Never fear, sports fans: Bellator Fighting Championships is back with another week of subtle, tasteful ring girl submission tutorials.
I am told there will also be a bit of fighting at Bellator 68, which takes place on Friday at Caesars Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. Featuring the final of the Season 6 featherweight tournament, along with a bantamweight semifinal, the event airs on MTV2 immediately after the highly popular and in no way extremely stupid “Nitro Circus Live.”
Here is what to watch for at Bellator 68:
Redemption vs. Rejection
You need to watch the featherweight final between Marlon Sandro and Daniel Straus. It will be good for your health, even if it is hazardous to theirs.
Both men have been here before. Straus was first, clawing his way to the final of the Season 4 tournament, only to be outpointed by Patricio Freire nearly one year ago. Sandro then followed suit during the Summer Series draw, edging Genair da Silva and Nazareno Malegarie before eating a Pat Curran head kick that dashed his dreams of challenging then-champion Joe Warren.
Since those appearances, both men have earned a trio of victories, two of which came on their respective roads to the Season 6 final. Straus used his typical grinding offense to outpoint Jeremy Spoon and Mike Corey to advance, while Sandro brought back a bit of the old ultra-violence for his quarterfinal bout with Roberto Vargas before taking a lethargic split decision from Alexandre Bezerra in the semis.
With the bright lights now bearing down on the featherweight final, which man will succeed where he previously failed and earn a crack at Curran’s title?
‘T-Train’ on Track
Travis Marx may look like a fresh face to the casual Bellator observer, but the Greg Jackson disciple has been quietly doing his thing for a while now. A veteran of 23 professional bouts, the 34-year-old has not lost since December 2010 and rides a four-fight winning streak into his Bellator 68 semifinal appearance.
Granted, Marx’s quarterfinal victory over Masakatsu Ueda last month at Bellator 64 did not exactly set the streets aflame with excitement, but it is undeniable that his methodical approach in controlling his smaller opponent was an effective one. Possessing great upper body strength for a bantamweight, “T-Train” should look to utilize a similar strategy when attacking his upcoming foe, Marcos Galvao.
While it is not out of the question that Marx could submit Galvao, I think it would be a mistake for the American to dwell on securing a finish. Just as he did against Ueda, Marx should work hard to gain superior positioning and do what comes naturally: punch.
As for Marx’s opponent, Galvao walks into the Final Four after decisively outpointing three-time Bellator tournament veteran Ed West in the quarterfinals, keeping pace with the nimble American and landing the cleaner shots throughout their Bellator 65 affair.
“Loro” should keep his distance if he hopes to find success against Marx, who will likely prove difficult to tap should Galvao end up on his back. The Brazilian seems to possess all the tools required to challenge Nova Uniao teammate Eduardo Dantas for Bellator’s 135-pound title, but consistency has nonetheless avoided Galvao up to this point.
While it could be argued -- and frankly, I would -- that Galvao should be undefeated in his Bellator career, he holds an official promotional record of 2-2 after suffering hard-fought decision defeats to former featherweight champion Warren in a non-title catchweight bout and Alexis Vila in the Season 5 tournament semis. Will Season 6 prove to be Galvao’s time or will the former Shooto 132-pound title challenger come up short in his bid to win a Bellator belt?
There Will Be Blood
Does anyone recall the epic bloodbath that was supposed to erupt between Marius Zaromskis and Waachiim Spiritwolf at Strikeforce Challengers 12 in 2010? Here comes take two.
Perhaps “epic bloodbath” qualifies as hyperbole, but I just could not resist. What was actually expected to happen was this: Zaromskis would tee off on Spiritwolf’s mug, and we would watch to see if the Californian could take it. Instead, what we got was six seconds of cage time before Zaromskis accidentally poked Spiritwolf in the eye, resulting in a disappointing no-contest.
The semi-sadistic anticipation surrounding the bout was well-founded. Zaromskis is known primarily for dishing out punishment with his fists and feet. The Lithuanian stormed through Dream’s 2009 welterweight grand prix, knocking out Hayato Sakurai and Jason High in the final two rounds to claim the belt. He also nearly knocked Kazushi Sakuraba’s right ear clean off of his head and most recently smoked Bruno Carvalho with a somersault kick that led to a first-round finish.
Likewise, Spiritwolf’s ability to absorb punishment and continue stalking his opponents has become his calling card over the course of his 19-fight career, during which he has lost as many as he has won. The 36-year-old has not been finished since October 2009 and made a splash in his Bellator debut last year, outlasting Jaime Jara in a bloody Bellator 35 undercard bout.
Though it has been almost 18 months since Zaromskis and Spiritwolf first stepped in the cage, the parameters of the combat remain the same. The deck is still stacked against Spiritwolf, but if the veteran manages to make his way inside of the Lithuanian’s kicks, he will have the opportunity to put his hands on Zaromskis, as Nick Diaz and Evangelista Santos both did to great effect in their respective knockout victories over the Dream champ. Either way, the smart money says somebody is hitting the canvas before we hit 15 minutes.