After a two-month hiatus, Bellator returns this Wednesday night to kick off their 2013 Summer Series tournaments. Unlike past summers that focused on only one weight class, this season brings us two abbreviated four-man brackets in the heavyweight and light-heavyweight divisions.
All of the light-heavy entrants are returning from the recent Season 8 tourney, though none made it past the semifinals. Seth Petruzelli may have been taken out of that season early by Jacob Noe, but it still seems very presumptuous for bookies to peg “King Mo” Lawal as high as a 15-1 favourite, especially right after his epic fail against an even less heralded opponent. Will ol’ Petz slay another Kimbo? Hard to say, but he’s probably worth a gamble.
I dig “Babalu” Sobral for unknown reasons, but considering he’s now 37 and has lost three of his last five by first round KO’s (at least two of which were frightening to behold), his odds against the afore-mentioned Jacob Noe, who hasn’t seen the second round in six straight fights, may not be good. Then again, Noe was himself subbed out in the first round last time, and subs are Babalu’s bread n’ açaí.
Meanwhile in the heavyweight bracket, Season 7 finalist Rich Hale takes on semifinalist Vinicius “Spartan” Kappke de Queiroz, while Ron Sparks returns from his first loss way back in Season 5 to face the undefeated Russian sambo champ Vitaly Minakov.
But first… War Machine, baby. Stepping into a cage willingly should be a welcome change for Machine (or should we call him War?), as his many legal problems have kept him so busy fighting The Man that he’s fought in MMA only once in three years. Rung-rust will surely be a hindrance, but luckily his opponent Blas Avena has only tasted victory thrice in his last nine bouts, so they’re not exactly throwing Machine to the wolves here. Even luckier, his many nutty public statements, meltdowns, and prison blogs have apparently drawn enough eyeballs that a TUF also-ran who washed out of the UFC five years ago is worthy of a spot on the main card. Any press is good press, I guess.
UPDATE: Bellator has suddenly announced that Vinicius “Spartan” has dropped out with a knee injury, to be replaced by Ryan Martinez. Martinez is 2-1 in Bellator, and most recently blasted Travis Wiuff in 18 seconds in March, but this will be his first entry into a tournament.
[Bracket diagrams courtesy of Bellator]