Bellator Fighting Championships will return to "The Garden State" this Saturday night (September 10, 2011) at the Caesars Atlantic City in Atlantic City, New Jersey, live on MTV2.
The main card will air live on the basic cable network, beginning at 9 p.m. ET.
Bellator 49 will be the debut of the promotion's fifth season as eight welterweights square off in the quarterfinals for the right to challenge for the title and earn a cool $100,000.
They will be joined by the a group of tournament newcomers which includes UFC veteran Ben Saunders, kickboxer Chris Cisneros, former MFC welterweight champion Douglas Lima and veteran Brazilian fighter Luis Santos.
Former judo Olympian, Rick Hawn, (pictured above) suffered an injury and was forced to back out of the tournament.
Our complete Bellator 49 preview and predictions after the jump:
170 lbs.: Brent Weedman (18-6-1) vs. Chris Lozano (8-1)
This is a thriller of a match-up between two very exciting strikers. Both Brent Weedman and Chris Lozano have a lengthy history of training in the striking arts. Weedman was raised in full contact karate and Lozano is a highly skilled practitioner of taekwondo and comes from a family history of boxers.
Weedman looked terrific earlier this year in the fourth season, squeaking by Dan Hornbuckle in the quarterfinals and then getting absolutely robbed in the semifinals against Jay Hieron. He's got heavy hands and mixed in kicks and knees well to go along with an ever-improving ground game.
Lozano is out to prove he's better than what he showed in the first round of the tournament against Lyman Good earlier this year. He's fought twice since, defeating both opponents by first round stoppage which included his first career submission victory. "The Cleveland Assassin" is out for blood this time around and will not hold back.
This is one of the most evenly matched bouts in the entire tournament and both men are extremely gifted at breaking down the tendencies of their opponents. The key factor for this bout could be how much each has evolved since their last appearance in the Bellator cage as they could be bringing something new. This one truly is a coinflip, so that's what I'm going to do.
Final Prediction: Brent Weedman via decision
170 lbs.: Ben Saunders (10-3-2) vs. Chris Cisneros (13-3)
This is another intriguing stand-up battle. Saunders is a vaunted Muay Thai practitioner while Cisneros is a strong kickboxer.
Ben Saunders will definitely miss being able to use his lethal elbows in the first two rounds of this tournament but he still has those knees and one of the most dangerous Muay Thai plum attacks in MMA right now. Anyone wondering whether he'd have the killer instinct had those doubts squashed in gory fashion when Saunders blistered Matt Lee this past April.
Chris Cisneros got the call to step up on short notice when season four runner-up and former judo Olympian Rick Hawn went down with an injury. He actually dropped out of the Pro Elite card so he could fight in this tournament. "The Maverick" has won seven straight bouts and has not lost in nearly three years while competing primarily in his home state of Hawaii.
The key difference in this fight is experience and strength of competition. Not only has Ben Saunders fought in the UFC against some of the best welterweights in the world, but he also trains at American Top Team against the likes of Thiago Alves on a daily basis. That's simply something Cisneros can't match and will likely be a deciding factor in this fight although stranger things have happened.
Final Prediction: Ben Saunders via knockout
170 lbs.: Dan Hornbuckle (22-4) vs. Luis Santos (49-6)
This is another interesting bout as two of the most experienced competitors in the entire tournament meet in the first round. Dan Hornbuckle will be competing in his third Bellator welterweight tournament, the most appearances of anyone else in the field while Santos has fought a blistering 55 times already in his 11 year MMA career. Surprisingly, both are just 30 years old.
Hornbuckle is very well-rounded, possessing some above average striking with knockout power and an extremely aggressive submission game on the ground. He's also a nightmare match-up due to his gorilla arms that give him a very long reach along with his 6'2" frame.
Santos is only an inch shorter and he just might have the freaky aggression and power to get inside on Hornbuckle. "Sapo" is a monster in the cage, willing to throw kicks, knees, elbows and punches with near reckless abandon. Despite having a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and spending considerable time training under the Nogueiras, Santos is almost primarily going to pound on you with his fists in both the stand-up and on the ground.
Hornbuckle talked about abandoning gameplans and just fighting on pure instinct while ramping up the intensity. If he actually follows through on his promise, this could be one of the most exciting fights of the year. The biggest difference between these two fighters is strength of opposition although Santos absolutely should not be underestimated. I'm picking Hornbuckle to win, but don't be surprised one bit if Santos takes this.
Final Prediction: Dan Hornbuckle via knockout
170 lbs.: Douglas Lima (18-4) vs. Steve Carl (14-2)
This fight will be a test of heart and desire versus technique as Douglas Lima, one of the most talented young welterweights on the planet takes on Steve Carl, a fighter who's overcome the odds and refuses to lose.
Douglas Lima is an incredibly smooth submission expert on the ground with a canny ability to tangle foes in his web and force a tap from top or bottom position. He earned the MFC welterweight championship after submitting top prospect Jesse Juarez and he defended his belt by scoring a knockout standing against UFC veteran Terry Martin before defecting to Bellator. He's definitely one to keep an eye on in this tournament.
Steve Carl is relentless, constantly pushing forward whether it's in the stand-up or on the ground. He's got respectable wrestling, stand-up and a strong submission game but he would be wise to avoid going to the ground against Lima. Carl is known for his perseverance and his ability to overcome road blocks but this may be too much for him, especially now with the limited use of his thumb after a freak injury earlier in the year.
This fight will hinge on whether Steve Carl can keep the bout standing and also whether or not he's actually a better striker than Lima. Carl may not have a strong grip with his one hand, but he can still make a fist and he can still land a knockout blow but I have a feeling that Lima will overwhelm him either standing or on the ground.
Final Prediction: Douglas Lima via submission
So Maniacs, who's your pick to take it all the way in this loaded Bellator season five welterweight tournament? Do you smell any upsets brewing? Who's the dark horse?