Bellator Fighting Championships will return to "The Garden State" this Saturday night (Nov. 26, 2011) at Caesars Atlantic City in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The main card will air live on MTV2 on fight night, beginning at 9 p.m. ET.
Bellator 59 features two tournament finals on the same card. In heavyweight action, "Big Monster" Thiago Santos takes on "The American Soldier" Eric Prindle, while on the opposite end of the spectrum, bantamweight prospects Eduardo Dantas and Alexis Vila square off in 135-pound action.
Opening up the main card will be a pair of lightweight bouts as two Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) veterans Kurt Pellegrino and Phillipe Nover do battle with two Bellator season four lightweight tournament fighters Patricky Freire and Marcin Held, respectively.
Our complete Bellator 59 preview and predictions after the jump:
265 lbs.: Thiago Santos (10-1) vs. Eric Prindle (9-1)
Thiago Santos entered the Bellator season five heavyweight tournament as an alternate, smashing Josh Burns in decisive fashion in the first round to earn a spot in the semifinals. Once there, he former tournament finalist Neil Grove by dropping the big Brit with an overhand right and finishing him with a rear naked choke in 38 seconds. Santos is large, powerful and while he's not the most technical guy on the ground, he's definitely dangerous with submissions if he can gain an advantage.
Eric Prindle is probably one of the biggest heavyweights in the world. Originally cutting down from about 300 pounds to make the 265 pound limit, Prindle overwhelmed Ultimate Fighter season 10 fighter Abe Wagner in the quarterfinals and punched his ticket to the finals with a highlight reel knockout of Ron Sparks in just 40 seconds. Prindle is huge, very powerful and is capable of finishing a fight whenever he connects with his sledgehammer fists.
They key for this fight will be for Prindle to try and keep the fight standing or in the clinch while Santos also looks stand or score takedowns. Prindle had an untold amount of boxing fights while competing for the Army and Santos is also capable in the stand-up as his knockdown of Neil Grove showed four weeks ago. Another factor is cardio. Most of Prindle's excess weight is muscle while Santos will be coming in a bit soft. It's going to be very physically exhausting for Santos if Prindle can force him to carry some of his weight for extended periods of time as he'll likely be at least 285 pounds after rehydrating.
Both of these men will be weighing in right at the heavyweight limit so expect some serious power on both ends.
Prediction: Eric Prindle via technical knockout in round two
135 lbs.: Alexis Vila (11-0) vs. Eduardo Dantas (12-2)
Alexis Vila made an emphatic statement in the quarterfinals, knocking out Bellator featherweight champion Joe Warren just past the first minute. His follow-up bout, however, was not nearly as impressive. He struggled with Marcos Galvao's range and telegraphed his shots, eventually earning a split decision victory that many didn't agree with. At 40 years old, Vila is a tremendous athlete with Olympic freestyle wrestling credentials and he'll need every ounce of that if he wants to derail Dantas.
Eduardo Dantas made a similar statement, destroying four time Bellator tournament veteran Wilson Reis with a flying knee in the bantamweight quarterfinals. He also would be tested against season three finalist Ed West, but Dantas passed it with a much less controversial split decision victory of his own. The Brazilian possesses very dangerous striking as he's capable of exploding forward on a second's notice with both his hands and knees.
They key here will be for Dantas to try to keep his range and utilize his reach advantage. Vila is more of a natural flyweight but Bellator doesn't use that weight class yet, thus Dantas needs to eek out every bit of leverage he can. He should watch some tape of how Galvao was able to stifle Vila's offensive attack but also needs to mix in more strikes of his own. Galvao lost because he moved backwards the entire time but if Dantas can hold his ground a little more and keep Vila on the outside, he's going to present some serious problems.
Prediction: Eduardo Dantas via decision
155 lbs.: Patricky Pitbull (9-2) vs. Kurt Pellegrino (16-6)
Patricky Freire, the brother of current Bellator featherweight title challenger Patricio Freire, advanced to the finals of the Bellator season four lightweight tournament on the back of two incredible fights, both knockout of "Razor" Rob McCullough and Toby Imada. The Imada knockout was especially nasty. Freire has a solid ground game but it's his striking that's the most dangerous. He can knock his opponents out with both his fists and his knees.
Kurt Pellegrino competed in UFC for nearly five full years before stepping away in a state of semi-retirement following two consecutive losses. He had previously worked his way up to contender status with four straight victories but now, at 32 years old, he's not ready to hang them up just yet. Pellegrino is capable on the feet, but his bread and butter is his wrestling. If he can get the fight to the ground, his prowess in Brazilian jiu-jitsu could definitely come in handy.
This fight is a pretty obvious striker versus grappler match-up. Freire wants to keep it standing while Pellegrino likely wants to get it to the ground. If Pellegrino can put "Pitbull" on his back, he could very possibly grind out a decision as long as he can withstand some likely leg lock attempts. On the other side, Freire has a very good shot at knocking out "Batman" if he can force him to stand. Freire had some issues with Michael Chandler, but that was primarily because Chandler struck with him in the first round and confused him. He shouldn't have a similar issue with Pellegrino.
Prediction: Patricky Freire via knockout in round one
155 lbs.: Marcin Held (11-2) vs. Phillipe Nover (5-3-1)
Marcin Held laid waste to much of the European circuit, beginning his professional fighting career at just 16 years old. He drew Michael Chandler in the quarterfinals of the Bellator season four lightweight tournament and had him on the ropes with a very tight kneebar in the first round before succumbing to Chandler's wrestling and an eventual arm triangle choke. Held's leg locks are very dangerous and he's got significant room for improvement considering how young he is.
Phillipe Nover is a fighter who was quickly thrown into the fire when UFC President Dana White proclaimed that he thought "The Filipino Assassin" looked like a young Georges St. Pierre or Anderson Silva. Nover failed to meet those lofty expectations and quickly bombed out of the UFC with three straight losses. He recently restarted his MMA career and is looking to turn things around in Bellator.
Held is young, crafty and very aggressive. He doesn't have the wrestling to take Nover down where he wants him but he'll likely dive on a leg regardless because he knows that's his best path to victory. Expect Nover to stay back for the first part of round one, sizing him up. Once he thinks he has Held figured out, it could get very violent very quickly. If Nover is to be believed, he's ready to take back the mantle of one of MMA's best lightweight prospects. I'm cautiously taking him here.
Prediction: Phillipe Nover via technical knockout in round three
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Who will prevail in the battle of tournament finales? Will Bellator or UFC veterans win the lightweight showdowns to open up the main card?