Bellator Fighting Championships will head to "The Hoosier State" this Friday night (March 9, 2012) at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana.
The main card will air live on MTV2 on fight night, beginning at 8 p.m. ET.
Headlining the main event will be a Bellator featherweight title fight featuring champion Joe Warren and challenger Pat Curran, who captured the Summer Series featherweight tournament crown last August.
The remainder of the main card features the quarterfinals of a loaded season six featherweight tournament which includes the likes of Marlon Sandro, Ronnie Mann, Daniel Straus and Alexandre "Popo" Bezerra. There expects to be a boatload of excitement.
Our complete Bellator 60 preview and predictions after the jump:
145 lb. title: Joe Warren (7-2) vs. Pat Curran (16-4)
Joe Warren AKA "The Baddest Man on the Planet" was on top of the world late last year. He was the Bellator featherweight champion and was planning to add some more hardware to his trophy case by entering the season five bantamweight tournament on top of trying out for the Olympics. Things didn't go his way, however, when he was knocked out violently by Alexis Vila at Bellator 51 in the bantamweight tournament quarterfinals. Despite still being the reigning featherweight champion, he's got a lot to prove on Friday night.
Pat Curran is the poster boy for the Bellator business model. He was a complete no-name when he originally signed with the promotion, but huge upset victories over Mike Ricci, Roger Huerta and Marlon Sandro helped him win two tournaments. "Paddy Mike" is now widely regarded as a top 10 and even top five featherweight on the planet after the tremendous current run he's been on.
Warren will be looking to utilize his Olympic level Greco Roman wrestling skills, so closing the distance and creating clinch situations will be key for him. He needs to get inside where he can get some takedowns, dirty boxing and trips working. He's prepared to drag this one into the fifth round if need be as conditioning is never an issue with him. Curran is a very well-rounded fighter, displaying one punch or kick knockout power on the feet as well as terrific submission skills on the ground. He's got a respectable wrestling background, but it's nowhere near Warren's credentials. He'll more have to rely on his youthful energy as he's 11 years younger than Warren heading into this fight. I don't know if Warren will be able to keep up with him or avoid his heavy strikes over the course of a potential five round fight.
Prediction: Pat Curran via knockout in round two
145 lbs.: Marlon Sandro (20-3) vs. Roberto Vargas (12-1)
Marlon Sandro just might be the man to beat in this tournament. Widely regarded as one of the most powerful strikers in the world at 145 pounds, he has been strongly tested since signing with Bellator, although he was able to advance to the finals of the summer series tournament, where he was stopped via headkick by Pat Curran.
Roberto Vargas will be returning to Bellator for the first time since 2009, where he defeated current top UFC prospect Daniel Pineda and then lost a split decision to Wilson Reis. Training out of Millenia MMA, "Beto" has won six straight since his Bellator stint and has a tremendous opportunity in front of him against one of the world's most renowned 145-ers.
Vargas is a pretty balanced fighter, with the ability to finish a fight standing or with submissions but he's likely going to have his hands full with Sandro. Vargas was unable to decisively defeat his last two opponents, eeking out a split decision each time and while both were talented young prospects, neither were close to Sandro's caliber. I expect Sandro to have an advantage on the feet and on the ground, although there may be questions about his age, as the Brazilian turns 35 tomorrow. Regardless, I feel this one is Sandro's fight to lose.
Prediction: Marlon Sandro via decision
145 lbs.: Ronnie Mann (21-4-1) vs. Mike Corey (11-2-1)
Ronnie Mann, still just 25, has remained one of the top featherweight talents in the world despite the occasional setback. He made a strong debut with Bellator and then showcased his power with a dominant knockout victory in the summer series quarterfinals last year before dropping a decision to Pat Curran. He bounced back with a first round submission of Kenny Foster last fall and was brought back for another shot this season.
Mike Corey was originally an alternate for this featherweight tournament, but he stepped up on short notice when Wagnney Fabiano was injured. Corey also was supposed be in the season two lightweight tournament but Pat Curran ended up getting his spot and we all know what happened from there. He finally made his Bellator debut this past November, where he ended up drawing against Chris Horodecki.
Mann possesses some very strong jiu-jitsu skills and he packs quite a punch if he can create enough space to throw effectively. He's going to have to utilize some strong footwork if he wants to create any room against Corey, who's a very big and strong wrestler. Corey will be making the cut to featherweight for the first time, which will mean he's going to be very large, but also that his conditioning will likely be suspect. This fight has a bunch of wildcards as Corey very well could stifle Mann and keep him from getting off any offense.
Prediction: Mike Corey via decision
145 lbs.: Alexandre Bezerra (12-1) vs. Genair da Silva (11-4)
Alexandre Bezerra, better known by his contemporaries as "Popo," is an extremely talented Brazilian featherweight prospect. He's quickly garnered a reputation for his tenacity in both the striking and submission departments. His lone career loss was to top UFC prospect Charles Oliveira. That loss was in 2009, however, and he's won seven straight since including a 4-0 stint in Bellator.
Genair da Silva, hailing from Brazil, entered the last summer series with extremely low expectations, but he proved himself worthy by taking the fight to Marlon Sandro and barely losing a split decision. He got back on track against Bryan Goldsby with a first round Brabo choke victory which helped him earn another crack at Bellator tournament.
Bezerra is tenacious, having finished all four of his Bellator fights thus far with none having gone to the seven minute mark and all four finishes have been by different form of submission or strikes. He's extremely well-rounded and his stand-up is improving every time we've seen him in the cage. Da Silva is well-rounded too, but he'd likely prefer to stand and trade with Bezerra, as he's very skilled in the kicking department. He'll be hoping to keep his distance in my opinion, but I just don't think he'll be able to pull this one off. "Popo" is not widely known yet, but he's a dark horse to win this entire tournament.
Prediction: Alexandre Bezerra via submission in round one
145 lbs.: Daniel Straus (17-4) vs. Jeremy Spoon (12-0)
This fight is some seriously solid matchmaking on Bellator's part. Both Daniel Straus and Jeremy Spoon are terrific wrestlers and have been rounding out their games well.
Straus was a finalist in the season four featherweight tournament, losing to Patricio Freire via decision in a bout which would have earned him a title shot. Straus took a fight with NAAFS in Cleveland during his downtime, defeating UFC veteran Jason Dent this past October which got him back on the winning track in preparation for this tournament.
Jeremy Spoon is the only undefeated fighter in the field and is a very strong prospect at featherweight. He has terrific wrestling skills, strong cardio and some decent power in both hands. He had a pair of hard-fought wins under the Bellator banner already, including a unanimous decision victory against Adam Schindler last October which punched his ticket into this tournament
This will be a battle of two grueling grind-em-out styles as both men are terrific at imposing their wills on their opponents. While Spoon is a terrific talent, I feel Straus is going to be a bit too big, too strong and he'll have just enough stand-up ability to keep Spoon at bay in just about every department.
Prediction: Daniel Straus via decision
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Will Curran be able to take the title from "The Baddest Man on the Planet?" Who's your favorite to win this season six featherweight tournament and earn a shot at the belt in 2012?