Bellator Fighting Championship will return to The Mohegan Sun Arena this Saturday night (April 2, 2011) in Uncasville, Connecticut, live on MTV2 with their thirty-ninth event.
The main card will air live on the basic cable network beginning at 9 p.m. ET.
Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and UFC veteran Ben Saunders will be making his Bellator debut as well.
Complete Bellator 39 preview and predictions after the jump.
155 lb. Title Bout: Eddie Alvarez (21-2) vs. Pat Curran (12-3)
At long last, Curran and Alvarez will meet inside the Bellator cage to settle some unfinished business. Their original title bout was delayed after Curran suffered a shoulder injury. While waiting for Curran to recover, Alvarez battled UFC veteran Roger Huerta in a non-title bout and stopped him via TKO for the first time in his professional career.
Alvarez is ranked as one of the top lightweights in the world and he’s the highest profile fighter in Bellator. He steamrolled through the Bellator season one tournament in 2009 to initially win the title and he hasn’t looked back since.
If there’s anyone that you don’t want to underestimate, it’s Pat Curran. He was the underdog in all three of his Bellator season 2 tournament fights but that didn’t stop him from knocking out George St. Pierre protégé Mike Ricci and defeating both Roger Huerta and Toby Imada via decision.
Both Curran and Alvarez were standout high school wrestlers. Both pack power with their punches although Alvarez is much more aggressive with his striking. Both men have solid jiu jitsu but Alvarez is more diverse with his submissions.
One minor note is Alvarez’s last loss, a heel hook to Shinya Aoki at the Dynamite 2008 event in Japan. Heel hooks just happen to be Curran’s specialty on the ground. In fact, all three of Curran’s submission victories have been ended via heel hook.
That being said, this is Eddie Alvarez’s fight to lose. Look for him to control the standup portion aggressively moving forward and I feel he’ll eventually catch Curran with his power.
Final Prediction: Eddie Alvarez via TKO
170 lbs.: Lyman Good (11-1) vs Rick Hawn (10-0)
Lyman Good is the on the warpath to reclaim his title and undefeated Judo Olympian Rick Hawn is standing in his way. Good originally lost his welterweight title to current champ Ben Askren at Bellator 33 via decision last October.
Good got back on track at Bellator 35 with a convincing decision victory against formerly undefeated Chris Lozano. It was a fight where Good showed off his diverse array of skills, beating the striker to the punch and securing rounds with takedowns while avoiding submissions.
His opponent, Rick Hawn, is an enigma. In less than five months, he improved his striking drastically to the point where he thoroughly outclassed a 27 fight veteran, Jim Wallhead, on the feet. Hawn also possesses Olympic level judo skills which he has adapted well to MMA. Those skills were no less prevalent than his Bellator debut against LeVon Maynard where he effortlessly tossed his opponent to the floor and pounded him senseless.
Rick Hawn is a special kind of athlete and that makes picking this fight so difficult but I feel Good is the better striker of the two and Hawn doesn’t yet possess the top control to keep Good down if he were to score a throw at some point.
Final Prediction: Lyman Good via decision
155 lbs.: Toby Imada (29-15) vs Patricky Freire (8-1)
Toby Imada and Patricky Freire have both been on Bellator’s youtube highlight reels. Imada’s inverted triangle which won 2009’s Submission of the Year has over a million views and Freire’s recent TKO of "Razor" Rob McCullough was impressive in its own right.
Imada is a two-time Bellator lightweight tournament finalist and he’s grown to be one of their stars with his flair for pulling off impressive submissions. He had a lucky break in the first round when his opponent Ferrid Kheder missed weight and Imada easily submitted local replacement Josh Shockley in the first round.
Freire did not have nearly as easy a task in the first round as his fight with former WEC champ Rob McCullough was an absolute war. Freire eventually caught McCullough in the third round but the fight definitely took a toll. Hailing from Brazil, Freire possesses powerful striking and just like his brother Patricio (who’s in the featherweight tournament), he has dangerous leg locks and submission skills.
This will be a very dangerous test for Imada as Freire is fluent in Toby’s specialty (submissions) while also capable of ending the fight where he is weak (striking). If Freire doesn’t gas, I feel he’ll catch Imada standing and finish this fight.
Final Prediction: Freire via TKO
170 lbs.: Ben Saunders (9-3-2) vs Matt Lee (13-9-1)
In welterweight action, Ben Saunders makes his Bellator debut against veteran Matt Lee. Saunders was a much hyped signing by the young promotion and needless to say, Bellator wants and expects Saunders to win this fight.
Saunders is a lanky fighter and his Muay Thai skill-set utilizes his long limbs perfectly. Saunders has deadly knees and elbows and he should be feared if this fight enters the clinch.
Lee is a game opponent but he’s fallen short every time he’s stepped up in competition. I don’t think this fight will be any different as Bellator is looking for a highlight reel debut for Saunders.
Final Prediction: Ben Saunders via KO
That's a wrap
What are your picks for Saturday night's stacked Bellator event?