Bellator 62 preview and predictions for 'Santos vs Prindle' on March 23 in Laredo

Bellator 62 poster via

Bellator Fighting Championships will head to "The Lonestar State" this Friday night (March 23, 2012) at the Laredo Energy Arena in Laredo, Texas.

The main card will air live on MTV2 on fight night, beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

Headlining the main event will be a heavyweight tournament final that features two men with some serious unfinished business. Thiago Santos and Eric Prindle's original bout at Bellator 59 ended in a dreaded "No Contest" after an illegal blow and then the rematch was delayed last week when Prindle came down with a bad case of the flu.

Now they're back and there's a heavyweight title shot on the line.

The rest of the main card will comprise the Bellator season six lightweight tournament. Featured this season are two former welterweight tournament fighters Rick Hawn and Brent Weedman as well as two returning competitors from the season four tournament in Patricky Freire and Lloyd Woodard.

Lastly, there's some fresh blood entering the equation in Muay Thai wrecking machine J.J. Ambrose and a trio of dangerous Brazilians in Ricardo Tirloni, Thiago Michel and Rene Nazare.

Check out our complete Bellator 62 preview and predictions after the jump:

265 lbs.: Eric Prindle (7-1 1 NC) vs. Thiago Santos (10-1 1 NC)

Thiago Santos entered the Bellator season five heavyweight tournament as an alternate but proved his worth by dropping season three finalist Neil Grove with an overhand right and finishing him with a rear naked choke in just 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 showcased his boxing skills in the semifinals by destroying the heavy hitter Ron Sparks in just 40 seconds,

The 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 has some terrific boxing skills and tremendous power, but this fight will hinge on whether he can remain upright.

He was dumped on his back in the last fight before the ill-fated low blow, so he's going to have to put forth a better effort to stay standing if he wants to win this time around. Santos has proven he's capable both standing and on the ground and in my opinion, that will likely be the key difference.

Final Prediction: Thiago Santos via submission in round one

155 lbs.: Patricky Freire (10-2) vs. Lloyd Woodard (11-1)

Patricky Freire is an absolute monster. He made it to the finals of the lightweight tournament last year scoring two of the most emphatic knockouts of the season over Rob McCullough and Toby Imada. While he ended up on the short end of the stick via decision to tournament winner and now Bellator champion Michael Chandler, he bounced back with a dominant first round stoppage against UFC veteran Kurt Pellegrino this past November. Now he's back and ready to finish what he started last year.

Lloyd Woodard entered Bellator's fourth season with an undefeated record and after an impressive second round technical knockout of Carey Vanier, he too faced the unstoppable force that was Michael Chandler. In a losing effort, he pushed Chandler to the limit, taking him to a decision for the first time in his career but he was eventually overwhelmed by the Xtreme Couture fighter's wrestling. Woodard has not fought since that loss, which was nearly one full year ago, but now he's back and hoping to play spoiler.

Freire should have a striking edge and he's definitely got a power advantage over Woodard. I think Woodard would be wise to try to pick his spots and take this fight to the ground or into the clinch if he can. He's got to do whatever it takes to take away "Pitbull's" weapons, which are his fists and knees. Woodard needs to be as scrappy as possible and really try to push the pace with the Brazilian where he can hopefully wear him down. Freire has slowed down in the later rounds of his previous fights so if he can tire him out, he has a chance to be the tournament dark horse.

Final Prediction: Patricky Freire via knockout in round two

155 lbs.: Rick Hawn (11-1) vs. Ricardo Tirloni (14-1)

Rick Hawn is an absolute beast. A former judo Olympian, he made it to the finals of the Bellator season four welterweight tournament where many fans believed he defeated Jay Hieron but the judges didn't side with him. He was gearing up for another run at the welterweight crown before a knee injury prevented him from competing in the season five tournament. Instead of coming back at 170 pounds, the now-Tristar fighter made the cut to lightweight and if he can translate his power and technique to this division

You may not know Ricardo Tirloni yet, but you'd better respect him. The Brazilian is a ferocious competitor and enters the Bellator season six lightweight tournament riding an impressive 11 fight winning streak. Tirloni holds significant victories over the likes of Brian Cobb and the only man to ever best him in the cage is the current UFC lightweight champion Ben Henderson.

Hawn should have the advantage when the fight is inside whether it's close range where he can use his power or in the clinch where his Olympic level judo can come into play but on the ground, Tirloni could have an advantage with his top level jiu-jitsu skills. Tirloni loves chokes whether it's a triangle, rear naked, Brabo or anaconda and he won't be afraid to attempt to put Hawn away if he can gain an advantage on the ground. He's also got some skill on the feet, as he's finished multiple opponents with his head kicks and knees.

Final Prediction: Rick Hawn via decision

155 lbs.: Brent Weedman (18-7) vs. J.J. Ambrose (17-3) 1 no contest

Brent Weedman was a dark horse in the Bellator season four welterweight tournament and after squeaking by Dan Hornbuckle, he also was on the receiving hand of a rough decision against Jay Hieron after (in my opinion) beating Hieron even worse than Rick Hawn did in the finals. Weedman tried to parlay his tough battles into the season five 170 pound tournament but was upset in the first round via decision by Chris Lozano in a fight where he was outstruck in the second round and outwrestled in the third. Weedman gave in and dropped a weight class for this upcoming 155 pound tournament and he's hoping to end the first two-fight skid of his career.

J.J. Ambrose has never competed in Bellator but he's been fighting all around the world against some of the best and most dangerous warriors out there, primarily in the Pacific rim. Ambrose prefers to keep the fight standing where he can utilize his extremely dangerous Muay Thai skills which he's been honing at Tiger Muay Thai in the Philippines.

Ambrose backs up his solid striking with a surprisingly efficient submission attack. In fact, he's finished over twice as many fights by submission as he has by knockout. Weedman is going to have to use his well-rounded attack to try to neutralize Ambrose in this fight and really put a lot of pressure on him. Weedman will have a nice height and reach advantage in this fight, but he's going to have to be smart if he wants to win, smarter than he has been in recent fights and he's the first to admit it.

Final Prediction: Brent Weedman via submission in round two

155 lbs.: Thiago Michel (9-2) vs. Rene Nazare (10-1)

You may not know either Thiago Michel or Rene Nazare well, but both have some strong skills and are equally dangerous Brazilians. Nazare has been building his way up inside the Bellator cage, winning his first 10 fights overall which included three in Bellator before he was upset by wrestler Jacob Kirwan via unanimous decision.

Michel would be wise to employ a similar tactic as Kirwan and try to stifle Nazare from top position as Nazare tends to be a little too comfortable on his back, even pulling guard on occasion. If Michel is confident in his top game and his submission avoidance, he's got what it takes to at least pull off a unanimous decision victory.

The other side of this equation is the fact that Nazare is likely fired up by suffering the first loss of his career. He's going to be looking to make a statement and I think he's talented enough that he can do it.

Final Prediction: Rene Nazare via TKO in round one

So there you have it, Maniacs.

Who's your favorite to take home the tournament title, earn a shot at the belt and win $100,000? Do you smell any upsets brewing? Will the heavyweight final actually take place this week?

Sound off!

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