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Bellator III middleweight tournament preview and predictions for April 17 event

Bellator Fighting Championships 12-part weekly tournament series is set to return to the ESPN Deportes airwaves for event number three this Friday, April 17, at the Lloyd Noble Center from the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma.

As always, the action will air via tape delay 24 hours later on the Spanish version of The Worldwide Leader in Sports, ESPN Deportes.

The promotion will kickoff its 185-pound middleweight tournament with all four first round match-ups set to go off. The featured bout of those four will showcase Cuban-born Judoka, Hector "Shango" Lombard, making his debut on United States soil against Virgil "The Mexican Machine" Lozano.

Bellator will also close out the first round of the welterweight grand prix with former UFC champion Dave Menne set to take on undefeated Frenchman Norman Paraisy. The winner will join Omar De La Cruz, Jorge Ortiz and Lyman Good in the semifinals.

Here is the full lineup for the upstart promotion’s second event:

Middleweight Tournament Bouts (first round):
185 lbs.: Hector Lombard vs. Virgil Lozano
185 lbs.: Alex Andrade vs. Damien Stelly
185 lbs.: Daniel Tabera vs. Jared Hess
185 lbs.: Yosmany Cabezas vs. Edwin Aguilar
185 lbs.: Marcelo Alfaia vs. Joey Gorczynski -- Alternate bout
185 lbs.: Jason Norwood vs. John Kirk -- Alternate bout

Welterweight Tournament Bout (first round):
170 lbs.: Dave Menne vs. Norman Paraisy

Non-Tournament Bouts:
205 lbs.: William Albrecht vs. Mike Messina
265 lbs.: Tyler East vs. Amedio Viola
145 lbs.: Johnny Eduardo vs. Donald Sanchez
205 lbs.: Wayne Cole vs. Rudy Lindsay

We’ve taken a closer look at two of the featured fights, which are first round match ups from the middleweight and welterweight tournaments, to give you a taste of what to expect from the latest mixed martial arts offering.

Here we go:

185 lbs.: Hector Lombard (18-2-1) vs. Virgil Lozano (6-1-1)

Hector Lombard's two career losses were to 2008 DREAM middleweight grand prix winner Gegard Mousasi and UFC veteran Akihiro Gono, both by hard fought unanimous decisions under the now deceased Pride FC organization.

He's a tough as nails type of fighter with a decorated background in Judo and he's the Australian based Cage Fighting Championships four-time defending middleweight champion.

Lombard's built up sort of a mythical persona in the states, after missing several opportunities to compete in front of the American audience in high profile match ups for Elite XC, as well as one disappointing withdrawal from a fight against Josh Koscheck under the UFC banner.

Lozano on the other hand, is coming into this fight with an opportunity to make a huge name for himself by advancing with a win over Shango. "The Mexican Machine" has a reputation as a solid jiu-jitsu practitioner. In fact, five of his six wins have come by way of tap out, including three by armbar.

However, he's not just a submissions guy. He can also put you on your back and become very dangerous with his ground and pound as well.

In short, it's not an easy fight for Lombard. Lozano has the skills and the will to make this thing interesting if the pressure of fighting for the U.S. fans for the first time gets to Shango. If not, Lozano might be in trouble.

Look for Shango to be the aggressor and dominate this fight with his striking, takedowns and possibly some of those sick judo throws everybody loves so much. This is a fight he should win, and I think he will.

Final Prediction: Hector "Shango" Lombard via technical knockout in round one

170 lbs.: Dave Menne (42-15-2) vs. Norman Paraisy (5-0)

Paraisy is a 22 year old, five-fight veteran of the sport whose opponents combined win-loss record before his most recent fight was a paltry (4-15). Needless to say, the Paris native is taking a rather large step up in competition when he gets into the cage on Friday night with Dave Menne.

The Minneapolis resident, Menne, is not just a 35-year old former UFC middleweight champion with nearly sixty professional fights to his credit, looking to collect a paycheck. He's still got some gas left in that tank.

Within the last couple of years he's been able to go the distance with top mixed martial artists like Josh Koscheck and Jake Shields, and he also has career wins over guys such as Chris Lytle, Dennis Hallman, Pele, Carlos Newton and others.

On paper, this is Dave Menne's fight to win or lose.

Paraisy appears to have some solid jiu-jitsu skills, and he trains with one of the best camps around in American Top Team. Still, it has to be assumed that the 12-year veteran and owner of 16 career submission finishes, Menne, will hold the edge in the grappling department, or at least have an answer for anything the Frenchman throws at him. Although there is some buzz and excitement over Paraisy's potential from his ATT teammates.

As far as striking, Menne looks to be better in that aspect as well. He's coming off a first round technical knockout win over Travis McCullough at a small show last May. He's never been known as a striker, but he's well rounded enough to be able to handle adversity no matter where this fight goes.

Barring any major mistakes or a clear cut drop in skill level for the aging Menne, he should be able to advance to the semifinals with a win here. Any American Top Team fighter is always going to put up a fight, but look for Menne to win this one on the scorecards.

Final Prediction: Dave Menne via unanimous decision.

Next week Bellator Fighting Championships IV will head over to the Hara Arena in Dayton, Ohio for the highly anticipated semifinal match-ups from the 155-pound lightweight tournament. Philadelphia standout Eddie Alvarez will square off with the hard nosed, multi-talented Eric Reynolds for a spot in the finals opposite either the explosive Jorge Masvidal or the tournament's dark horse Toby Imada.

You definitely won't want to miss that.

To catch up on all the latest from Bellator click here. For Bellator II results from last weekend click here. Stay tuned to for the latest news, notes and results surrounding Bellator FC.

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