Bellator Welterweight Finalists Vie for $100,000

By Jason Probst Jun 12, 2009
With a pair of promising welterweights squaring off, Bellator’s Lyman Good-Omar De La Cruz tournament finale should be a good one.

Given the stakes of a $100,000 (Good and De La Cruz have already netted $75,000 each) purse going to the winner, the June 12 bout caps off an eight-man tournament. With each man staking two wins thus far in the new promotion’s effort to tap into the as-yet untapped Latin market, Good (pictured) and De La Cruz are mixed martial artists with different backgrounds and styles. But both share a common hunger to win, and win big. The bout will be televised on ESPN Deportes June 13.

De La Cruz (5-1), who is from the Dominican Republic, is one of the emerging talents from the Alliance Training Center in San Diego. The gym is home to big-name fighters like UFC light heavyweight contender Brandon Vera and WEC prospect Dominick Cruz.

Currently enrolled in medical school in his homeland, De La Cruz hopes to become a doctor, but the Bellator tournament was the right opportunity at the right time. De La Cruz does not speak English, but his grappling speaks volumes, said Eric Del Fierro, who trains the fighter. Still, De La Cruz earned a first-round technical knockout by strikes over former UFC middleweight champion Dave Menne in the tournament semifinal.

“The thing with Omar is, nobody’s really seen what he has. He’s a jiu-jitsu guy,” said Del Fierro. “But the last fight, he actually stuck to the game plan and he did great.”

Pitted against Good, who is a quick striker with a well-rounded game, it’s a definite jump for De La Cruz, said Del Fierro.

“He has to stick to the game plan. He has maybe fought one fighter at this level. He came to me from the Dominican Republic and there’s not the level of talent there,” Del Fierro said. “But he hangs with everybody at my gym. He does good both standing and on the ground.”

De La Cruz has thus far shown an agile ground game, with a slick style on the mat. He finds openings while grappling and seems to have a natural feel for positions and tactics.

Good (9-0), meanwhile, has shown better standup. His movement and striking suggest a fighter with a solid upside, and, perhaps one more fan-friendly given the potential exposure he’ll get in the Bellator promotion.

Raised in the tough confines of Spanish Harlem, he’s excited to face a fighter that seems as willing as he is to lay it on the line, and seize the tournament championship.

“I see his mentality coming into the fight,” said Good. “His technical points make him strong physically. His fight with Menne, it stood out how hungry he was. And that’s the same exact story as me. We’re kids that have never known any money, and given that incentive, that’s gonna make a guy hungry.”

With 12- and 14-year-old sisters, Good is a proud graduate of military school and wants to make a better life for his family.

“I grew up with a bit of harsh circumstances, grew up in hood rampant with crime. In Spanish Harlem, rape, crime, drugs, murder… they just never go away,” Good said. “Under those circumstances, you either make or break. I made it out OK. It wasn’t easy. Now I consider that my sisters are now growing up in same environment I did. I want to give them a different upbringing. He’s a guy that’s balls to the wall, and I’m exactly the same way.”

De La Cruz has trained with several top black belts in the San Diego area, visiting two or three times a year to prepare and fine-tune for fights.

“It’s a little shocking,” Del Fierro said. “He mostly does his training with us. We got good jiu-jitsu guys at our camp. He’s real difficult to tap, and at passing the guard and getting up. Brandon Vera and him go at it. He doesn’t get submitted and neither does Brandon. He’s focused for sure. He’ll make some good money on this.”

Good knows the opportunity before him as well. Training at Tiger Schulmann’s Karate in Elmwood, N.J., he’s literally as close to the fight as he can be.

“Part of the preparation for all these fights is, I’ve been living in my training facility for the past three and a half months,” Good said. “ And sleeping on a regular mattress in the cage.”
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