Friday night, Bellator Fighting Championships kicked off its sixth season live on MTV2 and Epix in HD, as well as Epix2, with its 145-pound featherweight tournament to decide the next challenger to the Bellator featherweight title, belonging to the newly crowned champion Pat Curran.

The season-six tournament bouts featured Marlon Sandro submitting Roberto Vargas, Daniel Strauss and Jeremy Spoon going to a closely-contested decision, Ronnie Mann being upset by Mike Corey and Alexandre Bezerra making the most of a short-notice fight against Kenny Foster.

All four men are now through to the featherweight semifinals, where the winner of this season’s tournament will meet Curran at a to-be-determined date.

With that being said, Yours Truly would like to introduce himself to you, the fans of The MMA Corner, by giving you a smooth-sailing round of predictions for how the season-six Bellator featherweight tournament semifinals will play out after tonight, and with Patricio “Pitbull” Freire next up for the new champion, this look ahead into the finals will also have an exclusive and official prediction as to how Curran’s first title defense will go when Freire makes his much-anticipated return to the Bellator cage.

Semifinal: Marlon Sandro (21-3) vs. Daniel Straus  (18-4)

Marlon Sandro moved through to the semifinals with a submission win over Roberto Vargas via a rear-naked choke, but the set-up to the tap out was the muay Thai.

When Vargas got dropped hard, Sandro looked for the TKO finish, but couldn’t find a way to get it without hitting the back of the head. So he got a hook in and found the opening for the rear-naked choke, which forced the tap.

Next up for Sandro in this tournament?

The natural choice is Daniel Straus, who took all three rounds by bullying Jeremy Spoon for the duration of the bout, not only by using his wrestling to exhaust Spoon, but also by throwing an unrelenting wave of strikes that kept Spoon on his bike. Even though the second round was a close enough round to the point of giving it to Spoon, there seemed little doubt that Straus had won the fight.

He may have bullied Spoon around, and he is by far and away the only person in this tournament who could overpower Sandro with his wrestling; he’s that much better of a wrestler than Vargas, but he’s not going to be able to bully the jiu-jitsu black belt regardless of where this one goes.

It won’t be easy for Sandro, who may do well to prepare himself for the takedowns of Straus if indeed the two meet in the semifinals. But should Sandro face Straus, “The Monster of Rio”  will have an answer for Straus’ wrestling, and he will edge out Straus with the attempts he does make to move forward and push the season-four finalist.

Prediction: Marlon Sandro by Unanimous Decision – 29-28

Semifinal: Mike Corey (12-2-1) vs. Alexandre Bezerra (13-1)

Alexandre Bezerra had a good night at Bellator 60, as did dark horse Mike Corey…Kenny Foster, not so much, and ditto for tourney favorite Ronnie “Kid Ninja” Mann.

Some days, I wonder if Mann is just a flyweight fighting at featherweight, partially due to the fact that he actually looks a little bit like an adolescent every time he steps in the cage.

Sarcasm aside, Mann was a kid that came to fight right out of the gate, arguably taking the first round, but a late takedown in the first round set up what was to come in the second and third rounds, both of which saw Mann get taken down and pinned down while getting the worse end of the ground-and-pound en route to a unanimous decision win in which all three judges had it 29-28 for Corey.

There’s still a lot for this kid to show the world against Bezerra, who schooled a lot of new fans by showing people what he could do when he was paired up against someone with the quickness and hand speed of Foster, who stepped in for Genair da Silva when da Silva came in at 149 pounds.

The problem might be that, as dominant as Corey was against Mann, he may not find the same success against Bezerra, who will hurt a heart-fueled Corey for at least two of the three five-minute rounds and wrap the fight up by TKO early in the third frame.

Prediction: Alexandre “PoPo” Bezerra by TKO (Punches) in Round 3

Final: Marlon Sandro (22-3 at time of the final) vs. Alexandre Bezerra (14-1 at time of the final)

Sandro has all the determination needed to make it all the way in this tournament, and henceforth, he will proceed with caution against Straus, coming in technical with his striking despite appearing flat-footed to some and unhinged with his rather wild head movement.

Don’t let that movement fool you, though; Sandro may not come out stoic and quiet when he leaves his corner and approaches the center of the cage, but he can damn sure keep his composure and stay technical on the feet until he knows his man is hurt badly.

Should Sandro and Bezerra both make the final, Sandro has the power to do just that against the jiu-jitsu master with the loaded cannons in his hands, but at the time of this final, Bezerra will ride the strength of an unfathomable nine-fight winning streak against the strength of the third instance of a three-fight win streak for “The Monster of Rio.”

In a perfect world, this one would end in a majority draw and would make for the early “Fight of 2012,” but someone’s going to have to go, and as much as Bezerra has riding on this tournament, Sandro came to Bellator for some gold. He’s in this featherweight tournament because he knew it was possible that maybe Pat Curran would be waiting for him with the coveted 145-pound strap on his shoulder.

Would Sandro feel comfortable going all the way to the end only to drop a game-changing featherweight final and his chance to avenge his only knockout loss while earning the Bellator featherweight title?

No, he wouldn’t? I didn’t think so either.

Predicted winner and Bellator season-six featherweight tournament champion: Marlon Sandro by Submission (Anaconda Choke) in Round 2

Bellator Featherweight Title Fight: Champion Pat Curan vs. Challenger Patricio “Pitbull” Freire

You all should know right now, if you don’t know my work already, that I am one of the most openly-biased people in the world when it comes to the Team Nogueira and Nova Uniao camps. As a matter of fact, there are very, very few times in which I will ever pick against anyone associated with the team we commonly know as Black House MMA.

However, as much as I like to watch the consistently high-octane performances of Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, and come fight time, I may somehow change my pick to Freire, I did say my picks would be official, and officially, I will say that this one ends close.

I will say on the record that despite my bias, I will still have some urge to give at least three out of the five five-minute rounds to Freire based on his aggression, effective striking and Bellator cage control, whereas Curran will take two rounds clearly based on his takedowns, his effective use of his reach, and his ability to remain active on the ground.

Do not be surprised if the explosive Freire wins this fight on your card as well, but if you aren’t convinced that Curran is a young 24-year-old knockout kid who can lay out even Freire, you don’t know Pat Curran.

He cut Toby Imada open, he made Eddie Alvarez dig deep for a win in what many considered a cakewalk, and he went through Luis Palomino, Ronnie Mann and Marlon Sandro before knocking out Joe Warren and becoming the champion.

It should never surprise anyone to see Freire get a convincing victory, especially if he shuts down Curran in this fight, which will be Freire’s first since his season-four tournament final against Daniel Straus. But that this is Freire’s first bout since Straus raises some questions that we have to approach with a double-edged sword.

This will be a close one and will hit the judges. There will be some controversy as to who really won, but at the end of the day, Pat Curran will remain Bellator featherweight champion. Then, if Sandro should prevail in the tournament, the rematch of one of the shockers of 2011 will happen with the Bellator featherweight belt at stake.

Prediction: The bout ends in a split decision, but somehow Curran retains the belt (Judges: 48-47, 50-45, 47-48 Freire)

Top Photo: Pat Curran (R) raises his hand in triumph after knocking out Joe Warren to capture the Bellator featherweight crown (Bellator Fighting Championships)

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.