All participants in the Bellator season five heavyweight tournament made weight today for Saturday’s Bellator 52 event, which takes place at the L’Auberge du Lac Casino Resort in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The main card will air on MTV2, with HD being offered on Epix, and the preliminary bouts being aired on Spike.com.
Each participant will be vying for the $100,000 prize and a shot at heavyweight champion Cole Konrad.
The heavyweight tournament is headlined by season three champion Neil Grove (pictured), who will be facing Mike “300” Hayes. Grove has powerful striking and utilizes his 6’6″ frame well to land power shots at range. On the ground, Grove is not afraid to throw strikes off his back and loves to unload with powerful ground and pound from the top. His main weaknesses are exposing himself to takedowns with wild strikes and a submission defense that is based more on powering out rather than technique.
His opponent, Mike Hayes, will look to expose both. As Hayes fight with Alexy Olenik showed, just being on top does not guarentee a win. Hayes will have to be cautiously active with the big South African fighter.
Also on the card, are a pair of TUF season 10 fighters in Abe Wagner and the often bullied (on the show) Zak Jensen. Wagner has gone 3-2 since the show, with his only losses being to current UFC fighters Aaron Rosa and heavyweight prospect Travis Browne, and a notable 32-second win over former UFC champion Tim Sylvia. Wagner faces former US Army boxer Eric Prindle Saturday night in a match-up that should be a stand up war. Jensen has been mediocre since his troubled stint on TUF, going 3-4, but his last fight against Neil Grove was obviously impressive enough to earn a shot in the tournament after an injury to Thiago “Big Monster” Santos. Both fighters put on an exciting but less than technical display at Bellator 47 this past July. Jensen’s opponent is one of two potential darkhorses in the bracket in Blagoi Ivanov.
Blagoi Ivanov is largely known as the man who dethroned Fedor Emelianenko en route to winning the World Sambo Championships in 2008. Ivanov entered MMA soon after and despite being undefeated, has had a rather odd route to the US. In only his second professional fight he and noted grappler Ilir Latifi broke the ring in their Bulgarian hosted fight and in his third fight Ivanov broke both his hands on former PRIDE fighter Kazuyuki “Ironhead” Fujita’s head. After having to be sidelined for a year to recover, Ivanov is 2-0 since returning. Expect aggressive and the looping power strikes native to sambo from Ivanov with a strong ground attack.
The final darkhorse is powerhouse Ron “the Monster” Sparks. Sparks is a throwback heavyweight with exceptional power that makes up for sometimes lacking technique. Sparks has one punch knock out power both on his fett and on the ground. His aggression usually puts fighters on their heels and often out of position. If his fight with Mark Holata gets past the first round I will be surprised.
Main Card (MTV2, Epix for HD)
Heavyweight tourney quarterfinals
- Neil Grove (265.5) vs. Mike Hayes (228)
- Blagoi Ivanov (244) vs. Zak Jensen (265)
- Abe Wagner (247.5) vs. Eric Prindle (265.5)
- Mark Holata (258) vs. Ron Sparks (263)
Preliminary Card (Spike.com)
- *Genair da Silva (150.8) vs. Bryan Goldsby (144.4)
- Josh Quayhagen (156) vs. *Cosmo Alexander (157)
- Liron Wilson (227.4) vs. Justin Frazier (263)
- Matt Van Buren (204.2) vs. *Nick Nichols (213.6)
*Each fighter had two hours from first weigh-in to make weight or face fine/cancellation. Many of the prelims were put together on short notice.