Bellator Fighting Championships will return to Florida for the first time in 2011 this Saturday night (June 25, 2011) at the Seminole Hard Rock Cafe and Casino in Hollywood, FL, live on MTV2 for its forty-sixth event.
The main card will air live on the basic cable network beginning at 9 p.m. ET.
To keep Bellator fresh in the minds of MMA fans everywhere, the promotion is holding a special "Summer Series" featherweight tournament. Instead of a weekly season, the promotion will be holding one show per month as eight featherweights vie for a shot at the Bellator featherweight crown.
Some of the top featherweights in the world will be competing in this tournament including former Sengoku featherweight champion and current top five ranked 145-pounder Marlon Sandro.
Also competing on the card are top prospects like Shark Fights featherweight champion Ronnie Mann, season two lightweight tournament winner and recent title challenger Pat Curran as well as former 19-0 fighter Nazareno Malegarie.
This field is just oozing with potential for some great action.
Our complete Bellator 46 preview and predictions after the jump.
145 lbs.: Pat Curran (13-4) vs. Luis Palomino (16-6)
Pat Curran barely made it into the field of the season two Bellator lightweight tournament. He was paired up with undefeated Georges St. Pierre sparring partner Mike Ricci when he pulled off a shocking first round knockout in one of the season's biggest early surprises.
If he thought that was good, he followed it up by outstriking and pressuring Roger Huerta en route to winning a decision from the former UFC contender and eventually winning the whole tournament. He put up a fight against Eddie Alvarez at Bellator 39 in his big title shot but he came up short after eating a few too many shots to the body.
Curran has some power in his hands but he needs to get a little more confident with them. He was also a standout amateur wrestler so don't be surprised if he uses his newfound size and strength advantage to try to overwhelm Palomino.
Luis Palomino has been around the block. He's competed against some very tough fighters like Jonathan Brookins, Yves Edwards and even holds a decision victory over current Strikeforce lightweight title challenger Jorge Masvidal.
Palomino actually was in the original Bellator featherweight tournament and competed at the first Bellator show but would bow out to Estevan Payan via tough split decision. He's gone 8-2 since the loss with his sole defeats coming to current UFC lightweight fighters Edwards and Brookins. Palomino is out to prove that there's more to him than his last performance in a Bellator tournament showed.
I believe Palomino will push the pace but it will be Curran's power and wrestling that helps him control this fight.
Prediction: Pat Curran via technical knockout
145 lbs.: Marlon Sandro (17-2) vs. Genair da Silva (10-3)
Marlon Sandro is an absolute monster. The tough Brazilian was a wrecking ball in Japan's Sengoku promotion, putting up some massive highlight reel-worthy knockouts. Sandro got his start in Brazil, going 9-0 before heading to the "land of the rising sun." After becoming the featherweight King of Pancrase, Sandro signed with Sengoku to compete in its featherweight Grand Prix.
After dominating the first two rounds of the tournament, he squared off with top 10 ranked Michihiro Omigawa, losing one of the closest decisions in history in a "must-choose" situation after the fight had been ruled a majority draw. Despite the setback, Sandro would continue to continue to crush every Japanese fighter in his path until scoring one of the nastiest uppercut knockouts of 2010 against Masanori Kanehara to win the Sengoku title. He would go on to lose the belt to top five featherweight Hatsu Hioki to bring him to present day.
Genair da Silva cut his teeth in the Brazilian circuit, scoring a 10-3 record. He'll be making his Bellator debut as well as his American debut against Sandro. He doesn't have even half of the experience that Sandro does, but he does hit very hard and he'll at least have a puncher's chance.
Sandro has about as powerful strikes as anyone not named Jose Aldo at 145 and he not only competes regularly against the best, he trains with the best as well. I fully expect him to overwhelm da Silva early,
Prediction: Marlon Sandro via knockout
145 lbs.: Ronnie Mann (19-2-1) vs. Adam Schindler (9-1)
Ronnie Mann is a rare breed, a young British fighter who actually has a strong grappling game, even wrestling. He used his superior grappling to dominate the UK MMA scene with lots of submissions and decision victories. Mann was a participant of the Sengoku featherweight Grand Prix as well but would be thoroughly handled by Hatsu Hioki, losing via first round triangle choke.
Since the loss, Mann has run a string of three consecutive decision victories including winning the Shark Fights featherweight title over Doug Evans.
He'll have his hands full in the upstart Adam Schindler, who was one of the top wrestlers in the country at one point before starting a military career in the Air Force. He decided to give MMA a try rather than take a cushy government job once his stint in the military was over and he hasn't looked back. After going 9-1 as a lightweight, including an impressive showing against tough (recently welterweight) fighter Brian Melencon in a Bellator event, he cut down to featherweight and will be making his 145 pound debut against the hyped up Mann.
With Schindler's excellent ground game, there just might be an upset brewing. I'll trust my instinct and predict a Mann decision, but don't be surprised if Schindler gives him a lot tougher fight than many expect.
Prediction: Ronnie Mann via decision
145 lbs.: Nazareno Malegarie (19-1) vs. Jacob DeVree (10-1)
Nazareno Malegarie entered the Bellator season four featherweight tournament on a 19 fight winning streak and having never lost as a professional. Eventual tournament finalist Daniel Straus put an end to that but not before Malagarie pushed him to the limit in what was the most exciting fight of the entire season.
Malegarie and Straus had an absolute war, trading knockdowns, submission attempts, sweeps and positional dominance for three rounds before Straus pulled away with a decision victory. It was such an impressive showing that Malegarie would be the only season four featherweight that Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney would bring back for the Summer series. He's hoping that lightning can strike twice and the previously undefeated Argentinian can pull out all the stops.
Again, an unheralded fighter will be in his way in Jacob DeVree. DeVree was a stand-out wrestler in Arizona and trains out of Power MMA, one of the best gyms in the southwest alongside fighters like Ryan Bader, C.B. Dollaway and Aaron Simpson. Devree enters the tournament riding a seven fight win streak which includes five stoppages.
This fight should be fantastic as both young men still have a lot to prove. I definitely smell an upset brewing in this fight as I feel DeVree's superior training camp will put him over the edge in the biggest fight of his career.
Prediction: Jacob DeVree via decision
So what do you think Maniacs?
Who's your pick to take the whole Summer Series and earn a title shot at the Bellator featherweight crown? Do you see any major upsets occurring in this first round?