Bellator 94: Awad vs. Rickels preview for March 28 from Tampla, Florida

March 26, 2013


Bellator 94: Awad vs. Rickels preview for March 28 from Tampla, Florida

John Boldrick – Bellator 94 goes down Thursday night, and it’s an intriguing one, as two title shots are on the line. That’s right, two tournament finals, which means two new title challengers and two big cheques to be given away. The preliminary fights for this card add some flare as well. Number one ranked women’s strawweight is fighting, as well as always intriguing Felice Herring. Brazilian muai thai specialist Bruno Carvalho makes his state side debut while a man who debuted all the way back at UFC 14, Tony Fryklund, has his first fight since 2006. Enough with the pleasantries, on to the fights.

For the second week in a row, the main event is a lightweight tournament final. Last time out, Dave Jansen to win the season 7 tourney. This time, two men meet to see who takes home the season 8 crown and who will (eventually) get a shot at the champion.

It seemed like a drop in weight was just what the doctor ordered for David Rickels (13-1). A veteran of eight Bellator fights, Rickels had previously competed in the season six welterweight tournament. Things didn’t go too well at 170, as Rickels won his first round match-up before dropping a split decision to eventual tournament winner Karl Amoussou. Since then, Rickels is 3-0 (although two of those wins are over Jason Fischer. The 24 year-old Rickels trains out of Janjira Muai Thai, although it’s mostly his ground skills that secure the victory. Six of Rickels 13 wins have come via submission, with another five by way of decision.

Standing across the cage will be The Assassin. Saad Awad (14-4) has taken Bellator by storm. The total cage time of his two fights is just under a minute fifteen seconds, as he’s won both fights via (T) KO. Last time out, Saad trounced a tournament favourite in Will Brooks in just over 40 seconds. It’s been quite a tournament for the California native of Palestinian descent.

The more experienced of the two, Awad has some decent names on his record. Fights with Nam Phan, Joe Duarte and Karen Darabedyan may not have gone his way; they certainly allowed Awad to grown as a fighter. Since the bout with Duarte, Awad has put together a six fight winning streak, with four of the fights ending in the first round. Look for Awad to try and continue that trend here and get another quick KO. If the fight goes to the ground, Awad is equally adept, owning six career submission wins.

The co-main event of the evening is the light heavyweight tournament finals. Its battle between two fighters who knocked off (and knocked out) pre tournament favourites.

After Watching Emanuel Newton’s (20-7-1) last fight, it was a shock to learn the KO wasn’t his specialty. In the semi finals of the tournament, Newton delivered the shot heard round the Bellator world; a spinning back fist KO of King Mo Lawal. It was only Newton’s fourth win by KO, but he showed the world his striking is something to be fearful of. A veteran of almost as many fights as his age, the 29 year-old Newton looks to win the tourney and have a rematch with champion Attila Vegh. Vegh beat Newton before winning the last tournament and ultimately the championship.

This year, The Hardcore Kid is looking for revenge, and he’s pretty close. In addition to an array of unorthodox strikes and knockout power, Newton also possesses some ground skills. He has eight wins by submission, including six from rear naked chokes. Newton will have a two fight experience edge over his opponent.

Facing off against The Hardcore Kid will be the ever dangerous Mikhail Zayats (21-6). While he may have been previously best known for being head kicked by Vinny Magalhaes, Zayats has proved that a lot has changed since then. The first change is the look of his record. Zayats is currently sporting a seven fight win streak, six of which by finish. Since making the move to Bellator, Zayats is 2-0. In his first fight with the promotion, Zayats TKO’ed UFC and Strikeforce veteran Renato Sobral to advance. In the second round, Zayats choked out Jacob Noe, giving him a spot in the finals.

Zayats, like his opponent, is well versed in submissions. He has 11 wins from the tap. Unlike Newton, Zayats is a little more diverse, with wins by rear naked choke, arm bar and guillotine. The Russian fighter has as many wins by (T) KO as Newton, but sports two less fights. Zayats is certainly better liked by the judges than his foe, as he has only lost once when the fight went to the score cards.

The second bout of the broadcast sees a two-time Bellator combatant face off with a veteran making his debut for the promotion. Oklahoma born Trey Houston (10-1) returns to Bellator and hopes his next performance is more like his first. At his Bellator debut I n March 2012, Houston submitted Jeremiah Riggs with an armbar. The win earned Houston an invite back, but things didn’t go so well. Houston was submitted by Billy Horne at Bellator 78, giving him his first loss. This will be his first fight since the loss, so look for Houston to come out looking for vengeance. A proven finisher, Houston has never been to the judges in his 11 fight career.

Opposing him will be Brazilian Luis Melo (28-11). A veteran of almost 40 pro fights, Melo has kept himself mostly to the Brazilian circuit. While his record may not look spectacular, Melo is on a bit of a run, winning his last five. With double digit wins in (T) KO’s and submissions, Melo is dangerous wherever the fight ends up. He’s only been finished five times, proving to be durable, but doesn’t have the best track record when the fight goes to the judges. What may be most notable is that Melo appears to be the Brazilian Cody McKenzie; collecting nine wins with a guillotine choke. If Houston wants to take the fight down, he had better protect the neck, or else it will be a very short night.

The main card lead off will see an exciting fight between two bantamweights. Shark Fights champion Ronnie Mann (21-5-1) returns to the cage looking to stabilize his run in the promotion. After starting out with two straight wins, Mann has gone 1-2 in his last three. If there is one positive to take away from his recent outings, it’s that Mann has not been finished. It’s to be expected though, as the BJJ brown belt has only been stopped twice in his career. When Mann first signed to Bellator, it looked like he would be constantly in the title hunt; that hasn’t happened yet, although all it takes is a few good wins for the world traveling fighter to get there. Look for Mann to focus on top control in this one while going for submission when the opportunity presents itself. His opponent should also watch out for the triangle, as Iron Mann has a great one.

His opponent in this one will be the always game Rodrigo Lima (10-1). Lima is looking to get back into the win column as losing his previous fight to Hiroshi Nakamura. Much like his opponent, Lima excels in the submission game, coaxing the tap out from five opponents. Lima also has some standup skills, getting three (T) KO’s in his career. The Team Nogueira product will look to impress here, as he doesn’t want to fall to 0-2 in his Bellator career. The winner of this fight could very well be in line for a spot in the rumoured upcoming Summer Series bantamweight tournament.

Main Card

–          David Rickels vs. Saad Awad-  lightweight tournament finals

–          Emanuel Newton vs. Mikhail Zayats-  light heavyweight tournament final

–          Trey Houston vs. Luis Melo

–          Ronnie Mann vs. Rodrigo Lima



–          Shah Bobonis vs. Joe Taimanglo

–          Heather Clark vs. Felice Herrig

–          Jessica Aguilar vs. Patricia Vidonic

–          Rob Horton vs. Augusto Sakai

–          James Edson Berto vs. Bruno Carvalho

–          Ivan Devalle vs. Rory Shallcross

–          Patrick Cenoble vs. Tony Fryklund

–          Kenny Moss vs. Julien Williams


Follow John Boldrick on Twitter @JohnBJournalism



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