After a successful debut on pay-per-view (PPV), Bellator MMA returns with its first "Summer Series" event of 2014 this upcoming Friday night (June 6, 2014) on Spike TV.
Bellator 121: "Prindle vs. Thompson" takes place from inside WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma, with a set of featured fights and opening round tournament battles.
In the main event, Bellator veteran Eric Prindle meets the well-traveled James Thompson in a heavyweight feature fight. "The American Soldier" hasn't won inside the Bellator cage since 2011, losing four bouts out of his past five contests. "Colossus" makes his promotional debut after amassing three consecutive victories, having stayed undefeated for almost four years.
The co-main event features a light heavyweight tournament opening round battle, as Austen Heidlage meets Phelipe Lins. Both combatants are undefeated, with "Monstro" stepping inside the promotion's cage for the second time.
Rounding up the main card is Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou vs. Terry Davinney, and opening up the action on Spike TV will be Egidijus Valavicius vs. Carlos Eduardo.
Check out our full preview and predictions below:
Heavyweight feature fight: Eric Prindle vs. James Thompson
This is the prototype for a main event somewhere on the regional scene in a place like South Dakota or Wyoming.
"The American Soldier" has one win in his past four contests since being dismantled by Cole Konrad two years ago. He beat Vince Lucero in Mexico, who was the same guy they spoon-fed WWE superstar Dave Batista when he made his mixed martial arts (MMA) debut.
Thompson winding up in Bellator is a little funny. Surprisingly, he hasn't lost in the past three years, which includes four victories and a "No Contest." The problem is he beat guys like Bob Sapp, Bobby Lashley and Mariusz Pudzianowski, which means any sub-par Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight would crush his soul.
This should be a slugfest from the opening bell, yet one that could be extremely sloppy and short lived. Prindle isn't afraid to come forward, but at times is too committed to counterstrike. He's a heavy puncher who tires easily, and that's where "Colossus" could make him pay.
The experienced Brit should play it smart, even though he'll probably storm out of the gate like a granny on Black Friday. He's won by submission three times in his last four victories, so it's obvious where he can win this fight, especially since Prindle is horrendous on the mat. If his cardio keeps up and he protects his chin, he should be able to get the win on Oklahoma.
Final Prediction: Thompson def. Prindle by technical knockout
Light heavyweight tournament opening round: Austen Heidlage vs. Phelipe Lins
This will be an interesting duel to say the least.
Both competitors are undefeated in their careers, coming into this fight with intentions to become more popular in the promotion.
Heidlage has been doing his dirty work on the independent scene, submitting six of his seven opponents in the first round. The 24-year-old Missourian hasn't quite faced the cream of the crop, yet he's still going about his business the right way.
Lins is a highly touted Brazilian prospect, representing the Nova Uniao Kimura camp. He's a solid fighter with eight victories, stopping six opponents by punches and chokes. He's somewhat reminiscent of a larger Erick Silva, fighting with ferociousness when he smells blood.
There's a chance this fight could be a little too tactical for everyone's liking, even though these two are finishers at heart. As good as the American is on the ground, "Monstro" could opt to grind him against the fence, neutralizing his attacks by looking for takedowns. If both fighters trade strikes, Lins can control the center by keeping his opponent on the outside, and if Heidlage fails to hurt him with shots of his own, he could get a little frustrated.
Ultimately, Lins should win this contest, yet it's a tough one to call.
Final Prediction: Lins def. Heidlage by unanimous decision
Light heavyweight feature fight: Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou vs. Terry Davinney
Bellator's signing of Sokoudjou was a bit of a head scratcher, but let's face it; they need everyone they can get if the organization intends to stay in business.
"The African Assassin" is extremely unpredictable when it comes to results, since he can either look like a world-beater on one night or lose to the ultimate can on another. He's only won two fights in his past six contests, losing twice by stoppage in Russia last year. His opponent is also coming in on a two-fight losing skid, expected to drop a third consecutive bout against the debutant.
"The Punisher" has power in his hands, but if he expects to engage in a Muay Thai battle against Sokoudjou, he's doomed. The former UFC fighter can still punish foes with his impressive kicking game, even though he usually disappears in the second and third rounds.
If Sokoudjou doesn't freeze after throwing a couple of strikes and shows he's been at least using the treadmill as of late, he should finish the Michigan-based combatant easily. Still, if he gets hit with a clean shot, his place in a future light heavyweight tournament will be in jeopardy.
Final Prediction: Sokoudjou def. Davinney by technical knockout
Light heavyweight tournament opening round: Egidijus Valavicius vs. Carlos Eduardo
Valavicius doesn't only possess one of the more difficult names to pronounce in our beloved sport, but he also has serious force when it comes to his stand up. The veteran of 36 fights has met former world champions Fedor Emelianenko and Attila Vegh before, and this fight should be an indication of what the Lithuanian is capable of five years away from age 40.
"Cachorrao" is 1-1 in the promotion, after an undefeated stint in Shooto, and he's faced his fair share of competition as well, losing to Jon Jones in the phenom's second professional fight back in 2008.
There's no doubt Valavicius will want to use his striking in this bout, since he's the more powerful hitter who's always looking to finish fights early. The Brazilian will be looking for takedowns right from the get-go, and if he starts to control Valavicius in the opening round by easily bringing him down to the mat, it's going to be a long night for the Marijampole resident.
Plus, Eduardo had difficulty adjusting to Rodney Wallace's speed at Bellator 116, so a guy with dynamite in his hands will presumably hurt him badly. Better safe than sorry.
We're either in store for an early finish, or a boring drubbing.
Final Prediction: Eduardo def. Valavicius by unanimous decision
That's a wrap.
Stay tuned for weigh-in results tomorrow, as well as full blow-by-blow Bellator 121 coverage on Friday.