This Saturday’s Bellator 49 event is the opening of Bellator’s Fifth television season series and opening matchups for the latest Welterweight Tournament. Although we are still waiting for the last Welterweight Tournament winner Jay Hieron to face Bellator 170 pound champion Ben Askren, this next tournament winner is next in line for a title shot. Also, this will be my first live Bellator event and first Bellator event I will cover on site. Here is a preview for this Saturday’s main card that will be featured on MTV2:
1. Chris Lozano and Brent Weedman both have a chip on their shoulders coming into this tournament
These two fighters have more in common than just their weight class: they both lost their previous Bellator fights to men who have won Bellator tournament by Decision. This is significant because both Lozano and Weedman like to finish fights. Four of Weedman’s six career losses are by decision while 17 of his 18 career MMA wins are via Knockout/TKO or submission. Lozano’s only career loss is via decision and all 8 of his career wins are finishes. Weedman still has the sour taste of the controversal decision loss to Jay Hieron at Bellator 40 in his mouth while Lozano lost to former Bellator Welterweight Champ Lyman Good in a fight he knows he could have won. If you want to see an exciting fight, then make sure you don’t miss the fireworks when Weedmen and Lozano throw down.
2. Can Ben Saunders continue to be undefeated outside of the UFC?
Not many fighters can say that they have never lost a fight outside of the UFC yet Ben Saunders has a career MMA record of 10-3 and his record in the UFC is 4-3. Those three UFC losses were to Mike Swick (TKO), Jon Fitch (Decision) and Dennis Hallman (Decision). Saunders is a talented fighter who got lost in the shuffle of the UFC’s deep 170 pound division. Now he has the chance to make a name for himself in Bellator by making his way through the tournament to get a shot to fight for the Bellator Welterweight Championship. Saunders was supposed to fight Rick Hawn but Hawn was injured during training and he has been replaced by little known 13-3 Chris Cisneros. Cisneros is a talented fighter who has the boxing skills to end a fight stand while also being able to finish a fight from the ground as well. Saunders has to be careful to not let Cisneros make a name for himself at Saunder’s expense. Being one of the big name fighters in the tournament doesn’t mean it will be easy-going for Ben Saunders.
3. At 30 years old can Dan Hornbuckle live up to the high expectations or has he hit a career plateau?
Dan Hornbuckle is one of the more interesting fighters in the Bellator organization. Considered an up-and-coming MMA star, Hornbuckle was 19-2 before joining Bellator with 18 of those wins by Knockout/TKO or Submission. But since joining Bellator he is 3-2 and in his last fight lost a rematch with Brent Weedman. Before his last 3 fights Hornbuckle had not been in a fight that went to decision since 2007 but now he has been in 3 fights that went to the judges score cards. Whether the step up in competition is to blame or maybe Hornbuckle has hit a plateau in his MMA career it is hard to know. Yet at 30 years old, Hornbuckle still has time to reinvent himself as a fighter or atleast revist his previous self and fight up to his potential. This will be his 3rd Ballator Welterweight tournament appearance so there is no better time then the present to show the world (and Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney) that he is still a force to be reckoned with in MMA. By the way, Hornbuckle’s opponent is Luis Santos, a fighter who has a career MMA record of 49-6-1 with 26 Knockouts/TKO’s and 10 submissions. This is one fighter Hornbuckle cannot boast to have the edge in MMA experience.
4. Will Steve Carl versus Douglas Lima be Bellator’s version of Brain Stann versus Jorge Santiago?
Okay so maybe I am being a bit stereotypical about this matchup but lets look at the facts: both Carl and Stann are Iraq war veterans with impressive MMA career records while both Lima and Santiago are both Brazillian fighters who train at American Top Team. The difference in matchups is that while Stann and Santiago were known for their standup skills, Lima and Carl are known for their submission skills. Carl has 9 of his 14 MMA career wins by submission while Lima has 11 submission wins to account for his 18 career MMA wins. The major difference is that Lima is the new guy to Bellator, spending the last year fighting in MFC in Canada while becoming the MFC Welterweight Champ. Carl meanwhile lost in the Semi-finals of the Welterweight Tournament at Bellator 19 and has not fought since August 2010 when he earned a spot in the Bellator season 4 Welterweight tournament. It will be interesting to see whose “baggage” will be more of a factor Saturday night: Lima’s step up in competition to debut in Bellator or Carl’s MMA layoff.