When Douglas Lima steps into the Bellator cage, it won’t be his first dance in an MMA tournament. In fact, Lima actually enjoys the format.

“I like it because we stay busy the whole time, if we’re not hurt,” Lima told The MMA Corner. “I can do that all day. I can fight every month.”

In the latter part of 2009 and early 2010, the Brazilian-born Atlanta native competed in a grand prix, spanning three events, in his hometown. It was a tournament that revitalized Lima’s career following a stretch in which he lost three of his previous four outings. The grand prix results bode well for the 18-4 Lima as he prepares to take on a tough field of competition in Bellator’s season five eight-man welterweight tournament.

It all started on Oct. 10, 2009, in the opening round of the Sin City Fight Club Redline Grand Prix. Lima submitted Eddie Hernandez via triangle choke in the first round of their quarterfinal match-up. With the win, Lima advanced to fight Clint Hester, who scored a 42-second knockout of his first tourney foe on the same night that Lima defeated Hernandez.

Lima celebrates his win over Cortez Coleman in the Redline Grand Prix finals (Sportfight X)

Lima would meet Hester just over a month later, battling the X3 Sports product for a full three rounds en route to a unanimous decision and a spot in the tournament finals. On the same night, Cortez Coleman took a decision over George Lockhart to advance opposite Lima.

That set up a March 2010 bout at “Sportfight X 1: Beatdown,” in which Lima worked for a split decision victory over the future Strikeforce competitor. The tournament proved to be a launching pad for bigger and better things for the American Top Team fighter, who signed with the Canadian-based Maximum Fighting Championship promotion and debuted for the organization a little less than six months after taking the split verdict over Coleman.

Under Mark Pavelich’s MFC banner, Lima went on to defeat Ryan Ford, claim the promotion’s welterweight belt with a win over Jesse Juarez and successfully defend the strap with a 74-second knockout of UFC veteran Terry Martin.

“I didn’t think (the fight with Martin) was going to go that fast, but I was very prepared,” said Lima, now riding a six-fight winning streak. “I like to finish fights like that.”

Then Bellator came calling, providing Lima with another tournament platform that could take his career to even greater heights.

Douglas (r) and brother Dhiego (Charles Penner/CombatCaptured)

While Douglas moves on to compete in Bellator, his brother, Dhiego, is preparing to step into the MFC ring against none other than Terry Martin. There’s a small bit of sibling rivalry involved, as Dhiego has promised to knock out Martin in even less time than it took Douglas.

“He has the skills to do it,” Douglas admitted. “I think if he connects early, that’s it. If not, it’s all good, he’ll win either way.”

Dhiego seeks to destroy Martin at MFC 31 on Oct. 7, following a similar path to that of his elder sibling. The MFC is touting Dhiego as only a win or two away from a welterweight title bid of his own. Fighting Martin, challenging for the 170-pound belt…could a contract with Bellator be the next thing the brothers share in common?

“No talks about that,” Douglas said. “My brother still has a contract under the MFC, so he’s not thinking about leaving or anything like that. It’s better to do one thing at a time. So far, he’s there and everything’s working out great for him.”

While Dhiego prepares for the next step in his career, Douglas begins his journey through Bellator’s 170-pound bracket Saturday at Bellator 49 with a quarterfinal match-up against Steve Carl.

Carl, who holds a career mark of 14-2, is no stranger to the tourney format either. He competed in the Bellator season two welterweight tournament, defeating Brett Cooper via split decision before falling in the semi-finals to Dan Hornbuckle by way of a kimura submission.

“(Carl) is a good grappler,” Lima said. “I think that’s where he’s most comfortable. But he’s also good striking. I think he hits hard.

“I’m prepared for him wherever the fight takes place – the ground, standing. It’s going to be a good fight for the fans. I’ll make it exciting.”

Lima locks in a triangle armbar to submit Jesse Juarez and claim the MFC welterweight crown (Maximum Fighting Championship)

Carl has not fought since August 2010, a layoff of just over a year. Lima doesn’t think it will factor into how the Team Hard Drive product performs in the cage.

“I don’t think about that,” admitted Lima. “Come fight night, he’ll be ready. It doesn’t matter if he’s been gone for a while. Maybe a little ring rust, but I don’t think that makes a difference in any fight. It doesn’t really matter.”

With Carl’s only two losses coming against the likes of Hornbuckle and UFC veteran Brian Foster, there’s no doubt that he’s a tough adversary for “The Phenom.” However, Lima remains confident that he can come out on top and advance to the next level on the bracket.

“I like to fight guys like that,” Lima said. “The guy’s tough, he’s been there. I train hard, I’m ready. I’m 100% in shape, I’m skilled. Not being cocky, but I feel unbeatable.”

The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt is preparing for the contest alongside his training partners at American Top Team Atlanta. A number of his teammates are readying for fights of their own, something Lima sees as an advantage in training for his Bellator debut.

“The camp has been really intense,” said Lima. “Everybody is getting ready, not just myself. That’s helping out a lot.”

With both Lima and Carl displaying a tendency to submit opponents, grappling could be a key element in this battle.

“I’d like to keep the fight standing a little, but if it goes to the ground, it’s all good, we’ll fight there as well,” Lima said. “I just want to make it exciting, you know? Some jiu-jitsu matches, some grappling matches, are not that fun to watch. But I’m going to make it a good show.”

If nothing else, Lima does think the fight will head to the ground at least once.

“I’m going to tap him out,” Lima said, predicting a submission finish over Carl.

While Lima cannot look beyond Steve Carl right now, there are six other welterweights that share a common goal with Lima and Carl: Winning the tournament. So, in Lima’s eyes, who is the man to beat?

“There is no favorite, in my opinion,” Lima admitted. “I don’t have anyone in particular that I think is the best. We’re all training hard for the same goal and there’s going to be some great fights.”

For the tournament winner, a shot at Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren awaits.

“He’s a great wrestler,” Lima said of Askren. “He mixes it up well. He’s got good jiu-jitsu, as well. He’s the man to beat over there. That’s what I’m going for. I want to go over there, win the tournament and go after him.”

If Lima should earn the title bid, he knows he’ll have a tough challenge on his hands in facing Askren.

“He’s definitely got better wrestling, there’s no question about it,” Lima said. “But I think I can do good on the ground. We just got to wait for that to happen. But I feel comfortable fighting him and I want to fight him someday.”

If Lima’s recent success and previous tournament experience is any indication, that day may not be far away.

Lima wants to thank all of his teammates and coaches at American Top Team Atlanta that have helped him get ready for his upcoming fight. He would also like to thank his fans.

Top Photo: Lima battles Terry Martin at MFC 29 (Canadian Press/Maximum Fighting Championship)