Douglas Lima has become a human highlight reel for Bellator. | Photo: Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
For the first time in more than three years, a man other than Ben Askren will soon be called Bellator MMA welterweight champion.
Douglas Lima will collide with Rick Hawn over the vacant belt on Friday in the Bellator 117 main event, which takes place at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The main draw airs live on Spike TV and will also feature the Season 10 lightweight semifinals.
Here is what to watch for at Bellator 117:
DOUGLAS DOES IT
Perhaps no man in Bellator -- other than Alexander Shlemenko, of course -- owns better finishing instincts than Douglas Lima. Take a moment to examine the best Bellator knockouts ever recorded. Lima owns four of them.
Both of his knockouts of Ben Saunders were sublime, with the latter KO proving to be just slightly more impressive. “The Phenom’s” stoppage of Bryan Baker was also a thing of beauty, as was his finish of Chris Lozano, which was, for my money, about as crushing a right hand as I have ever seen thrown in a cage.
Lima’s lone loss in his last 14 outings came at the hands of Askren, whose wrestling simply overwhelmed the Brazilian expat two years ago. With “Funky” now out of the picture, can Lima succeed where he previously failed?
Lima will not have an easy fight in front of him when he faces Hawn, a former Olympic judoka and all-around tough customer.
Hawn began his Bellator career at 170 pounds, fighting his way to the Season 4 tournament final before dropping a split decision to ex-International Fight League titleholder Jay Hieron. The 37-year-old then made the cut to lightweight, where he dominated until running up against then-champion Michael Chandler.
Hawn next returned to welterweight as a late injury replacement in the Season 9 tournament and proceeded to win the whole shebang, outpointing Herman Terrado and Brent Weedman before taking out Ron Keslar with his dangerous right hand.
Can Hawn find a home for that right against Lima? If he can, he might well be hoisting Bellator gold for the first time to close the show.
Patricky Freire returned to form in just the nick of time.
The elder “Pitbull” brother took care of business in the Season 10 quarterfinals against former title challenger David Rickels, smashing “The Caveman” early in round two after a tense initial five minutes. The Brazilian showed exactly why he was hyped for so long as one of Bellator’s most promising lightweights. Despite losing four of five bouts from May 2011 to September 2013, Freire always possessed the ability to change the course of a fight with a single punch. He performed that exact trick against Rickels, hurting the American with a sharp left hook and then flooring him with another shot before sealing the victory with one more violent blow to his grounded opponent.
Now paired with Derek Campos, can Freire maintain his momentum and punch his ticket to the final?
YOUNG GUN FUN
One of the men to beat “Pitbull” during his aforementioned losing streak was Derek Anderson, and I think this undefeated prospect might be good enough to win the Season 10 draw.
“The Barbaric” certainly proved his worth in his Bellator debut against Freire. It is not often we see an up-and-comer fight like an experienced veteran, but that is exactly what Anderson did by dragging Freire into a third round and outworking him with crisp punching combinations. The Californian was even more impressive in the Season 10 quarterfinals, crushing Brandon Girtz with a second-round knee on March 21.
Anderson will now lock up with another surging lightweight prospect in Marcin Held. The young Pole’s strong suit is no secret. Held wants to drag his opponents to the mat and grab ahold of a leg, at which point he will attempt to separate the appendage from the rest of his foe’s body. The 22-year-old scored yet another submission win in the tournament’s opening round, tapping Rodrigo Cavalheiro Correia with a toe-hold in just 1:56.
Can Anderson keep the fight standing in order to use his long, accurate boxing game or will Held latch onto a leg and bust out another of his most excellent Ken Shamrock impressions?