Oropeza at Bellator 115, requiring the bout to be rescheduled. As a result, Nathan Coy and Adam McDonough will now do battle for the first spot in the Season 10 welterweight final.
Coy was undeniably impressive in his quarterfinal outing against UFC alum Paul Bradley. Though their first meeting in 2009 resulted in a split decision victory for Bradley, Coy left little to chance in the rematch, working diligently from the southpaw stance to bust up Bradley something fierce. “The Gentleman” had no answer for Coy’s straight left hand, which he continually pumped into Bradley’s face over the course of 15 hard-fought minutes. The triumph served as “Soulforce’s” sixth consecutive victory since his Strikeforce departure in 2011.
McDonough also notched a unanimous decision win in his meeting with Jesse Juarez in the Round of 8, though his victory was not as clear-cut as Coy’s. Nevertheless, the 28-year-old Minnesotan managed to out-scramble Juarez in the final two rounds of their Bellator 112 confrontation. The win served as the 10th career victory for McDonough, who has yet to experience defeat in more than six years of competition.
Which of these welterweight talents will take another step toward a title shot?