Thiago “Big Monster” Santos is one of the Season 7 heavyweight tournament favorites. | Photo: Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
Bellator Fighting Championships was dealt a curveball when both Eduardo Dantas and Paul Daley were pulled from Bellator 79 on short notice.
Nevertheless, the promotion has put forth a solid replacement bill on Friday at Casino Rama in Rama, Ontario, Canada. Topped by Season 7 semifinal pairings in the heavyweight and featherweight divisions, the main draw airs on MTV2 following the preliminary stream on Spike.com.
Here is what to watch for at Bellator 79:
Thiago Santos and Richard Hale make a really strange pair on paper, but I think their fight might also be a lot of fun. Picture a grizzly bear fighting a giant scorpion.
Now, after all of you go out and have that image tattooed on your body somewhere, please consider the following:
Along with Alexander Volkov, Hale entered this tournament knowing full well that he would be one of two lightest competitors in the field. Considering Hale’s legit punching power -- the guy is perfectly capable of knocking out any of the other semifinalists -- it appears the move to heavyweight has resulted in a speed advantage but not necessarily a decrease in his ability in inflict punishment. The thing I worry about most with Hale is his ability to absorb a heavyweight punch, especially from a guy like Santos.
Speaking of “Big Monster,” are we absolutely sure he is OK? I am still having nightmares about Eric Prindle’s axe kick.
Provided everything is still in place with Santos’ anatomy, I would make him the favorite to win this whole deal. His aggression and power standing should make him tough to catch, even for guys who throw straight punches like Hale and Volkov. Add to this his jiu-jitsu abilities, and I think there is an excellent chance that “Big Monster” becomes Bellator’s next heavyweight champion. Unless Hale puts one of those bombs on the Brazilian’s beard and shakes up this whole game.
Mama Said Knock You Out
Mike Richman has effortlessly wooed me into a frenzy of fandom.
Now, before you guys start throwing rocks at me for using that intentionally flamboyant combination of syllables to articulate my point, let me first explain that I only wrote it that way because I knew that it would make you mad.
Not helping? Maybe Richman busting some nasty crosses and hooks upside your cathode-ray-infused mind might adjust your attitude. Anyone who has not seen Richman’s destructions of Chris Horodecki and Jeremy Spoon, stop reading this and go find those knockouts online right now.
What has impressed me the most about “The Marine” is his ability to stay controlled while slinging shots from within the pocket. This not only helps him score more accurately with his punches, but it also improves his defense. Because Richman’s feet are always underneath him, he can pop in and out of striking distance while creating very little lag time between his movements.
However, we have not seen Richman fight on the ground during his brief stint with Bellator. While the southpaw has shown some solid top control and scrambling ability during his time on the local circuit, it remains unclear whether he could survive the type of ground-and-pound that Shahbulat Shamhalaev inflicted upon Cody Bollinger. Of course, in order for that aspect of the fight to become a deciding factor, the Dagestan native must first prove he can keep Richman on his back.
Return of ‘The Phenom’
I think Douglas Lima is Bellator’s second-best welterweight, and he has the potential to become No. 1.
This should not be any kind of revelation for those who have followed the prospect’s career arc. Last year, “The Phenom” was on one hell of a roll. After blitzing UFC vet Terry Martin to defend the Maximum Fighting Championship title, Lima entered Bellator’s Season 5 draw, outpointing Steve Carl before wrecking Chris Lozano and Ben Saunders to win the tournament and earn a crack at Ben Askren’s welterweight belt.
The only problem: Askren was about as impressed by Lima’s momentum as Ivan Drago was with Apollo Creed’s James Brown dance party in “Rocky IV.” While “Funky” did not quite deliver the same amount of damage Drago did -- this is where you laugh, by the way -- Askren did put on a masterful performance, using his superior wrestling to drown his explosive foe for 25 minutes and retain his title.
What did Lima learn from the defeat? Will he show it off against Jacob Ortiz as he gears up for a potential invite to what should be a stacked Season 8 tournament?
Ryan Ford has little room for error if he hopes to become a contender in Bellator’s welterweight division.
As most know, Ford has a criminal record, not to mention a growing stable of tough, well-known 170-pound fighters working against him. If “The Real Deal” wants to break through and make a name for himself among American fans, I think his performances must be so impressive that folks cannot help but feel compelled to watch him.
Ford took a nice step in that direction during his promotional debut in May, when he smashed Luis Santos with a flurry in the second round of their Bellator 67 clash. Ford’s punching power is no joke, and although his ground game is by no means spectacular, his takedown defense may prove sufficient to avoid ending up on his back against anybody but Askren.
As he has stepped in on short notice to replace Daley at this event, I would think Ford’s appearance comes with slightly reduced expectations. If the Canadian can use the circumstance to stay loose and aggressive against Kyle Baker, “The Real Deal” could find himself the owner of another impressive victory and the recipient of some increased exposure next year on Spike TV.