Bellator Fighting Championships will head to "The Golden State" this Thursday night (March 7, 2013) at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California.
The main card will air live on Spike TV on fight night, beginning at 10 p.m. ET.
Headlining the main event of Bellator 92 will be a season eight middleweight tournament semifinal fight between former WEC light heavyweight champion Doug Marshall and unbeaten Russian sambo specialist Sultan Aliev. Both men put on solid showings in their tournament debuts and are looking to get one fight closer to the champion, Alexander Shlemenko.
The other middleweight tournament semifinal will be the always scrappy Brett Cooper against Dan Cramer. Cramer is hoping to ride the wave of momentum from knocking off potential tournament favorite Brian Rogers in the quarterfinals.
Last but not least, the season eight featherweight tournament semifinals will be going down as two-time finalist Marlon Sandro squares off against top Russian prospect Magomedrasul Khasbulaev and top Brazilian Alexandre Bezerra faces powerful American boxer Mike Richman.
Complete Bellator 92 preview and predictions are posted below:
185 lbs.: Doug Marshall (16-6) vs. Sultan Aliev (9-0)
Doug Marshall is ferocious and he only knows one speed, 100 miles per hour. Before the Bellator tournament started, he had no fights go longer than 34 seconds in his last four bouts. He stepped into the Bellator cage against season six tournament finalist Andreas Spang and showed no respect for the "Sweet Swede," blasting him with a huge walk-off right hand in the first round to advance.
Sultan Aliev is a bit of an unknown commodity, but he trains out of Greg Jackson's MMA alongside fellow top Russian prospects Adlan Amagov and Rustam Khabilov. The sambo practitioner competed on the Bellator 89 preliminary card for his tournament debut, handing Mikkel Parlo the first loss of is professional career to advance.
We all know what Marshall wants to do. He'll try to lower his head, charge forward like a rhino and smash Aliev in the face with his thunderous fists. Aliev will be looking to weather the storm and potentially take over with his combat sambo, taking Marshall to the ground and trying to pound him out with his own powerful punches. If Aliev can take this fight past the first round, he's got a really good shot of coming out on top. He just has to survive that early blitz from Marshall.
Final Prediction: Sultan Aliev via TKO in round two
185 lbs.: Brett Cooper (18-7) vs. Dan Cramer (10-3)
Cooper, while known for his ability to brawl and scrap against anyone, trading strikes and dishing out some serious hurt, has taken a different approach as of late. "Fudoshin" has traded in his heavy fists for the takedown as he's ground out decisions with his wrestling in his last two Bellator fights including a convincing decision over Norman Paraisy in the quarterfinals.
Dan Cramer has experienced a tremendous career resurgence since signing with Bellator. Since his release from the UFC, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season seven fighter has gone 7-1 in the Bellator cage, avenging his only loss to Jeff Nader. That includes his tournament debut against favorite Brian Rogers where Cramer didn't just outgrapple "The Professional Predator" but he also more than held his own in the striking department to win a very entertaining decision.
Cooper is going to have to channel the brawler inside him if he wants to come out on top here. If he tries to grind out another decision win with his wrestling, he's going to be diving into the danger zone as Cramer is very capable on the canvas with sweeps and submissions. Cramer can scrap on the feet as well, but Cooper has the chin and the power to hang with him there and potentially get the better of the exchanges. That being said, Cramer looked too good in his last fight to pick against him here.
Final Prediction: Dan Cramer via decision
145 lbs.: Marlon Sandro (24-4) vs. Magomedrasul Khasbulaev (19-5)
Marlon Sandro has been one of the most feared featherweights in the world for a long time now. He was a two-time 145 lb. finalist under the Bellator banner but has yet to experience the sweet taste of tournament victory. He got more than he expected in his quarterfinal fight against Akop Stepanyan, winning a controversial decision after a point deduction was given to his Russian foe. He'll be trying to have a more convincing performance this Thursday.
Khasbulaev really burst onto the scene for Bellator, winning two fights on the preliminary card during the seventh season as a featherweight alternate and finishing both opponents in the first round. He really exploded with his performance against top Brazilian prospect Fabricio Guerreiro, finishing him with a second round arm triangle to advance to the semifinals in what many considered an upset. A victory over Sandro would be huge for the Rusfighter on Thursday.
Khasbulaev is very dangerous and extremely powerful on the ground and while Sandro has been going to the canvas more as of late, he should really go back to his roots as a ferocious striker here. He's still got incredible power in his fists and if he can connect with that nasty uppercut, he'll have a great chance of hurting the Russian on the feet. That being said, Sandro definitely looked like he lost a step in his last fight and it's hard for someone to suddenly perk up for the second round of a tournament especially at 35 years old.
Final Prediction: Magomedrasul Khasbulaev via TKO in round two
145 lbs.: Alexandre Bezerra (15-2) vs. Mike Richman (14-2)
Bezerra has quickly become one of the best young featherweight prospects on the Bellator roster. "Popo" has torn through the division, finishing every opponent he's faced except Marlon Sandro, who he lost a close split decision to last April in a fight where he showed up with too much respect for his opponent. He showed no respect for Genair da Silva in his quarterfinal fight and he dominated with an impressive first round submission finish.
Richman is downright ferocious on the feet. He has put a hurt on every opponent he's defeated in the Bellator cage, finishing three men in the first round with his fists and with his feet. He's downright nasty and capable of hurting anyone as long as he's not reckless (like his lone loss to Shahbulat Shamhalaev). He proved how scary he can be against fellow Minnesotan Mitch Jackson, dropping him multiple times and completely putting his lights out with three seconds left in the opening frame.
This fight will come down to who can impose their will. Bezerra can hang on the feet, but he doesn't have Richman's power or technique. The Brazilian will want to get this fight to the ground where he's downright scary with his transitions and submissions. Richman wants to keep Bezerra at the end of his punches in the pocket and put a hurting on him. Something to be concerned about is the fact that Richman's defense has not been great. He has been hit pretty hard in both of his last two fights and Bezerra is no slouch. He could connect with something solid which could set up getting the fight to the canvas. Don't be surprised if that's how he does exactly that.
Final Prediction: Bezerra via submission in round two