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Bellator 43 Preview

Bellator’s 43rd event will feature the conclusion of the fourth season Welterweight Tournament. Jay Hieron will look to earn a shot at Ben Askren’s Welterweight Title when he takes on Olympic judo practitioner Rick Hawn.

Former UFC star Joe Riggs will take on Bellator middleweight standout Bryan Baker, while former WEC and DREAM fighter Chase Beebe takes on Jose Vega. A fight between heavyweights Zak Jensen and Neil Grove had been scheduled, but Grove was forced to pull out due to injury.

Bellator 43 will air live on MTV2 tonight at 9:00 PM EST/8:00 PM CST. A replay will air immediately after the live event concludes.

Welterweight Tournament Finals: Jay Hieron (21-4, No. 14 WW) vs. Rick Hawn (11-0)

Hieron: Took a unanimous decision victory over Brent Weedman in the tournament semifinals, looking to extend a nine fight winning streak, the only fighter to ever hold the IFL Welterweight Title going 7-2 for the promotion, is nicknamed “The Thoroughbred.”

Hawn: Defeated Lyman Good by split decision in the tournament semifinals, has never won a fight by submission, has previously defeated Shonie Carter and Tom Gallicchio outside of Bellator, trains with Team Sityodtong in Boston.

Remarks: Jay Hieron is the likely favorite in this fight, just as he’s been the favorite throughout the entirety of the tournament. Hawn seems perfectly content to use precise, yet not very powerful striking en route to decision victories. In order to beat a fighter like Jay Hieron, he’ll have to make the most of his judo skills to control Hieron in an effort to take the decision. I don’t see Hawn knocking out Hieron and he certainly won’t score the submission. Going to a decision is Hawn’s best bet, but I don’t think that will happen. Hieron is a much more experienced and polished fighter and will win in the tournament finals via submission.

Middleweight: Joe Riggs (34-12, 1 NC) vs. Bryan Baker (14-2)

Riggs: Balanced fighter with boxing and wrestling experience, former WEC Welterweight Champion, previously fought at heavyweight, has a loss to “Cabbage” Correira and a victory over Herb Dean in his career, 4-4 during his time in the UFC, making his Bellator debut.

Baker: Also a balanced fighter, has six career knockout wins with three by way of submission, only two losses against Chael Sonnen and Alexander Shlemenko, holds key wins over Matt Horwich, Eric Schambari, and Jeremy Horn, has been battling a form of leukemia.

Remarks: The 25 year old Baker has a very bright future in mixed martial arts. He’s proven to be a dangerous fighter both on his feet and on the mat and holds some nice wins in Bellator going 4-1 for the promotion. Joe Riggs, meanwhile, has spent some time bouncing around smaller promotions after his time with Strikeforce. Coming off a TKO loss to Jordan Mein, I fear that we’re going to see “Diesel” lose a second consecutive fight. I like Bryan Baker to take a decision victory over Riggs, whose best years are likely behind him.

Bantamweight: Jose Vega (9-4) vs. Chase Beebe (17-7)

Vega: Talented submission practitioner, holds seven career victories via submission, has gone 2-1 in Bellator with wins over Jarrod Card and Danny Tims, lost a close split decision to Ed West in his last fight, resides in Knob Noster, Missouri.

Beebe: Four-time Illinois high school wrestling champion, went 2-2 during his time in the WEC with wins over Eddie Wineland and Rani Yahya, went 0-3 with the DREAM promotion with losses to Hiroyuki Takaya, Yoshiro Maeda, and Joe Warren, holds 14 career submission wins with no career knockouts, has won three straight fights.

Remarks: This fight is all about location. Chase Beebe is an Illinois native and has spent much of the last year fighting at smaller Chicago-based shows. Jose Vega is from the fake sounding town of Knob Noster. Can I pick a guy from a town named Knob Noster to win? It doesn’t help that Beebe is the more experienced fighter with some pretty nice credentials, but I’m picking Beebe to win on the strength (or perhaps weakness) of Knob Noster.

Heavyweight: Vince Lucero (19-19-1) vs. Ron Sparks (6-0)

Catchweight (179 lbs.): Rich Bouphanouvong (1-3) vs. David Rickles (6-0)

Lightweight: Mike Schatz (3-3) vs. Michael Osborn (3-3)

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