MMAmania's Brian Hemminger takes a closer look at Friday night's Belaltor 74 event which features the beginning of the seventh season and the welterweight tournament.
Bellator Fighting Championships will head to "The Garden State" this Friday night (Sept. 28, 2012) at Caesars Atlantic City in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
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 74 will be a welterweight season seven quarterfinal bout between former Bellator Welterweight Champion Lyman Good and scrappy Brit "Judo" Jim Wallhead. Both Good and Wallhead were participants in the season four welterweight tournament where they fell short via decision to current lightweight number one contender and former Olympian Rick Hawn.
Also participating on the main card is vaunted Russian welterweight prospect Andrey Koreshkov, who will be taking on Jordan Smith. The rest of the season seven welterweight tournament is rounded out by former Dream 170-pound champ Marius Zaromskis vs. Canadian Nordine Taleb and Russian Michail Tsarev vs. Tim Welch.
Our complete Bellator 74 preview and predictions are posted below:
170 lbs.: Lyman Good (12-2) vs. Jim Wallhead (23-6)
Lyman Good is a man on a mission. The original Bellator welterweight champion showcased a diverse skill-set in winning the title, but his lack of elite wrestling failed him when Ben Askren was able to have his way with him for five rounds in his first title defense. Since then, Good has experienced ups and downs, losing a hotly contested decision to Rick Hawn in the season four tournament and being sidelined with injuries. He emphatically announced his return this past April with a 13 second knockout of LeVon Maynard.
"Judo" Jimmy Wallhead is one of the best welterweights out of the UK. He had his Bellator debut delayed by a volcanic eruption but when he finally fought in the Bellator tournament, he was defeated by Rick Hawn in the quarterfinals of season four. Since then, Wallhead has looked terrific fighting for BAMMA and handling veterans Frank Trigg and Joey Villasenor. Now, he's looking for bigger fish to fry in Good.
Wallhead has a good sense of balance and can keep a fight standing but he might not like trading blows with Good, who's incredibly powerful and also one of the largest welterweights on the roster. This bout is likely going to turn into a striking battle but it's Good who has the superior technique and power. Wallhead is durable so he'll likely survive, but the odds are against him defeating the ex-champ.
Final Prediction: Lyman Good via decision
170 lbs.: Michail Tsarev (23-2) vs. Tim Welch (9-3)
Michael Tsarev is a legitimate top Russian welterweight prospect. After winning his first 13 professional fights, he experienced a slight setback in 2008 with consecutive submission losses. Since then, he's come back with a fury, finishing everyone in his path, 10 straight to be exact. He finally got a signature win this past February, defeating former Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 11 competitor Kaycey Uscola via triangle choke in just 72 seconds.
Tim Welch, believe it or not, is a red-headed Native American. Training out of Team Quest in Portland, Oregon, he possesses some power in his punches and some solid wrestling ability. He enters this tournament riding a three fight winning streak and while he hasn't faced the most notable opposition, he certainly trains with elite fighters every day.
Tsarev is extremely dangerous off his back. He's been submitting opponents left and right but it seems Welch isn't afraid to take this fight to the ground. That could be his undoing as we've seen what has happened to the occasional Team Quest fighter when they let their guard down on the canvas. At some point, Tsarev will likely wrap Welch up.
Final Prediction: Michael Tsarev via submission in round one
170 lbs.: Jordan Smith (17-3-1) vs. Andrey Koreshkov (10-0)
Jordan Smith is a prospect with all the physical and technical skills in the world, but he's got one fatal flaw....his chin. The six foot tall southpaw possesses solid striking and submission skills, even defeating the likes of Karo Parisyan and Bristol Marunde on the local circuit, but his Bellator debut did not go as planned. Stepping in as a late replacement, he was knocked out by the undersized David Rickels in just 22 seconds in the season six welterweight tournament quarterfinals. It won't get any easier against Andrey Koreshkov.
Andrey Koreshkov is one of the best prospects in any weight class in the world. The Russian phenom possesses incredible handspeed and instincts in the cage. He picked apart his two most recent opponents in his first two Bellator fights, easily stopping them via strikes. If the fight doesn't stay standing, he's also got a terrific ground game to fall back on, winning multiple fights via submission.
While Smith will be a game opponent, all it takes is one perfect strike from Koreshkov and he'll likely be seeing stars. Considering how quick and accurate Koreshkov is in the stand-up department, I don't see him missing his target.
Final Prediction: Andrey Koreshkov via knockout in round one
170 lbs.: Nordine Taleb (8-1) vs. Marius Zaromskis (18-6) 1 no contest
Nordine Taleb, after losing his second professional fight, has been on an absolute roll. He's won seven straight including his first two bouts under the Bellator banner, most recently defeating Matt MacGrath via second round TKO this past May. Taleb loves to stand and bang and he'll need to bring everything he's got against a very credentialed opponent.
Marius Zaromskis is one of the most fascinating strikers on the planet. Everyone remembers him for his infamous head kick knockouts in Dream, but he also pulled off a ridiculous somersault knockout against Bruno Carvalho last year in of the 2011's finest finishes. Zaromskis recently put a capper on his trilogy with Waachiim Spiritwolf, defeating the Native American via unanimous decision to earn his shot in the tournament.
While Taleb will be game and he's got a puncher's chance, if Zaromskis keeps it technical, he could create an opening for another highlight reel-worthy finish. It's all about whether or not Taleb gives him room for a crazy kick or not.
Final Prediction: Marius Zaromskis via TKO in round two
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Do you have high expectations for the Bellator season seven welterweight tournament? Who's your pick to win the whole thing? Are there any dark horses here?