Bellator 61 concluded last night with an evening of spectacular action in the first bout of the main card, two very heated bouts in the midcard, and a fantastic main event.

In the end, Brian Rogers knocked out Vitor Vianna, Bruno Santos earned a hard-fought decision over Giva Santana, Vyacheslav Vasilevsky took two very dominant rounds away from a heart-fueled Victor O’Donnell, and Maiquel Falcao put Norman Paraisy through high volumes of physical hell-fire via his striking in earning a unanimous decision victory against the European MMA prospect.

After the season-six Bellator tournament quarterfinals that take place every Friday night live on MTV2 and EPIX in HD, The MMA Corner will provide you with an exclusive prediction of the semifinals, finals and the title fight in each division.

Sometimes, we get it in before Bellator makes their move, sometimes we get it just before they’ve made their moves official, and sometimes we get it in at just about the same time.

Did we get it right this time?

Find out in this week’s edition of The Last-Minute Finish!

Semifinal: Brian Rogers vs. Bruno Santos

Giva Santana got the better of Bruno Santos in the stand-up in the first round and stalked him with intentions to finish, but got pinned up against the cage.

Nevertheless, the first round seemed in Santana’s favor, and he made the second round look close despite a big takedown and what appeared like a Fujiwara armbar — it was actually the Waki-Gatame, which is the name for a sit-out armbar in Judo circles — but the third round seemed clear for Santos, aside from a last-minute leg lock attempt.

Santos did a more effective job of grinding Santana out and getting him to slow down as the fight progressed, and Santos seemed a little bit more aggressive to the judges as the fight carried on. But what he showed in a smart game plan, he lacked in a killer instinct.

Next up for Santos should be a fighter who can test Santos on the feet and give us a great idea of whether there is any killer instinct in the now 13-0 fighter, and that man should be none other than Brian “The Predator” Rogers.

Vitor Vianna’s quarterfinal bout with Rogers tonight initially started off as a “Fight of The Night” candidate on paper, but as Jimmy Smith pointed out, Vianna’s experience would not be easy to overcome for Rogers.

However, instead of being one half of the best fight of the televised broadcast, Vianna was the recipient of the arguable Bellator 61 moment, which came after Rogers dictated the fight with his aggressive striking, defended Vianna’s takedown attempts, and even got a hip toss before he rocked Vianna and laid him out cold with a big knee at the end.

The big difference is going to be the killer instinct of Rogers if he should draw Santos, as Santos can definitely grind Rogers out against the cage and slow down the quick finisher for a unanimous decision or a late-fight TKO. But to beat Rogers by anything but a decision, Santos needs his killer instinct.

Bear-hugging Santana and escaping a sitout armbar is impressive from a defensive standpoint, but against an offensive-minded fighter like Rogers, the lack of a killer instinct means Rogers may repeat the impact of his win over Vianna — and might even surpass it by hurting Santos badly and laying him out cold with a hard right hand.

Prediction: Brian Rogers by second-round KO (Punches)

Semifinal: Maiquel Falcao vs. Vyacheslav Vasilevsky

Victor O’Donnell showed great movement and good takedowns as well as good submission awareness — as expected — but in the second round of a fight that started off about the way O’Donnell wanted to start, Vyacheslav Vasilevsky dropped O’Donnell and took what many could’ve seen as a 10-8 round.

The third showed O’Donnell’s true heart, as he hung on until the final bell despite taking enough punishment to warrant a TKO win by doctor’s stoppage, but Vasilevsky definitely came with his technical striking on point and especially with his boxing game as proper as he could get it.

I wouldn’t disagree with Jimmy Smith’s card of 30-25, as I understand giving Vasilevsky props for the comeback in the first round. I had it 29-27 for Vasilevsky.

In all likelihood, Maiquel Falcao — victorious over Norman Paraisy by unanimous decision — is next for “The Crushin’ Russian.”

Paraisy gave up some experience to Falcao, who walked out to the middle of the cage and got the takedown early in the fight. But for three rounds, Falcao established himself as the more aggressive, more dangerous, and just the all-around better fighter.

Against the Russian import, the hope is strong for a competitive stand-up battle, but speed counts and speed kills, and as much as some would definitely hate to see a kid with Vasilevsky’s end potential drop out early to Falcao’s striking, that rapid-fire striking offense could be the big difference.

Vasilevsky will make this one as close a bout as any we’ve seen in Bellator, and there will be times when we think Falcao could look hurt, but at the end of the fight, Falcao will move through to the finals — not because of what he does with his striking, but how fast he operates with it.

Prediction: Maiquel Falcao by split decision (29-27, 29-28, 27-29)

Final: Maiquel Falcao vs. Brian Rogers

Falcao and Rogers are two of the favorites to win the whole tournament, and with Giva Santana out of the running early, the question now is whether Falcao can prevail or Rogers can move through to his long-awaited title fight.

Rogers is a phenom with plenty to offer, but as much as I hate to say Rogers is going out early — and I hate to deny him the possibility of pulling off the shocker of the tournament — the truth is that nobody in this tournament will pressure Rogers the way Falcao can and will pressure him.

Just like with Vasilevsky, Falcao’s hand speed will be the fight-altering factor that swings the tide in his favor. But this time, it will result in Rogers backing up against the cage and eventually falling like a tree before his lights go out quick and Falcao earns his shot at a vacant Bellator middleweight title.

Prediction: Maiquel Falcao by first-round KO (Strikes)

Bellator Middleweight Title Fight: Maiquel Falcao vs. Alexander Shlemenko

With the lure of the UFC calling Hector Lombard, it seems doubtful that Lombard will re-sign with Bellator to rematch Alexander Shlemenko, but when the UFC calls, it’s not a duck.

Let’s just shut down that “duck theory” right now — it may look, walk, talk and act like a duck, but a call to the UFC is a call to the UFC, and for Shlemenko, that means that he might not face a familiar opponent for the Bellator middleweight title. In the long run, that makes things a lot more interesting.

Falcao will have the edge in the hand speed and aggressiveness, as he possesses one of the most insane killer instincts in MMA right now, but Shlemenko possesses an underrated submission game in addition to a solid chin and some great creative striking of his own.

Shlemenko has gone five rounds before, and he’s unquestionably trained for someone with explosive power and heavy hands, but he’s never faced a man with the hands of Falcao.

With the chin he has though, it would not be surprising to see Shlemenko take the most punishment he’s ever had to withstand, only to come back for more in what might not only be the most action-packed middleweight fight of Bellator’s 2012, but also the bout that could change the game in the middleweight scene of Bellator Fighting Championships.

At the end of five rounds, Falcao will land plenty more combinations, but the grappling and submission skills of Shlemenko will pay dividends to the moment Shlemenko hoped to achieve in season-three.

Prediction: Alexander Shlemenko by Split Decision (48-47, 48-47, 47-48)

Photo: Brian Rogers (R) celebrates after knocking out Vitor Vianna at Bellator 61 (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.