Friday, October 12, 2012

Bellator 76 picks: The end of one man's era

Bellator and I have an inconsistent relationship, to be sure.

While I did preview all of their events for months, I did miss the final Season Six event in May, the premiere event two weeks ago and the entire Summer Series.

Last week was Bellator's first time in a while where I was paying attention to them, and I will say that they didn't disappoint (though Brett Rogers did and shows now signs of changing that sentiment),

Today's event, however, marks a big day in that it is Eddie Alvarez's final fight before his contract expires.

Both he and Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney seem to understand pretty clearly that Alvarez will be in UFC by early next year. So this fight with Patricky Freire means a great deal for the company.

Freire was in the final of the Lightweight Tournament before losing to Michael Chandler, who in turn was the first man in the company to defeat Alvarez. Since that Round 4 submission, Alvarez hasn't been in any Lightweight tournaments and it appears will never get a return match, instead looking for the biggest challenges of the biggest company.

But Freire wants to win this for his own reputation, which could, in turn, help Bellator's reputation. If a clear Top 15 lightweight can't beat two men in Bellator, then it speaks volumes about the division. I am sure Rebney would love to see his product given a spike through this, especially with the move to Spike TV happening in January.

Looking at the fight, however, I see this as Alvarez's statement fight. While Freire is an elite BJJ practitioner (holding a black belt), he is significantly more one-dimesional whereas Alvarez is a complete fighter who has elite skills in multiple styles, specifically boxing and wrestling.

While Freire exudes the style that Alvarez has struggled with, I don't think he will be able to exploit the same weaknesses. Alvarez will look for the finish early and often, and I pick Alvarez by KO 1.

Rest of the Main Card - All Featherweight Tournament bouts

Rad Martinez v. Nazareno Malegarie - Experience in tournament is the difference-maker. Malegarie by Submission Round 2.

Akop Stepanyan v. Wagnney Fabiano - Stepanyan started his career 0-3 and has been 12-0 since. Not sure how you make that happen, but the man is a legit boxer, kickboxer and a tae kwon do black belt. Fabiano is a 3rd degree black belt, but once again, I take the multi-disciplined fighter by decision.

Mike Richman v. Jeremy Spoon - Spoon won't botch two straight tournament openers. I'll take him by decision.

Cody Bollinger v. Shahbulat Shamhalaev - Kind of the toss-up fight of the bunch, as neither has a vibrant history of success. I'll go with Bollinger because of his wrestling background, and I'll give him a decision, but I'm not solid on either really.

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