UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Through the first couple of weeks of Bellator’s quarterfinal brackets we’ve witnessed some peculiar things. There was last week’s rarely seen Von Flue choke, courtesy of lightweight Brent Weedman -- and that came on the same night that Lloyd Woodard emerged from the woodwork to upset Patricky Freire. The week before that, we saw Brian Rogers down Vitor Vianna with a flying knee from Hades. The thing was executed with such diabolical ease that it almost looked unspectacular.
In other words, Bellator has a built up a good head of steam while Zuffa catches its breath. Things continue along this weekend on the Mohegan Reservation, a roped off part of the state of Connecticut where MMA is perfectly legal. This time it’s the welterweights, where there’s always intrigue to be found regardless of the promotion.
For starters, everybody with Bellator tournament experience in the eight-man field is coming off a brutal loss. Chris Lozano got KO’d by Douglas Lima. Ditto UFC veteran Ben Saunders. Bryan Baker was TKO’d by Vianna. There’s a lot of gnawing within the guts of the promotion’s best-known guys. Meanwhile, David Rickels (3-0 in Bellator) will use his prelim experience and try his luck in the brackets.
As for everybody else? They are all debuting. And of everyone in the field, perhaps none is more interesting than Baker, who has been training at Greg Jackson’s and is cutting down to 170 pounds for the first time. He will be fighting Carlos Pereira.
“I was a lighter fighter [at 170],” he said at the open workouts. “I used my speed, and I have power, and so I was able to hold myself as a middleweight. I was able to use my speed with my quickness against heavier opponents. But now it’s time for me to be the heavier opponent, to stand in the middle of the cage and not be so worried about trying to move and worry about power. I can really stand the power at welterweight and I can make them fear my length more and just really own the cage.”
Each time Baker fights he defies odds, having already battled through leukemia (which is in remission) and a couple of tournaments as an undersized middleweight. Now he’s wiser, lighter and in tune with the most essential cliché of them all -- that is, he’s taking it one fight at a time.
“I’m not sure who it’s quoted by, but my little brother told me, ‘it takes skill to want to fight, but it takes character to repeat.’ That’s pretty much where I’m at. I’m just going to go and win this fight, and it’s in my character to be a professional to be where I need to be and continue winning.”
Saunders revs up for second run
After losing to insistent wrestlers in Jon Fitch and Dennis Hallman and subsequently getting released by the UFC, Ben Saunders went on a four-fight winning streak. That all ended when Douglas Lima stopped him at Bellator 57 in the welterweight final. Now he’s back to square one as he sets for his fight with Raul Amaya, an undefeated fighter (9-0) who has finished everybody he’s faced.
Saunders, who has one of the most sadistic Thai clinches in the sport -- one in which he uses all eight limbs gratuitously (as evidenced the last time he fought in Connecticut against Matt Lee) -- says that martial arts is a game of perpetual acquisition. So don’t be surprised if he breaks out some wrestling and goes for the takedown against Amaya if it’s there, because, hey, this game forces you to evolve.
“I’m going to be improving everyday,” he says. “I’m never going to be a master of martial arts. I’ll never be a master of my style until I die. There’s always going to be something new that I can learn, so I’ve got to take [my losses] with a grain of salt. You learn more from a loss than you do from a win and it just made me more hungry.”
Prindle/Konrad possible for April 13
It seems like heavyweight champion Cole Konrad has been waiting for resolution in the Eric Prindle/Thiago Santos saga forever. Realistically, it’s only been a couple of months, and after many bizarre twists and turns, stubborn weight cuts and flu-like symptoms, it’ll be Prindle who gets the nod to challenge Konrad. When is it going down? According to Bellator officials that fight could take place on the April 13 Bellator 65 card in Atlantic City. That’s the same night that the company’s smallest men -- the bantamweights -- kick off their quarterfinals.
How’s that for size discrepancy on a card? Konrad walks around the size of two Marcos Galvao’s and change.
Amoussou the former undercover cop
Karl Amoussou was an undercover officer not all that long ago, bringing robbers and drug dealers to justice in his native France. Obviously this would have made for an amusing back-story if he’d gotten his original opponent at Bellator 63, the always colorful War Machine, instead of Chris Lozano. As has been much publicized, Machine was re-incarcerated before making his Bellator debut against Amoussou. This whole “cop versus delinquent” thing that never happened wouldn’t have mattered to Amoussou inside the cage, anyway.
“Yeah, I don’t care,” Amoussou said. “I plan to do a normal fight so what he does outside is his problem, I don’t care.”