Bellator 17 Preview
Ahhh, and here we are. We have made it to the first semi-final bout of Bellator's second season. This is the Lightweight semifinals, and I can't wait to see these fights. Let me first off say that I have been thoroughly impressed with Bellator's polish and presentation so far. The use of the Chicago Theater and the Kansas City Power and Light district were two of the best and most creative venues I have ever seen a mixed martial arts competition held in. This also marks the first event to hold a super fight. So let's get into the action.
Super Fight: Eddie Alvarez vs Josh "The Dentist" Neer (160 Pound Catch-weight)
This is the first of Bellator's Super Fights, a series of fights which pit last season's winner against a good fighter from outside of Bellator. First let me say how much I like this idea. It gives the Champions a good chance to get in there with a game opponent and get the ring rust worked out. And they picked a fairly well known opponent for their Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez (21-2) in Josh Neer (37-9). Not only has Neer been through three separate stints in the UFC, but he also possess a catchy nickname of "The Dentist", given to him because he is, you guessed it, a licensed dentist.
Alvarez is riding a four fight win streak, and is 9-1 in his last ten, the only blemish coming to Shinya Aoki by submission. He has a good base in wrestling but has blossomed into a complete mixed martial artist with 11(T)KO's and 6 submissions. Last season he swept through Bellator's Lightweight tournament with three submissions on his way to being crowned the organization's first 155 pound champion.
Josh Neer is a very skilled and well rounded fighter, and his career features some impressive wins. He holds a record of 12 submissions and 11 (T)KO's. I think that in this fight he will probably be inevitably taken to the ground by Eddie Alvarez. Once there I think he will have to use long limbs and control Eddie to force a lot of scrambles. He has a good guard and a decent triangle choke, but I would be surprised to see him catch Eddie with it. What he will have over Eddie Alvarez is a distinct weight advantage. Josh is a natural Welterweight (170 lbs) fighter, and Eddie Alvarez is a smaller Lightweight (155 pounds). I think that where Neer is dangerous in this fight is in a scramble landing on top and gaining a dominant position.
I am not sure if elbows will be legal or not in this bout: I know that they are illegal in the tournament bouts but not for sure about superfights. If they are legal then that could be a great asset to Eddie Alvarez if and when he can secure a takedown. He is strong for 155, but he is a lighter 155 pound guy. He will need to make sure that once he does secure a top position he maintains it, but I think he will be able to do that. I think he will use tepid ground and pound and maybe some submission attempts en route to a unanimous decision victory.
My Pick is Eddie Alvarez via Unanimous Decision
Lightweight Quarter Final: Tobey Imada vs Carey Vanier
This should be another great tournament fight. I was very impressed with Carey Vanier in his quarter final victory over Joe Duarte. He showed that he has quick hands and good wrestling. That said, I was also impressed with the quarterfinal performance of Tobey Imada as well. Imada showed a very basic striking skill set but a terrific ground game when he found an armbar to stop James Krause. And I feel t'would be a dereliction of duty to mention Imada's name without bringing up his inverted triangle choke that earned him submission of the year honors during the Bellator Tournament last year.
This is a good matchup. I think that Imada's best bet here is to get Vanier to the canvas and work on his joints and neck with his great submissions. I think it will be a challenge to get him there though. Vanier showed good speed and kicks when he out-struck a striker in Joe Duarte in the aforementioned match-up earlier in the tournament. And he showed good enough wrestling in that match to make me think he will give Imada fits in that department. I think if anyone gets a clean takedown here, it will be him. Once on top, however, he will have to constantly fend off submissions. I think that Imada needs to find a submission here, but I will be surprised if he does. I am picking the underdog, Carey Vanier, by TKO in the second round.
My Pick is Carey Vanier by TKO in the Third Round
Lightweight Quarter Final: Roger Huerta vs Pat Curran
Roger "El Matador" Huerta is the clear favorite in this years crop of lightweight competitors. He has extensive UFC experience, not to mention the marketability of having been the first fighter to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He also has the skills to match the hype. He has a very good base in wrestling, but he is also quite well rounded. He found a rolling kneebar submission over Chad Hinton, but he was noticeably roughed up in that fight, which went all the way to the third and final round. I have to question how a war like that wears on a fighter.
Pat Curran on the other hand, had a fairly quick and easy quarterfinal against Canadian Mike Ricci. He used a snappy front kick very effectively to thwart his opponent's punching attempts, and then changed levels and threw and overhand right that ended things. The level change fooled Ricci into thinking he was going to shoot, and he was shocked (dramatically) when the overhand right came early in the first round.
I think this should be an interesting fight. I see Roger getting a takedown after being frustrated standing up. Once on the ground, I see Curran threatening from a rubber guard reminiscent of his cousin, the great Jeff "Big Frog" Curran. I think that he does a lot from his back, maybe enough to win it on my scorecard. But judges like top control better than bottom submission and sweep attempts, so I will pick Roger Huerta by a unanimous, and possibly controversial, decision.
My Pick: Roger Huerta via Unanimous Decision