Bellator Fighting Championships will return to Louisiana for the second time this season on Saturday night (May 21, 2011) at the L'Auberge du Lac Resort in Lake Charles, LA, live on MTV2 for its forty-fifth event.
The main card will air live on the basic cable network beginning at 9 p.m. ET.
Headlining the main event will be the first ever Bellator light heavyweight championship fight as the season four 205 pound tournament concludes. Finalists Richard Hale and Christian M'Pumbu will square off for (potentially) five rounds after each putting on impressive performances and turning heads respectively earlier in the season.
The featherweight tournament will also be holding its finals as top contenders Daniel Straus and Patricio Freire will vie for the right to face current champion Joe Warren plus earn a big fat check for $100,000.
The remainder of the main card is completed with M-1 veteran Karl Amoussou and King of the Cage veteran Sam Alvey competing for a spot in the Bellator season five middleweight tournament.
A scheduled season five heavyweight tournament eliminator bout between Thiago Santos and Derrick Lewis had to be scrapped at the last minute due to injury.
Complete Bellator 45 preview and predictions after the jump.
205 lb. title: Richard Hale (17-3-1) vs. Christian M'Pumbu (17-3-1)
These two men have very little in common other than their records. Hale launched his career into the stratosphere in the first round of the light heavyweight tournament when he pulled off the second inverted triangle submission in the promotion's history against Nik Fekete. Hale is a former Rage in the Cage champion, having won both the heavyweight and light heavyweight titles in the promotion.
"Rare Breed" had some trouble in his semifinal match against DJ Linderman which was a razer thin split decision victory. Hale admitted he had a horrible weight cut for the fight and it was a key factor in his poor performance. He possesses a decent reach advantage over M'Pumbu and he definitely will be the larger man in the cage on Saturday night. Look for Hale to push the pace early either on the ground or with his reach. Maybe he can wear M'Pumbu down with his size and strength advantage.
Christian M'Pumbu is a very talented, albeit undersized, light heavyweight. He outlasted Chris Davis' excellent wrestling attack to pull off a third round comeback TKO in the quarterfinals and then he flattened Tim Carpenter with a first round knockout in the semifinals.
The Congolese-French fighter is a big time M-1 veteran and he'll have the advantage over Richard Hale in speed, technique and endurance. He has the power to finish a fight at any time but if he's smart, he'll take Hale into deep water and drown him. M'Pumbu has the gas tank to go for days and the fact that he doesn't cut weight to make the 205-pound limit will only help him out here. If the championship rounds come into play, I'm going with M'Pumbu.
Final Prediction: Christian M'Pumbu via TKO in the fourth round
145 lbs.: Patricio Freire (16-1) vs. Daniel Straus (16-3
Patricio "Pitbull" spent last week watching his brother, Patricky, get ground down by a wrestler en route to losing a unanimous decision in the Bellator lightweight tournament finals. He's facing a similar predicament on Saturday night in the durable wrestler, Daniel Straus.
The Brazilian has blasted his way through the featherweight tournament with very impressive knockout victories over Bellator veterans Georgi Karakhanyan and Wilson Reis. He's on the warpath to avenge his only career loss to current champion Joe Warren and he's looked very good in doing it.
Freire's biggest problem in the past was his gas tank, but he's shown no signs of slowing down this season. In fact, both of his highlight-reel knockouts occurred in the third round. The Nogueira-trained fighter possesses deadly power in both hands and knees plus a black belt-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu game. "Pitbull" looks unstoppable right now, but Straus is looking to give him fits.
Daniel Straus fights as often as anyone in the sport, and he's not afraid to take an opponent into the later rounds. In his brief 27 month MMA career, Straus has already compiled nine decision victories and Patricio Freire will be his 20th professional fight.
The Cincinnati native put on a fight of the year candidate against Nazareno Malegarie in the first round of the Bellator featherweight tournament. Straus showcased improved striking and surprising power on top of his smothering wrestling in that fight. He pulled out all the stops against Kenny Foster in the semifinals, thoroughly dominating "The Tooth Fairy" and scoring a third round finish to put a cherry on top of his excellent performance.
Straus' biggest strength in this fight will be his gas tank, his pace and his wrestling. Freire is the more compact fighter so Straus will also likely have a height and reach advantage. If he stands with "Pitbull" for any period of time, he has to avoid getting caught at all costs. Hopefully, he can get Patricio to drop his guard enough to score a takedown and wear the Brazilian down on the ground like Michael Chandler did to Patricky. It'll be easier said than done, though.
Final Prediction: Daniel Straus via decision
185 lbs.: Karl Amoussou (12-3-2) vs. Sam Alvey (14-2) 1 NC
Karl Amoussou has been fighting for over five years now. It's crazy to think he's only 25 years old. The French Judo black belt has the talent to be a great fighter but he's yet to really prove it.
Amoussou was signed by Strikeforce and Dream in 2010 to compete on the Challengers series and in Japan. Neither went according to his plan. The Frenchman had a technical draw with Trevor Prangley due to an accidental eye poke and then proceeded to lose a unanimous decision to Japanese grappler Kazuhiro Nakamura.
It seems that "Psycho" wilts every time he steps in the cage with a higher level opponent and if so, Sam Alvey is going to be trouble.
Alvey is a very intriguing prospect with some big power in his strikes. The Wisconsin native had eight knockouts under his belt.
He hasn't exactly faced top level competition throughout his career but he's very active, young and hungry. His wrestling base should be strong enough to hopefully neutralize his opponent's Judo strength and if he can keep this fight standing or put himself into a position to ground and pound, I like the upset here.
Final Prediction: Sam Alvey via knockout
That's a wrap.
What are your picks for Saturday night's Bellator event?