Bellator Fighting Championships continues its ninth season this Friday night (Sept. 27, 2013) live from Moda Center at Rose Quarter in Portland, Oregon.
Bellator 101 "Prelims" under card mixed martial arts (MMA) matches will stream online (SpikeTV.com), beginning at 7 p.m. ET and the televised main card will start at 9 p.m. ET on Spike TV.
In the main event, former Bellator Featherweight champion, Joe Warren, meets Nick Kirk in the semifinal round of the Bellator Season 9 Bantamweight tournament. Warren is making his return to active competition after a 10-month layoff as he looks to work his way toward another shot at Bellator gold. Standing in his way is Kirk, who is hoping for his first win inside the Bellator cage after two prior unsuccessful at-bats with the organization.
Elsewhere on the card name fighters such as Marcus Davis, Will Brooks, Saad Awad and more all compete in the opening round of the Season 9 Lightweight tournament as they attempt to take the opening steps on a march toward the 155-pound title.
Check out our Bellator 101 preview and predictions bellow:
135 lb. tournament semifinal match: Joe Warren vs. Nick Kirk
This is Warren's first fight coming off 10 weeks of television exposure as a coach on Bellator's "Fight Master" reality series. Given the time the company has invested in him, the best outcome for business would for the outspoken Warren to win the four-man Bantamweight tournament and take on champ Eduardo Dantas for the title. Bellator seems to agree, since in the opening round of this season's tourney it matched up with an opponent in Kirk who is winless (0-2) in the promotion.
Ordinarily I would think Warren was a shoe-in to steamroll Kirk, but given his recent history inside the cage I'm not so sure. Warren has gotten knocked out in two of his last three fights, including a potentially career-altering knockout at the hands of Featherweight champ Pat Curran back at Bellator 60 (watch the insane .gif here). With that in mind an upset doesn't seem far fetched.
The question is, though, does the hilariously nicknamed "Big Hurt" have what it takes to live up to his namesake and test Warren's suspect chin? Based on what we've seen of him in Bellator so far I remain unconvinced. Look for Warren to take down Kirk early and often en route to a unanimous decision victory.
Final Prediction: Joe Warren via unanimous decision
155 lb. tournament quarterfinal match: Marcus Davis vs. Alexander Sarnavskiy
Sarnavskiy is a Russian so you know what that means Bellator fans: An unintentionally corny, superlative-laden voice over! I wish Las Vegas, Nevada, offered odds on the verbiage of pre-fight hype videos because I'd be willing to bet my last dime Bellator's production crew comes up with some cheesy lines for Sarnavskiy like, "The all-consuming fire in my heart is stoked by the heat of battle" and "My indomitable will has been steeled by the frigid Siberian winter."
I can almost hear the poor guy who has to read this stuff warming up in his best super villain voice now.
Davis is a well known commodity among MMA fans thanks to his frequent exposure on Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) cards during the company's initial boom period from 2007 to 2010, but since getting axed from Zuffa in 2011 he's perhaps best known for kneeing Waachiim Spiritwolf in the junk so hard Spirtwolf was unable to continue back at Bellator 93.
The 16-year difference in age between these two is drastic enough for me to favor Sarnavskiy. If Davis could turn back the clock, his edge in big time experience might prove too much for Sarnavskiy. As is, the 40-year-old is going to have to use every veteran trick in the book to get past the much younger Russian.
I don't think Davis will have the speed to get his boxing going against Sarnavskiy. Expect "Tiger" to go for the clinch early and eventually get Davis to the ground. From there it could only be a matter of time before Sarnavskiy locks on an armbar and defuses "Irish Hand Grenade."
Final Prediction: Alexander '"Tiger'" Sarnavskiy via submission
155 lb. tournament quarterfinal match: John Alessio vs. Will Brooks
This is yet another case of the new breed taking on the old guard. Alessio may only be 34 years of age, but in MMA years -- kind of like dog years, but with more concussions and torn ligaments -- he's positively ancient. The Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, native began his MMA career way back in spring 1998. He lost to Pat Miletich in a UFC Welterweight title bout in 2000, and went nowhere over three subsequent stints in the promotion.
In fact, he's currently the holder of an unenviable 0-5 record inside the Octagon.
Brooks, on the other hand, is still in the process of perfecting his game after beginning his MMA career a little less than three years ago. At 26 years of age he's got plenty of time to develop and he's looked extremely promising thus far, with his lone professional loss coming at the hands of Season 8 tournament finalist Saad Awad earlier this year.
I'm guessing this fight was booked as a showcase for the charismatic Brooks, and as such I expect his speed and athleticism to help him stay a step ahead of the veteran. Smart money is on Books sweeping the judges' scorecards for a unanimous decision here.
Final Prediction: Will Brooks via unanimous decision
155 lb. tournament quarterfinal match: Ricardo Tirloni vs. Rich Clementi
It's time for a dose of what the great modern poet R. Kelly once referred to as "Real Talk."
Neither Tirloni nor Clementi have looked like world beaters as of late. So far Tirloni has participated in three Bellator tournaments and lost in the opening round of two of them. The Brazilian is a mere 1-3 since 2012, which begs the question why he was deemed worthy of entering this season's tourney in the first place.
The 36-year-old veteran Clementi, meanwhile, is coming out of a retirement that lasted all of 10 months to seek one last shot at capturing a major title. That's probably not going to happen given the level of younger talent in this tournament, but "No Love" should beat Tirloni if his head is indeed 100 percent back in the game.
Final Prediction: Rich Clementi via unanimous decsion
155 lb. tournament quarterfinal match: Saad Awad vs. Martin Stapleton
If nothing else, Awad is a testament to the age old adage, "If at first you get TKO'd by a guy who walks to the cage accompanied by a giant dinosaur, try and try until you don't get TKO'd by a guy who walks to the cage accompanied by a giant dinosaur."
Awad was on the run of his career earlier this year, slashing through the quarter- and semi-finals of Season 8 Lightweight tournament by way of a pair of absolutely sick first round knockouts over Guillaume DeLorenzi and Will Brooks, only to fall victim to a technical knockout at the hands of David Rickels. It must have been a heartbreaking loss for Awad, considering the momentum he had going into the finals, but these are the things that happen when you get in a firefight with a self-styled caveman wearing 8 oz. gloves.
If Awad wants to redeem his performance against Rickels and prove he's contender material, he's going to need to get past Stapleton. The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) alum also-ran Stapleton has amassed an impressive eight-fight win streak on his native English soil and he's no doubt hoping to make a splash in his Bellator debut.
Stapleton's best shot here is to make this an ugly fight and work over Awad in the clinch and on the ground. As for Awad, expect him to be looking to crack and test Stapleton's chin early. Over the course of the Season 8 tournament we learned Awad has legitimate one-punch knockout power, so there's a good chance he starches the Brit in the first round and in the process punches his ticket to the semifinals of the Lightweight tournament.
Final Prediction: Saad Awad via technical knockout
That's a wrap for Bellator 101: "Warren vs. Kirk" preview and predictions. Now it's your turn to drop your two cents in the comments section below ... who you got this Friday night in "Rose City?"
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will be your home for complete live Bellator 101 results, recaps and more this weekend -- be sure to come back for more when the time is right. Meantime, be sure to check out our complete Bellator 101 event archive for the latest news and notes right here.