Bellator’s sixth season kicks off on Friday, March 9, from the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Ind. Headlining the event will be a featherweight title bout between current champion Joe Warren and Summer Series tournament champion Pat Curran.

Also on the card, will be the opening round of this season’s featherweight tournament. Eight elite 145-pound fighters will battle it out for a chance to take on the winner of the night’s main event at a later date. The field is full of Bellator veterans, including last season’s finalist Marlon Sandro.

On the night’s undercard, a number of UFC veterans will be in action. Longtime veteran Travis Wiuff looks to continue his Bellator success after handing current light heavyweight champion Christian M’Pumbu a decision loss in his last outing. Meanwhile, heavyweight Sean McCorkle and welterweight Shamar Bailey are looking to get back to the big show with impressive performances.

The night’s main card will air live on MTV2 at 8 p.m. ET. Undercard action streams on at 7 p.m. ET and continues after the main card at 10 p.m.

FW: Joe Warren (7-2) vs. Pat Curran (16-4) (for featherweight title)

It has been a tumultuous ride for Bellator’s featherweight kingpin Joe Warren. Since taking the belt from Joe Soto in late 2010, Warren narrowly defeated Marcos Galvao in a non-title fight at Bellator 41, and was brutally knocked out by Alexis Vila in last season’s bantamweight tournament. Now the Colorado-based fighter returns to the 145-pound division to take on Pat Curran.

Pat Curran (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Curran is the first fighter in Bellator history to win tournaments in separate weight divisions. After falling short against former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, he returned to the featherweight division and claimed the Summer Series crown. He was originally slated to be second in line for a crack at Warren, but an injury to Brazilian Patricio “Pitbull” Freire gave Curran the title shot.

Without a doubt, size will be a factor in this fight. With Warren competing at 135 pounds recently and Curran having success at 155 pounds, Curran will possess both a height and reach advantage in this match-up. In terms of skill, Warren is easily one of the most decorated wrestlers to ever enter MMA. Coupled with his cardio, Warren’s relentless pace will be his biggest asset in this bout.

For Curran, he’ll need to use his strong jiu-jitsu base and solid striking to keep the fight on the feet. He was able to do so against Alvarez, but could not match the former champion’s boxing technique.

Warren has survived some wars inside the Bellator cage and found a way to win, but against the larger Curran, surviving 25 minutes will be no easy task. When it’s all said and done, look for Curran to have his hand raised in victory as the new featherweight champion.

FW Tournament Quarterfinal: Marlon Sandro (20-3) vs. Roberto Vargas (12-1)

Marlon Sandro (R) throws a right hand (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Brazilian Marlon Sandro is looking to erase the memories of last year’s tournament final, where he was on the wrong end of a Pat Curran head kick. The former Sengoku champion will lock horns with wrestling stalwart Roberto Vargas.

Although Sandro possesses lethal hands, it may be his Nova Uniao black belt that serves the most purpose in this fight. His only career losses have come to Curran and two current UFC fighters, Michihiro Omigawa and Hatsu Hioki.

Vargas enters the tournament on a six-fight winning streak and also holds a victory over current UFC combatant Daniel Pineda. The California-based fighter will look to bring the fight to the mat, where he’s most comfortable.

Expect Vargas to give Sandro fits for a round, but eventually the Brazilian will showcase his superior skill set. Look for Sandro to score a second-round knockout victory.

FW Tournament Quarterfinal: Mike Corey (11-2-1) vs. Ronnie Mann (21-4-1)

Like Sandro, British fighter Ronnie Mann is hoping to fare better in this season’s tournament. Also a Sengoku veteran, he will be making his fifth Bellator appearance as he locks horns with Mike Corey.

Ronnie Mann (L) connects with a kick (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Unlike some fighters hailing from England, Mann possesses a strong submission game to complement his striking. Eleven of his 21 victories have come by way of tapout.

Corey will be making his featherweight debut, and like Mann, he is known for his skills on the mat. In his Bellator debut, Corey fought WEC veteran Chris Horodecki to a draw.

Something has to give in this fight, as both fighters prefer to finish with submissions. Corey’s size advantage will play a factor, as the former lightweight scores the tournament’s first upset by submitting Mann via triangle choke in the opening frame.

FW Tournament Quarterfinal: Alexandre Bezerra (12-1) vs. Kenny Foster (9-5)

Due to Brazilian Genair da Silva missing weight, Alexandre Bezerra will look to make it five straight wins inside the Bellator cage against Kenny Foster instead. Now da Silva will face Foster’s original opponent, Bobby Reardanz, instead.

Alexandre Bezerra (top) looks for a guillotine choke (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

The Brazilian Bezerra has been on a tear, finishing six of his last seven fights by submission. Combined with his five knockout victories, he has only seen the judges’ scorecards once in his career

Like his opponent, Foster will be making his fifth appearance under the Bellator banner. However, he has had mixed results, losing to both Ronnie Mann and Daniel Straus over the past year. He will look to snap a three-fight skid against the Brazilian.

Although Foster has been in the cage with some big names, he’s going to be overmatched in this fight. While Bezerra was in for a war against da Silva, he should cruise to victory with a first-round submission against Foster.

FW Tournament Quarterfinal: Jeremy Spoon (12-0) vs. Daniel Straus (17-4)

Daniel Straus (L) attempts a flying knee (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

The final fight of the opening round features a clash of styles as undefeated submission ace Jeremy Spoon takes on hard-nosed wrestler Daniel Straus.

Straus fell short in his last tournament appearance, losing to current No. 1 contender Patricio Freire. Ten of Straus’ 17 wins have come by decision, and his grind-it-out style has frustrated a number of opponents.

Spoon will enter the tournament with 12 wins, with eight coming by submission. However, he has yet to face an opponent of Straus’ caliber.

The wrestling of Straus will be too much, as he takes home another decision win and hands Spoon the first loss of his career.

Preliminary Card

215-pound Catchweight: Anthony Gomez (5-1) vs. Travis Wiuff (65-14)

Well-rounded journeyman Travis Wiuff will look to use his significant experience advantage to get the best of Anthony Gomez, who is making his promotional debut. Expect Wiuff to trade with Gomez, before scoring a takedown and finishing the fight from top position.

280-pound Catchweight: Sean McCorkle (15-2) vs. Richard White (15-12)

UFC vet Sean McCorkle is out for blood against Richard White following a large amount of trash-talking between the two superheavyweights. Ten of McCorkle’s 15 wins have come by submission, whereas White has been forced to tap in nine of his 12 losses. The outcome of this one should be crystal clear.

166-pound Catchweight: Shamar Bailey (13-5) vs. Josh Shockley (8-1)

Although Josh Shockley may be the more well-rounded fighter, he will be at a disadvantage in the wrestling department against UFC veteran Shamar Bailey. Shockley will do some damage on the feet, but ultimately Bailey will take the fight to the mat en route to a decision victory.

BW: Cory Galloway (0-0) vs. Jake Nauracy (0-0)

Two bantamweights making their professional debuts will clash in the opening bout of the evening. Both fighters finished their amateur careers undefeated. Team Curran product Cory Galloway submitted two of his four opponents, while Torres Martial Arts Academy-trained Jake Nauracy submitted all three of his. One of them will walk away with their first pro win on Friday night.

Top Photo: Joe Warren (R) delivers a right hand (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

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