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Bellator 58 Preview

I am really, really excited for Bellator tonight.  I’d be even more excited if it wasn’t going head to head with a stacked UFC 139 card.  Well, kinda head to head – it’s another early start for Bellator this week, even though that happens to coincide with the Facebook preliminary fights for the UFC.  But still, I think these four fights on TV will be four of the strongest we’ve seen on Bellator.

Eddie Alvarez will defend his Lightweight Title against undefeated Missouri wrestler Michael Chandler.  Mizzou has pumped out some of the stronger MMA competitors from their wrestling program and Chandler seems to follow in that line of fantastic fighters.  Middleweight Champion Hector Lombard will also be in non-title action taking on veteran fighter Trevor Prangley.

Marlon Sandro will make his return to Bellator following his tournament finals loss to Pat Curran.  He’ll be taking on former WEC and IFL competitor Rafael Dias, while we’ll see a top notch women’s match at 115 pounds.  Jessica Aguilar will look to avenge her very first loss against Lisa Ellis-Ward, who hasn’t fought in 14 months.

Bellator 58 airs live on MTV2 from 7:00 PM EST/6:00 PM CST with a replay shown at 11:00 PM EST/10:00 PM CST.  The Spike.com preliminary fights will air at 5:00 PM EST/4:00 PM CST.  I would try to catch as much of Bellator tonight as possible so long as it doesn’t interfere with your UFC viewing.  This should be a stellar event tonight.

Lightweight Title: (c) Eddie Alvarez (22-2, No. 5 LW) vs. Michael Chandler (8-0)

The questions about this fight have nothing to do with Eddie Alvarez, who has undoubtedly established himself as one of the top two lightweights not in the Zuffa family (along with Shinya Aoki).  With his wins over fighters like the once highly regarded Roger Huerta, top ranked featherweight Pat Curran, and Tatsuya Kawajiri, Alvarez is absolutely a fantastic talent.

Rather, we need to be asking how good is Michael Chandler.  The difference in this fight is going to be finding out how talented Chandler really is in his very young career.  Is this too big of a jump for Chandler just more than two years into his fighting career or is the wrestler ready for the challenge of the Bellator Champion?

I think we can safely say that Chandler is a better wrestler than Alvarez, who is certainly no slouch himself, but Chandler has never seen a fighter who can strike like Eddie Alvarez can.  Chandler has no choice but to utilize his wrestling to try and control this fight and take a decision.  Can he do that for 25 minutes?  Would he be able to avoid Alvarez’s fantastic boxing?  Would he even be able to take the champ down?

Frankly, I haven’t seen enough from Michael Chandler at this point to prove he can do that.  He’s certainly a good fighter with a ton of potential, but I don’t know that he has it in him to be a world champion at this point.  Eddie Alvarez will win and he will score the TKO victory in the middle rounds of this contest.

Catchweight (195 lbs.): Hector Lombard (21-3, No. 6 MW) vs. Trevor Prangley (23-8-1)

Trevor Prangley is a veteran fighter and has made a big name for himself with big wins in Strikeforce and the UFC.  He’s a solid wrestler with good submission skills and has defeated fighters like Matt Horwich, Chael Sonnen, Travis Lutter, and Keith Jardine.  Even with the right odds, I might be willing to put some money down on Trevor Prangley.  At +600, you could stand to make some money if Prangley were to score the upset victory.

But that would be a serious, serious, upset over Hector Lombard.  To give you an idea of how long Lombard’s winning streak is, his only two losses came during his time with PRIDE, a promotion that hasn’t been active in nearly five years.  He definitely hasn’t fought the toughest fighters and Trevor Prangley fits the mold of talented but unimpressive fighters that Prangley is known to handle.  Lombard will probably knock Prangley out in this one before defending his title once more against Alexander Shlemenko.

Featherweight: Marlon Sandro (19-3, No. 10 FEW) vs. Rafael Dias (15-8-2)

Marlon Sandro’s loss to Pat Curran may have been disappointing, but Rafael Dias has had a real tough go of it for a couple of years.  He had a rough run going 1-3 in the WEC and has only started to bounce back in the last couple of months.  Dias has won twice in 2011, though his two wins are over fighters (Chris Ensley and Jay Ellis) with a combined 16-59 record.  That doesn’t mean very much when you’re fighting a guy like Marlon Sandro.

Sandro didn’t look extremely impressive in Bellator prior to his loss to Pat Curran, taking a couple of uninspired decision victories.  Given the criticism we’ve seen of Japanese MMA, you can’t help but wonder if Sandro is a top caliber fighter as we may have expected.  I don’t think we’ll see a drop off against Rafael Dias, but we might see some issues for Sandro in a future featherweight tournament.  Look for Sandro to take a decision tonight.

Women’s Featherweight: Jessica Aguilar (11-4, No. 7 WFW) vs. Lisa Ellis-Ward (14-6)

For this post, I’ll go ahead and copy the entry I wrote over on Gals Guide to MMA.  Every week, I’ll be writing a post exclusively in the fan post section of Gals Guide detailing the top women’s MMA fights for the week with analysis and predictions.  With that in mind, here’s what I wrote earlier in the week.

This is a fight of the week candidate right here.  Jessica “Jag” Aguilar and Lisa Ellis-Ward are two of the top 115 pound fighters in MMA.  Aguilar was a 2010 Bellator tournament semifinalist before losing to eventual tournament winner and Bellator 115 pound Champion Zoila Frausto-Gurgel.  Though just a BJJ purple belt, her submission game is outstanding and she’s proved that against stiff competition like Elsie Henri and Valerie Coolbaugh.  Her win over Carla Esparza earlier this year was probably the biggest in her career.

Ellis-Ward was easily a top five fighter before dropping out of the rankings earlier this year due to inactivity.  She has wins over some of the top talent in WMMA including Aisling “Bash” Daly and (GASP) Jessica Aguilar!  That’s right, these two met in 2006 with Ellis-Ward taking the submission victory.  Ellis-Ward also has two losses to Megumi Fujii, who has long been one of the best female fighters in the world.

Given Ellis-Ward’s inactivity and Aguilar’s recent success, I like Jag to avenge her loss in this contest.  Aguilar could be a top contender for Bellator’s 115 pound title, and frankly, I’d love to see a 2012 women’s tournament for the promotion.  Zoila Frausto-Gurgel needs to get to work defending her title and with talent like Aguilar, Fujii, and Ellis-Ward out there, I could definitely see this happening.

Middleweight: Brett Cooper (15-7) vs. Jared Hess (11-3-1)

Middleweight: Jonas Billstein (9-1) vs. Herbert Goodman (18-11)

Welterweight: Ailton Barbosa (10-2) vs. Valdir Araujo (8-3)

Bantamweight: Farkhad Sharipov (13-4) vs. Fabio Mello (8-6)

Lightweight: Cosmo Alexandre (0-1) vs. Avery McPhatter (2-2)

Categories: Event Preview
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