Bellator 67 poster via Bellator.com
Bellator Fighting Championships will head to the great north this Friday night (May 4, 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.
Also on the card is a Bellator season six welterweight tournament semifinal fight between former tournament finalists Bryan Baker and Ben Saunders in a fight that expects to bring some serious violence.
There are also two non-tournament fights on the main card as heavyweights Damian Grabowski and Dave Huckaba will duke it out while welterweights Ryan Ford and Luis Santos plan on scrapping.
Our Bellator 67 preview and predictions are after the jump.
155 lbs.: Michael Chandler (9-0) vs. Akihiro Gono (32-17-7)
Michael Chandler had a tremendous run in 2011. He blitzed through a very tough season four tournament field of Marcin Held, Lloyd Woodard and Patricky Freire before pulling off a coupe de grace by stopping Eddie Alvarez to win the Bellator lightweight title in one of the year's finest fights. He's been in the gym ever since and is very excited to showcase everything he's been working on.
Akhiro Gono is a longtime veteran of the fight scene, even holding victories over the likes of Hector Lombard and Gegard Mousasi back in 2006 but his career has trailed off since then. He had a tough run in the UFC at welterweight and enters this bout having lost his last two fights including his lightweight debut at Sengoku 14.
If Chandler is intent on showcases his skills, I expect to see him keep this fight standing and try to knock Gono out with his improving boxing. He treats his striking like a new toy, something vastly different and fresh from his wrestling background at Missouri. If things don't go as expected, he has his powerful takedowns and ground and pound to fall back on. Gono may put up a fight with his experience but at 37 years old, I don't expect much resistance.
Final Prediction: Chandler via TKO in round two
170 lbs.: Ben Saunders (13-4-2) vs. Bryan Baker (17-3)
Ben Saunders has looked terrific in his Bellator career thus far. "Killa B" has gone 4-1 in his 13 month career with the promotion thus far, showcasing his terrific muay thai skills and his very dangerous ground game as well. Saunders is always looking to bring the violence, at times to a fault as he can get overeager to go for submissions or other attacks, but he's still very capable of winning this thing.
Bryan Baker made it to the finals in the Bellator season two middleweight tournament despite battling cancer and he made it to the semifinals last year but TKO losses convinced him to drop down to welterweight. He trained at Greg Jackson's before this tournament and, while patient, he was able to eek out a win in his 170 pound debut against Brazilian Carlos Alexandre Pereira in the quarterfinals.
Both Saunders and Baker have knockout power and are proficient on the ground with submissions. Baker has better wrestling skills, but his ability to take a big punch may be lacking. He said he had a horrible weight cut in his quarterfinal fight, accidentally cutting way too much and that could have affected his performance. If he cuts correctly, this should be a very close fight, but I see Saunders' superior technique paying off for him on the feet. If he puts Baker in the clinch, "The Beast" is getting slain.
Final Prediction: Saunders via knockout in round three
265 lbs.: Damian Grabowski (15-1) vs. Dave Huckaba (17-4)
Damian Grabowski entered the Bellator season three heavyweight tournament with a wave of hype behind him. "The Polish Pit Bull" barely edged out a decision in his promotional debut and then was smothered by current champion Cole Konrad for three rounds to be handed his only career loss. He's looked to improve his ground game since, scoring two straight submissions including an impressive Kimura against Eddie Sanchez just four days ago.
Dave Huckaba is a finishing machine. Of his 17 career victories, 14 have come by way of knockout with two submissions as well. He hasn't been able to score a signature win yet, losing to Lavar Johnson and Jon Murphy in his most high profile fights.
Huckaba will be trying to knock Grabowski's block off with his power, but he lives by the sword and dies by it. He's been finished in all four of his losses. Grabowski should hold a technique edge on the feet and he definitely is more well versed in submissions. If this fight goes to the ground, I don't think it will last long there.
Final Prediction: Damian Grabowki via submission in round one
170 lbs.: Ryan Ford (17-4) vs. Luis Santos (50-7-1)
Ryan Ford is one of Canada's best welterweights. "The Real Deal" had some mixed success in the MFC but he scored a huge victory over Karo Parisyan last year. Ford has a solid grappling game and loves to take his opponents down and beat on them on the ground. His stand-up still has a ways to go, but he's a pretty solid fighter.
Santos has been fighting for 12 years now. He looked terrific on the Brazilian circuit, incredibly compiling 49 wins in the southern hemisphere. He earned an invite to the Bellator season five welterweight tournament and made a good first impression, beating Dan Hornbuckle soundly in the quarterfinals but he had major issues with Ben Saunders' rubber guard in the semis and would be bounced out of the field. He's hoping to earn another shot if he can beat Ford.
Santos should have a major striking edge and is almost certainly the better submission fighter, but Ford will have a wrestling advantage and is better with ground strikes. This should be an interesting battle as both men try to impose their wills and while wrestling can be the great equalizer, I feel Santos has too much experience and overall weapons for Ford here.
Final Prediction: Santos via decision
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Will Chandler walk right through Gono? Who's your pick to make it to the welterweight tournament finals? Are you expecting any surprises on this fight card?