This Thursday night (January 31st) BellatorMMA comes waltzing back into our lives, live from the Soaring Eagle Casino in Mount Pleasant, MI. The main card will start at 10 p.m. EST live on their brand spanking new home, Spike TV.
The main card will kick off the season 8 Lightweight tournament with all four quarterfinal bouts taking place on the same card. So we’re going to get to gauge all the Lightweights involved on the same night. This card will mark the first event of the season without a title fight. But that doesn’t mean that this card should be dvr’d, as it promises to deliver plenty of fireworks.
The main event that night was supposed to have featured the return of the popular Brazilian slugger Patricky “Pitbull” Freire (10-4-0) taking on Canadian prospect Guillaume “Il Toro” DeLorenzi (10-1-0) who will be making his second Bellator appearance. However, it has been reported by several MMA websites that just hours before the weigh-ins were scheduled to take place, Patricky “Pitbill” suffered a knee injury that will force him to withdraw from the season 8 Lightweight tournament. It is likely that taking their place as main event will be Lloyd “Cupcake” Woodard vs. David “The Caveman” Rickles, which is not too shabby any way you look at it.
That being said, Guillaume DeLorenzi will still be participating in this tournament, albeit with a different opponent. He will now face Saad Awad (12-4-0) and their bout is still scheduled to be aired on the televised portion of the broadcast.
So, in what will likely be the new main event, Lloyd “Cupcake” Woodard (12-2-0) will be facing David “The Caveman” Rickles (11-1-0). Woodard will be making his third tournament appearance after reaching the semifinals in both of his previous tournament appearances. Both eliminations came at the hands of eventual tournament winners Rick Hawn and Michael Chandler, leaving his Bellator record at 2-2. He hopes to make the third time the charm. Winning this tournament will put “Cupcake” on deck for not only a title fight but perhaps a chance to avenge a loss against the current champion Michael Chandler.
His opponent is also a Bellator veteran, the man they call “The Caveman” David Rickles. Although Rickles holds a more impressive Bellator record (5-1-0) than Woodard, only two of those fights came in tournament competition. In fact, those bouts were held at Welterweight, losing only to recent title challenger Karl “Psycho” Amoussou. Between these two fighters, only three of their eight Bellator bouts have gone to decisions, thus it is highly unlikely this fight hears the final bell, which can only a good thing for viewers.
Now, which fight takes the place of co-main event is anyone’s guess at the moment, so I’ll jump to the fight involving one of the original main event fighters, Guillaume DeLorenzi (10-0-1) vs. Saad Awad (12-4-0). Guillaume earned his entry into the season 8 Lightweight Tournament by defeating Jonny Carson (no not that one) at Bellator79 by rear naked choke late in the first round. DeLorenzi is known for his vicious ground and pound that has led him to a 10-1 record. That defeat coming at Welterweight against War Machine (formerly known as Jon Koppenhaver). Besides that lone defeat at Welterweight, DeLorenzi is undefeated at Lightweight. 80% of Guillaume’s victories have come by way of TKO or KO. He certainly has the tools to not only be the monkey wrench in this tournament, but also the dark horse. Especially now that the tournament favorite Patricky “Pitbull” has been removed from the bracket, I strongly suggest you don’t sleep on DeLorenzi.
Guillaume’s new opponent, Saad Awad is no push over by any means, as he is on a four fight win streak with Saad finishing all of those four opponents. His last loss was in April in 2011 and has been on a roll since then, earning a return to Bellator. He was originally scheduled to fight Jason Fischer (5-1-0), but when Freire was forced to withdraw, he got call to take his spot in the season 8 Lightweight tournament. Awad will be looking to make the most of this golden opportunity and boost his winning streak to five. It will be a very intriguing bout, look for both first time tournament entrants to put on a show.
The next bout on the broadcast features two more returning Bellator veterans, Brazilian kick boxer Thiago Michel (11-3-0) taking on experienced Russian Alexander “Tiger” Sarnavskiy (21-1-0). With an extensive kickboxing background, Thiago will most likely look to keep the fight on the feet. Michel joined Bellator’s season 6 Lightweight tournament in early 2011, reaching the semifinals before being eliminated by Brent Weedman and has not stepped foot in a cage since then. The long layoff may prove to be difficult to overcome, considering Bellators tournament format. But that remains to be seen. Michel was a highly regarded prospect when he first signed with Bellator and a loss to an experienced fighter like Weedman can prove to be something he can definitely learn from.
Facing Michel that night will be Alexander Sarnavskiy. This 24 year old M-1 veteran has the most impressive record of all the Lightweights in this tournament. With a record of 21-1, “Tiger” has 11 submissions to his name and all 11 of those submissions were either triangle chokes or rear naked chokes. It would be in Sarnarvskiy’s best interest to take this fight to ground and stifle Michel’s stand up attack. Look for this bout to be the classic striker vs. grappler throwback type of fight and based off on history, it’s not looking well for Michel.
Lastly, we have Ricardo Tirloni (15-2-0) vs. Will “Ill Will” Brooks (8-0-0). Try saying that name three times.
Tirloni is yet another Lightweight who is making his return to Bellator. This will be Ricardo’s third tournament entry. He participated in season 6 and 7, making it to the semifinals on his second outing. He’s 2-2 in Bellator competition, but as with most tournaments, it’s difficult to have an impressive record unless you run the gauntlet and win the whole thing, which I’m positive he plans to do. The two fighters who handed Tirloni are not participating in this seasons tournament, thus there’s a possibility Tirloni may go even further this time around.
Will Brooks is a very talented Lightweight with an undefeated record. Only one of Brooks’s eight victories went to a decision, not to mention one of his TKO victories was against former Sengoku Lightweight champion Satoru Kitaoka. Brooks is the only fighter in this bracket who is making his Bellator debut, but don’t expect Brooks to wilt under pressure, as he defeated Kitaoka in Japan. Expect Brooks to try to take Tirloni out early and on the feet.
This card promises to deliver excitement and solid even fights, even with the loss of Patricky “Pitbull”. I thoroughly enjoy tournaments where I get to see all of the quarterfinal bouts on one card. Not only does it benefit all of the fighters involved due to equal resting/healing time, but also it helps fans remember names and faces; almost in a self promoting type event.