Bellator MMA's Season 10 continues this Friday night (March 28, 2014) live from Maverik Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Bellator 114 "Prelims" under card mixed martial arts (MMA) matches will stream online on SpikeTV.com, beginning at 7 p.m ET, followed by the televised main card starting at 9 p.m ET on Spike TV.
In the main event, Middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko will attempt to defend his title against Season 9 tournament winner Brennan Ward, who steamrolled his way through the tournament field, notching up two knockouts and a submission en route to his date with "Storm" this weekend.
Although Ward had an impressive year in 2013, notching up a 4-1 record in Bellator, he'll need to bring his "A" game against the dangerous champion.
Shlemenko is undefeated since a 2010 loss to former Bellator Middleweight champion -- and current Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweight contender -- Hector Lombard. During that time the Russian has notched up 12 wins in a row, including two successful defenses of his 185-pound title.
In addition to the middleweight title bout, the semifinal round of the featherweight tournament will be contested on Friday night, with Desmond Green taking on Will Martinez, and Daniel Weichel squaring off against Matt Bessette.
Check out our full preview and predictions below.
185-pound title fight: Alexander Shlemenko vs. Brennan Ward
This should be a good one. Both Shlemenko and Ward have great finishing instincts and keep up a high work rate. What's more, Shlemenko has the merciless Russian heel persona down perfect, and Ward comes across almost like an East coast version of a Diaz brother.
Given Ward's wrestling background, conventional wisdom would state his best bet would be to work in close and look for takedowns on the dangerous knockout artist Shlemenko,
However, that hasn't proven a successful tactic with other fighters who have attempted to out-grapple Shlemenko in the past. "Storm" may be a standup specialist, but he's more than adept in the defensive wrestling department.
If the takedown isn't there for him, Ward will likely look to make this an ugly fight and stay in Shlemenko's face with constant pressure. That tactic doesn't offer him a high probability of success either though, since Shlemenko is an excellent counter striker and has a way of making overeager fighters charge right into his waiting fists and kicks to the body.
That's what Shlemenko did to Doug Marshall back at Bellator 109, and there's a very good chance we see a similar result on Friday night. There is a huge experience gap between Shlemenko, who has 56 total fights, and Ward, who has fought a mere 10 times. Given this experience deferential, the veteran Shlemenko should be able to pull the comparatively green "Irish Bad Boy's" strings like a pugilistic puppeteer.
Final prediction: Alexander Shlemenko via third round technical knockout.
145 pound tournament semifinal: Desmond Green vs. Will Martinez
Dez Green is one of those fighters who usually makes me get in touch with my inner Georges St. Pierre. Simply put, I just haven't been overly impressed by what I've seen from him so far.
Green's standup looks fairly sloppy and he tends to wait on the outside for takedown opportunities to present themselves. He shows flashes of real talent, but he's yet to put it all together inside the cage.
In contrast, Martinez is a born finisher. Of his nine professional wins, only one has gone to the judges' scorecards.
That killer instinct will be the deciding factor here. Look for Green to attempt to turn this into a wrestling match and get submitted for his trouble.
Final prediction: Will Martinez via first round submission.
145 pound tournament semifinal: Daniel Weichel vs. Matt Bessette
This is another case of a decision-prone fighter facing off against a finisher. While Bessette may be able to take care of business if this fight stays standing, once things go to the mat Weichel possesses a significant advantage.
How significant? Of his 32 professional wins, 20 have come by way of submission. That's more subs than Bessette has total fights.
Expect Weichel to eventually get Bessette to the ground, and from there devour him like a hungry snake feasting on a field mouse.
Final prediction: Daniel Weichel via first round submission.
185 pound middleweight semifinal: Kendall Grove vs. Brett Cooper
Heading into this fight, Grove is riding a bit of momentum and Cooper is in desperate need of a win.
The winner of season 3 of UFC's "Ultimate Fighter" reality series has undergone something of a career renaissance since coming to Bellator. Where once he seemingly couldn't buy a win on the independent MMA scene, a victory over Cooper would give him a respectable three fight winning streak.
Cooper meanwhile is coming off a pair of loses to Shlemenko and Doug Marshall. If he wants to remain relevant in Bellator's middleweight division, this is a must win for Cooper.
While both men are fairly evenly matched, I'm going with Cooper in this one due to his constant pressure and hard-nosed unwillingness to quit. Grove might have a good opening round, but from there Cooper should take over in a fight that may end up being a rather dull clinch-heavy battle.
Oh well, at least it beats watching Grove do the "Team Dagger" faux gang sign from back in his TUF days.
Final prediction: Brett Cooper via unanimous decision.
That's a wrap folks.
Be sure to check us out Friday night (March 28, 2014) for Bellator 114 results, play by play, and LIVE fight coverage for "Shlemenko vs. Ward" right here on MMAMania.com.
See you then!