Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Speculation Station: Who Will Fill Bellator's Light Heavyweight Tournament Brackets?

Yesterday's announcement of a light heavyweight tournament added to its fourth season put the cherry on top for Bellator Fighting Championships who also recently announced a major three year deal with MTV2. Of the recognized weight divisions from bantamweight to heavyweight, the light heavyweight division is the one area that Bellator has not yet pursued. The light heavyweight division also happens to be one of the most stacked divisions, with the UFC and Strikeforce (primarily the UFC) claiming the majority of stock in the light heavyweight world rankings. But there are options out there for Bellator, and three seasons of successful home grown talent proves that Bellator has what it takes to produce a noticeable light heavyweight tournament. Let's take a look at the Bellator's prospective 205 lb. market:

UFC Exiles
While I'm sure Bjorn Rebney will frown on this as a first option, filling those last couple brackets with UFC-groomed fighters is an easy, convenient way to add that competitive edge to the mix. Two names come to mind -- Houston Alexander and Keith Jardine, two ex-UFC light heavies who may not top Dana White's popularity list, but whose names are still fresh in the memories of MMA fans. Bellator's move to MTV2 will require the appeal of popular, familiar names to meet its pop culture standards. Hey, it worked with Roger Huerta.

International Market
Bellator will surely tap the international market. Their last two seasons have benefited heavily from foreign names like Alexander Shlemenko and Megumi Fujii, both tournament finalists, and the fourth season should be no different as there are a good number of hot 205 prospects to be found abroad.

Jan Blachowicz (12-2): defeated Bellator vet Daniel Tabera at KSW 14 in September. Has tournament experience as he competed in KSW's one-night eight man tournament in 2008.

Vyacheslav Vasilevsky (11-1): "Slava," as he is called, is probably signed with M-1. However, the M-1 management team shouldn't have any issues sending one of their fighters to a top American promotion, unless of course that fighter's name is Fedor Emelianenko.

Jonas Billstein (9-0): Billstein is a native of Cologne, Germany where he trains with the Cologne Combat Club. He is currently undefeated at 9-0. Still green? Yes, but of his nine pro bouts, Billstein has racked up an impressive eight early stoppages, seven of which are TKO's.

Brazilian Flavor
Paulo Filho (21-2-1): Paulo Filho has bounced around weight classes, jumping between the middleweight, light heavyweight, and heavyweight divisions. With 21 wins and only two losses, Paulo Filho should have been signed by a major organization a long time ago. The WEC veteran was forced to hit the pro circuit when the Zuffa acquired the WEC and dissolved its middleweight division. Filho is a submission specialist who owns eight victories via submission.

Ralek Gracie (3-0): It's quite obvious the flair that the Gracie name brings to any card. Ralek is the son of Rorion Gracie. Although raised and based in California, Ralek carries on the Gracie jiu jitsu tradition that started in Brazil. His is currently 3-0 with his last winning coming against legendary Japanese Pride veteran Kazushi Sakuraba. Ralek has yet to make his American debut. An appearance with Bellator would make the perfect debut on U.S. soil.

North of the Border
Canadians to consider for Bellator's 205 lb. tournament:

Ryan Jimmo (13-1): Ryan Jimmo is currently ranked by Top MMA News as Canada's top light heavyweight. Jimmo is a Karate black belt, and a mainstay in the Maximum Fighting Championships. Jimmo, who currently rides a thirteen fight win streak, is slated to face Dwayne Lewis some time in early 2011. However, according to Jimmo's manager, he only has one fight remaining on his MFC contract. If Jimmo fulfills his MFC contract before the March 2011 start of Bellator's fourth season, we could see him part ways with the MFC.

Raphael Davis (10-1): has two Bellator bouts under his belt. He defeated former KOTC heavyweight champion Tony Lopez at Bellator 34 earlier this year.

Others of Note
Trevor Prangley (26-3-1): Prangley is one of the light heavyweight division's most traveled fighters. He brings experience from the UFC, Strikeforce, and the now-defunct Bodog promotions. The South African is a natural wrestler who possesses proven boxing skills.

Eliot Marshall (10-2): Eliot Marshall is a TUF 8 alum. He was released from the UFC earlier this year following a split decision loss to Vladimir Matyushenko, but has since bounced back, earning three wins in a row.

1 comment: