Bellator Fighting Championships middleweight landscape is in a state of flux as we enter their sixth season â€“ This Friday we take the first step in crowning their fourth tournament champion at 185-pounds but before we know it could be a division without a ruler.
Reigning champion Hector Lombard is currently without a contract and the time is ticking for Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney to lock down the consensus top-ten middleweight.
Rebney stated that Lombard and Bellator are in an exclusive negotiating period that will finish in late April, if a deal isnâ€™t met by then Lombard will enter a 30 day matching period where he can take offers from other promoters with Rebney given the opportunity to match his offer.
Another issue arises with former title-challenger Alexander Shlemenko who has already punched his ticket to challenge for the title, if Lombard moves on to greener pastures he will be stuck in purgatory waiting for the winner of this season to crown the first middleweight king not named Hector Lombard.
The division may be at a crossroads but there are eight talented 185-pounders looking to hold that piece of gold in the future, letâ€™s take a look at who we have squaring off this coming Friday.
Some of you may remember Falcao from his lone UFC appearance on the main card of UFC 123 when he upset hot prospect Gerald Harris who was unbeaten in the elite middleweight division beforehand â€“ The Brazilian knockout artist never fought again for the UFC though due to an arrest for an assault charge from 2002.
Since leaving the confines of the UFC he has competed three times in his native land knocking out two Brazilians with a single defeat to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion Antonio Braga Neto.
Falcao has a lot of experience under his belt with 23 knockouts to his credit he comes to put you to sleep but he is also a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with submissions to his credit also â€“ While he has faced some quality opposition in Brazil he will be facing some tough competition in this tournament.
Paraisy makes his return to Bellator for the first time since he was eliminated by former UFC champ Dave Menne in the quarter-finals of their inaugural welterweight tournament in 2009 but has not tasted defeat since.
The Frenchman has collected five victories outside of the Bellator cage with four stoppages and a victory over former WEC middleweight champion Paulo Filho to earn his return back to the Chicago-based organizations circular cage.
Itâ€™s been a rough road for Paraisy, the 25-year-old didnâ€™t succeed on the eleventh installment of The Ultimate Fighter and hasnâ€™t tasted victory inside a major organization but with his muay-thai striking and submission skills he could be a sleeper in this tournament.
Vianna enters the season six series as the odds-on favorite to win the crown â€“ The aggressive Brazilian power-puncher edged Sam Alvey before obliterating Brian Rogers to advance to the semi-finals of last seasonâ€™s tournament before failing to beat Alexander Shlemenko.
Although most consider Vianna a striker because of his high-paced muay-thai skills his bread-and-butter is his jiu-jitsu â€” The two-time World Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion and a six-time National jiu-jitsu champion in Brazil has managed to put it all together to make him a threat to anyone at 185-pounds.
Vianna represents Wand Fight Team learning the tricks of the trade under the tutelage of former Pride middleweight champ and pound-for-pound star Wanderlei Silva and will give a rough night to anyone whether they want to stand and trade or take him down.
Rogers snapped his seven-bout unbeaten streak in the semi-finals of last seasonâ€™s middleweight tournament losing to eventual winner Alexander Shlemenko.
Rogers became known for his do-or-die attitude when it comes to fighting with each of his victories coming by stoppage in the opening stanza â€“ The special education teacher and has been fighting since 2008 racking up an 8-3 record.
Whether he wins or loses you know it will be an action-packed bash-up derby when he comes to fight that has garnered him a cult-following online and he looks to continue to deliver the violence he showed in his smashing of Victor Oâ€™Donnel with a head kick and a series of punches.
Vasilevsky first became known in the M-1 Global organization where he became their first light-heavyweight champion â€“ The once beaten Russian brings a fourteen bout win streak into the blue cage and could be the ultimate wild card.
Despite competing at light-heavyweight for a large portion of his career he weighs-in around the 190-pound range making his more suited to be a middleweight.
Vasilevsky could be the ultimate wild card in this tournament because we havenâ€™t seen him face high-level competition fighting in the European market with his biggest wins coming over Tomasz Narkun and UFC veteran Xavier Foupa-Pokam.
With one of the most impressive resumes out there parlayed with his superior, lightning-quick boxing technique you canâ€™t deny him moving into this series, we just donâ€™t know if he has what it takes to play with the big boys yet.
Oâ€™Donnel enters this series with nothing to lose, pundits, fans and industry insiders arenâ€™t giving the Ohioan much of a shot in this stacked eight-man tournament â€“ His first mainstream exposure came on The Ultimate Fighter when he failed to win his way into the house.
He made his Bellator debut last year being stopped for the first time in his career by Brian Rogers and now gets a shot at redemption when he faces the highly touted European prospect.
Training out of Team Vision with the likes of Strikeforce Challengers product Roger Bowling and featherweight semi-finalist Daniel Straus he will come prepared to deliver a big upset and make a statement at 185-pounds.
Santana is best known by the moniker â€śThe Arm Collectorâ€ť due to 13 opponents that have fallen prey to the deadly arm bar submission hold â€“ The once beaten Brazilian rides a six-fight win streak into this quarter-final affair with his last win coming over Darryl Cobb to earn his place in this eight-man field.
The Irvine, California native is a seven-year pro who has competed on some of the biggest stages including M-1 Global, Elite XC, Tachi Palace Fights and now Bellator.
Sharpening his skills at one of the most underrated camps in North America, Team Oyama he locks horns with the likes of Shane Del Rosario, Robert Emerson and Ian McCall on a regular basis and will be looking to execute his favorite maneuver, letâ€™s just hope he has a plan B ready if it doesnâ€™t go to plan.
The last combatant to round out this middleweight field is Bruno Santos â€“ Unbeaten in twelve professional fights in his home land of Brazil he joins the Bellator ranks after a four-year stint overseas.
Santos has been to the judgesâ€™ cards in all but two of his pro fights, the jiu-jitsu stylist likes to apply his craft on the floor although he hasnâ€™t had a submission victory since his debut in 2007.
The Ze Mario Team product will put his undefeated record on the line this Friday and comes in with a lot to prove, he has failed to impress against a series of D-level Brazilian talent and it isnâ€™t know yet how he will fare stepping up to the Bellator middleweights.
All the action goes down this Friday night on MTV2 and Epix with the preliminary portion streaming on Spike.com â€“ Keep it locked to MMASucka.com for your full coverage on that packed Friday night of fights.
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