Bellator Fighting Championships will return to The Great White North this Friday night (Nov. 2, 2012) at Casino Rama in Rama, Ontario, Canada.
The main card will air live on MTV2 and Epix HD on fight night, beginning at 8 p.m. ET.
Headlining the main event of Bellator 79 will be a season seven heavyweight tournament semifinal match-up pitting former light heavyweight stand-out Richard Hale against season five heavyweight finalist Thiago Santos. Also appearing on the card will be a featherweight season seven semifinal battle between top prospects Mike Richman and talented Russian Shahbulat Shamhalaev. All four men advanced to the semifinals after first round victories in the quarterfinals.
Rounding out the card will be a pair of welterweight fights featuring potential season eight tournament fighters as Bellator season five welterweight tournament winner Douglas Lima takes on Jacob Ortiz and former MFC standout Ryan Ford battles gritty Appalachian fighter Kyle Baker.
Our complete Bellator 79 main card preview and predictions are posted below
265 lbs.: Richard Hale (20-4-1) vs. Thiago Santos (11-1) 1 no contest
Richard Hale was a prominent figure in Bellator's light heavyweight division, advancing to the finals of the inaugural tournament before coming up short against current champion Christian M'Pumbu. Since then, he's looked like a destroyer of worlds, finishing three straight opponents via knockout in the first round. He had issues making weight for the Summer Series light heavyweight tournament, but found redemption in this season's heavyweight tourney, where he defeated UFC veteran Mike Wessel via TKO stoppage in the first round.
Thiago Santos has been perhaps the unluckiest fighter in Bellator history. After having his first three fights against Eric Prindle either end controversially or get scrapped altogether due to illness or not making weight, everything was going according to plan in the season seven quarterfinals. That was, until Prindle ax kicked Santos in the groin and was disqualified. It wasn't the way Santos had dreamed of advancing to the semifinals, but it got the job done.
Santos is going to have a massive size advantage heading into this bout. He'll likely be at least 40 pounds heavier than Hale once both men are in the cage together. As long as he can close the distance either in the clinch or with takedowns, he should have a very good shot of stifling Hale's impressive boxing game. For Hale, he needs to avoid getting latched onto at all costs and try to utilize his speed. He has just as much power as any heavyweight in this tournament, but creating space to utilize it could be a serious problem for him.
Final Prediction: Thiago Santos via decision
145 lbs.: Mike Richman (13-1) vs. Shahbulat Shamhalaev (10-1-1)
Mike Richman has looked like an absolute hoss in his current stint with Bellator. After destroying Chris Horodecki via first round knockout in his debut with the promotion, he finished scrappy wrestler Jeremy Spoon via head kick knockout in just 23 seconds in the season seven tournament quarterfinals. Now he's looking to showcase those skills again against a talented striker.
Shabulat Shamhalaev is a very talented kickboxer, but you couldn't have known based on his Bellator debut. Against Cody Bollinger, Shamhalaev dove into the grappler's guard, surviving a few submissions attempts before really opening up with some of the most vicious ground and pound strikes thrown this year. He eventually overwhelmed Bollinger to score a first round TKO victory.
Both Richman and Shamhalaev possess very dangerous strand-up skills. Richman has some very crisp boxing, but his head kick was a big surprise and proved he can be equally lethal with his hands and his feet. Shamhalaev is a scrappy striker, but he doesn't have the one strike power that Richman possesses and he can be a bit sloppy at times with his striking. If this fight stays on the feet like many expect it to, Richman's technical prowess should give him enough of an advantage to put Shamhalaev away.
Final Prediction: Mike Richman via knockout in round one
170 lbs.: Douglas Lima (21-5) vs. Jacob Ortiz (13-3)
Douglas Lima has more than earned his nickname "The Phenom" with his overall skillset in mixed martial arts. Already possessing a lethal ground game of sweeps and submissions, he entered the Bellator season 5 tournament on a mission to prove his stand-up was just as impressive. Consecutive knockouts of Chris Lozano and Ben Saunders put him over the top, but he became just another victim to champion Ben Askren's wrestling earlier this year when fighting for the title, losing a dominant five round decision.
Jacob Ortiz is a scrappy striker. Competing primarily on the local circuit in the southwest, Ortiz had one of the most memorable Bellator debuts in recent memory when fighting UFC veteran Edgar Garcia. Garcia ate some of his shots and then tapped his own chin to taunt him. When Ortiz punched him again, Garcia was knocked out cold. Since that victory, Ortiz has gone 2-1, most recently crossing the border to score a first round finish in Mexico.
Ortiz primarily fights as a middleweight so that's potentially where his biggest advantage will lie, although Lima is one of the largest welterweights on the Bellator roster. The biggest difference for this fight is primarily the overall technical skill disparity. Lima is better in all facets of striking and jiu-jitsu on the ground. He should probably win this fight however he wants to.
Final Prediction: Douglas Lima via knockout in round one
170 lbs.: Ryan Ford (18-4) vs. Kyle Baker (12-6)
Ryan Ford has been extremely active in mixed martial arts since making his debut in 2007. After a rather uninspiring run in the MFC, he found success on the local circuit, defeating a trio of UFC veterans in Tommy Speer, Pete Spratt and Karo Parisyan. In his debut with Bellator earlier this May, he faced season five semifinalist Luis Santos and after surviving the early blitz, landing a brutal knee and punches to pick up the stoppage victory. He'll be hoping to cement a tournament invite with a victory on Friday night.
Kyle Baker hails from the MMA Institute in Virginia and he has faced some seriously solid competition in his 18 fight professional career. While he's picked up victories over UFC veterans Chad Reiner and Drew Fickett, "The Alley Cat" has also dropped fights to the likes of Douglas Lima, Brian Foster and most recently, moving up to middleweight to lose a decision to Lucio Linhares on short notice. Don't let his six losses deceive you.
Ford primarily possesses a grappling-based attack and he'll be looking to potentially take Baker down and work his offensive wrestling. He also has been steadily improving his striking so don't be surprised if he chooses to mix it up on the feet as well. Baker has some of the best clinch-based offense of any fighter at welterweight and he'll be looking to pin Ford against the fence and punish him there with elbows, knees and dirty boxing. Ford had better be prepared because Baker is going to give him one hell of a fight.
Final Prediction: Kyle Baker via decision
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Who will advance to the finals of the heavyweight and featherweight tournaments? Do you agree with our predictions?
If not, feel free to share your opinion below!