Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the Scott Coker era.
Even though Bellator's second event of its 2014 "Summer Series" was all but confirmed before Bjorn Rebney's firing, Bellator 122: "Cooper vs. Halsey" will be the first event of Coker's tenure as the promotion's head honcho.
The event takes place this Friday night (July 25, 2014) on Spike TV, and the somewhat historical fight card features two Season 10 tournament finals serving as the main card headliners.
Also on the main card, an interesting bout featuring Karo Parisyan vs. Phil Baroni is set for the Spike TV broadcast, as these former UFC fighters will collide in an important tussle for their respective careers. The first fight of the main card pits Liam McGeary against Egidijus Valavicius in a light heavyweight tournament semi-final scrap.
Check out our full preview and predictions below:
Middleweight tournament final: Brett Cooper (20-9) vs. Brandon Halsey (6-0)
You may not be familiar with Cooper when it comes to selling merchandise or appearing on cereal boxes, yet he's been one of Bellator's most active fighters since 2010 (besides two fights elsewhere during the last four years).
He's had some memorable performances, and his fair share of disappointing ones, too. If he wins against his foe on Friday night, it would set up a trilogy bout against Alexander Shlemenko, but he didn't really do too well in the first two fights against the reigning middleweight champ.
Halsey, a Cal State Bakersfield wrestling alumnus, has found success in the sport of MMA, toppling six opponents without getting beaten.
This is a pretty even fight, with the veteran looking to chase the gold yet again as he must overcome a young up and coming talent. Halsey's wrestling could very well be a problem for Cooper, but the latter should be well rounded enough to cope with it come this weekend. Halsey doesn't quite lack striking abilities either, since his ground and pound finish of Hector Ramirez at Bellator 106 was impressive to watch.
It was his only finish via fists, despite being relatively good on the feet. He may not be able to hang against Cooper if they are trading, though, since "Fudoshin" is better in that area.
If the undefeated "Bull" can storm through Cooper with takedowns, he should be successful. But Cooper will probably take advantage of his willingness to trade, and work his way to a unanimous decision.
He does need to be careful; we've seen his lights go out before in an upset.
Final prediction: Cooper def. Halsey by unanimous decision
Welterweight tournament final: Andrey Koreshkov (16-1) vs. Adam McDonough (11-0)
At 16-1, Koreshkov is one of the best young fighters Bellator has under contract. A partner of Alexander Shlemenko's, "Spartan" has beaten all of his Bellator opponents but one, and that defeat was rather costly.
Ben Askren exposed the Russian's lack of ground game, and that could be his demise in future fights if he hasn't improved in that regard. He did bounce back in a big way when returning to the promotion, beating both Justin Baesman and Nah-Shon Burrell in less than three minutes combined, proving he's still extremely dangerous when throwing his limbs in your face.
He's facing another knockout specialist in Adam McDonough, who has a 55% finishing rate due to strikes. He's won six by knockout or technical knockout, and the undefeated "Big Gunna" raised some eyebrows after demolishing Nathan Coy at Bellator 116.
It's a tough fight to call, since both combatants can end a fight with one blow. McDonough does have the skill to defeat Koreshkov, yet the Russian should be able to grind out a victory against the tough American, providing he stays away from grappling.
"Spartan" seems destined to challenge Douglas Lima after this bout, which is a far better fight for him than "Funky."
Final prediction: Koreshkov def. McDonough via unanimous decision
This fight may not be significant when it comes to a title or a place in whichever ranking system you may or may not follow; yet, it's surely going to entertain the fandom, not to mention the bout being important for both Baroni and Parisyan.
The "New York Bad Ass" is beloved in many MMA circles, despite his lackluster record of 2-7 since 2009. You have to credit his willingness to give it another go after his disgusting ankle break against Nobutatsu Suzuki at One FC 9, but does the 32-fight veteran still have gas in the tank?
Parisyan's UFC days came to a disappointing end when he was brought back to fight Dennis Hallman at UFC 123 after overcoming his demons, yet his subpar record of 4-4 in his last eight contests can be seen as a positive. He did lose to Rick Hawn via punches in his first Bellator outing, but bounced back in a big way to knock out Ron Keslar at Bellator 116 earlier this year.
If we know one thing about Baroni, it's his eagerness to come out swinging early, and he still has power in his punches to hurt his opponents. However, the New Yorker does tire like someone who hasn't slept in two days after three minutes of ferocity, and the "Heat" will presumably take advantage of that if he fights a little smarter.
Chances are this fight will see both dudes slug it out for the opening sequences, yet if the Armenian can use his ground game to expose the slugger, he should be able to continue a winning streak and move to 4-1 in his last five.
Final prediction: Parisyan def. Baroni via technical knockout
Light Heavyweight tournament semi-final: Liam McGeary (7-0) vs. Egidijus Valavicius (27-10)
Valavicius may not be too popular when it comes to exchanging favorite fighters on a bar stool, yet he's still a tough fighter who has been doing most of his damage overseas.
He's only suffered one loss in his last 10 bouts, meaning he's a durable foe for most light heavyweights. As we saw in his last fight against Carlos Eduardo at Bellator 121, he defends takedowns well and has a good chin for his age.
He's definitely going to need a decent jaw against McGeary, who has knocked out four opponents in seven fights. The undefeated Englishman may be an older prospect, yet after his demolition of Mike Mucitelli at Bellator 118 (not to mention finishing four Bellator fights in the first round) was a potential sign of things to come in the organization's 205-pound division.
McGeary should win here, and if he can use his strength to smother the Lithuanian on the mat or against the cage, it would increase his chances. We haven't seen too much of the Renzo Gracie-trained fighter on the mat, yet chances are he's pretty good considering the man he trains under.
Expect Valavicius to put up a fight, though, and shoot early and often. Still, McGeary should continue his rise to prominence against his toughest opponent yet.
Final prediction: McGeary def. Valavicius via unanimous decision
There you have it. Leave your predictions in the comments section, and feel free to discuss how the "new and improved" Bellator will look.
Stay tuned for weigh-in results tomorrow, along with full Bellator 122 coverage all weekend long.