The Bellator Fighting Championships heads to the Horseshoe Riverdome in Bossier City, Louisiana for Bellator 61 this Friday, March 16th. The event features the Season 5 heavyweight final between Thiago “Big Monster” Santos and Eric “The American Soldier” Prindle, as well as, the quarterfinal round of the Season 6 middleweight tournament.
The main card for Bellator 61 will air live on MTV2 and EPIX HD at 8:00pm ET while the preliminary card will stream free on Spike.com at 7:00pm ET.
Thiago Santos vs. Eric Prindle (Season 5 Heavyweight Final)
The heavyweights will look to finish what they started at Bellator 59 in November 2011. That bout was stopped after just 84 seconds after Santos landed a shot to the groin of Prindle while he was on his back. Prindle was unable to continue and the bout was ruled a no-contest. The winner of the bout will earn a title shot against current heavyweight champion Cole Konrad.
Prindle (7-1, 1 NC)earned his spot in the finals following a unanimous decision over Abe Wagner and a 40 second knockout of Ron Sparks. Prior to the no-contest against Santos, Prindle had won seven consecutive fights with five coming by stoppage. Santos (10-1, 1 NC) wasted in no time in securing his place in the finals as he recorded two quick first round submissions. He would record rear-naked choke submissions over Josh Burns in 2:28 and Neil Grove in just :38 seconds.
Both heavyweights have the power to finish the other standing and Prindle may have a slight edge on his feet. However, it will be the ground game that dictates the bout and this is where the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Santos will hold the edge. Prindle was taken down quickly by Santos in their first meeting. Expect that trend to continue as Santos take the tournament title with a second round submission win.
Norman Paraisy vs. Maiquel Falcao (Middleweight Quarterfinal)
The hard-hitting Falcao (28-4, 1 NC) enters the bout with ten wins in his last eleven outing. This includes his lone win while in the UFC over Gerald Harris at UFC 123. Falcao looks to finish fights with vicious striking that has accounted for 23 wins by technical/knockout for his career. Paraisy (11-1-1, 1 NC) is unbeaten in his past six bouts which includes a unanimous decision victory over Paulo Filho. Paraisy appeared on The Ultimate Fighter 11 but failed to earn his way into the house when he was defeated by James Hammortree in the elimination bout when he did not answer the bell for the second round. Expect Falcao to dictate the fight and make a statement in the tournament by coming out aggressively. If that is the case then look for him to earn a quick first round finish.
Vitor Vianna vs. Brian Rogers (Middleweight Quarterfinal)
Vianna (12-2-1) and Rogers (8-3) were both competitors in the Season 5 middleweight tournament. Vianna advanced to the finals with a spit decision win over Sam Alvey and a technical knockout of Bryan Baker. He would lose a decision to Alexander Shlemenko in the finals. Rogers scored a technical knockout win over Victor O’Donnell to advance to the semifinals where he was stopped by Shlemenko. Rogers will want to keep the fight standing to avoid the ground game of Vianna. Rogers will fend off early takedown attempt while having success standing against Vianna. However, Vianna turns the tide midway through the fight as he controls the action on the ground on the way to a very close decision win.
Vyacheslav Vasilevsky vs. Victor O’Donnell (Middleweight Quarterfinal)
O’Donnell (11-3) also competed in last years tournament where he was defeated by Rogers by technical knockout which many considered a bad stoppage. He also appeared on The Ultimate Fighter 11 where he was defeated in the elimination round. O’Donnell has recorded nine of his career wins by submission. Vasilevsky (15-1), on a 14 fight win streak, is a former M-1 Global light heavyweight champion and he has a strong Sambo background. He should have the advantage standing and in the clinch, as well as, in the strength category. Expect a stalemate in the clinch and on takedowns as Vasilevsky’s stand-up leads him to a decision win and possible late TKO.
Giva Santana vs. Bruno Santos (Middleweight Quarterfinal)
Submission specialist “The Arm Collector” Santana (17-1) last competed at Bellator 53 where he notched a first round armbar win over Darryl Cobb. Santana has recorded 14 of his career wins by submission. Against the undefeated Santos (12-0) he will have to deal with a grinder who has earned decisions in ten of his bouts. Santos’ strength may be effective in the clinch and on top. However, when the fight hits the ground Santana will eventually add another arm to his collection.