Bellator 63 is in the archives after another night of solid MMA action featuring upsets and stunning knockouts, as well as the much-anticipated Bellator welterweight tournament quarterfinals. When the smoke cleared, Ben Saunders dominated Raul Amaya, Bryan Baker edged out a split-decision over Carlos Alexandre Perreira, David Rickels scored a shocking 20-second knockout of Jordan Smith, and Karl Amoussou submitted Chris Lozano with a rear-naked choke in the first round.

The semifinals of the welterweight tournament are scheduled to take place May 4 at the Casino Rama in Rama, Ontario, Canada, with Saunders facing Baker, Rickels facing Amoussou, and the winners of the two respective semifinals competing to face Bellator’s 170-pound champion—either current champ Ben Askren or top contender Douglas Lima—sometime in the near future.

Every weekend, The MMA Corner will give you an exclusive viewpoint and prediction of the semifinals and finals of every Bellator tournament, as well as a preview and prediction for what lies ahead for that division’s current world championship titleholder, and this week, we’re finally taking a look ahead at what lies in waiting for the remaining semifinalists.

What will go down when “Killa B” takes on “The Beast” or when “The Caveman” contends with “The Psycho”?

We’ll let you know all of that right now, as it is time for another edition of your Bellator predictions fix, The Last-Minute Finish, brought to you on The MMA Corner!

Semifinal: Ben Saunders vs. Bryan Baker

Let’s be real for a second here: Bryan Baker looked a slight bit sluggish for 10 of the 15 minutes he spent in the cage with Carlos Alexandre Perreira—even though Baker’s style, often described as a “herky-jerky” style of striking, was forcing a conservative game plan out of the routinely high-octane striker.

Still, the weight cut seemed like it had put Baker through more hell than he thought. If there were something to applaud about Baker, it’s his honesty in admitting that the weight cut wasn’t a great one. Although if put it in Josh Thomson terms and say—in my comfort zone of a vulgar format—that basically Baker’s conditioning was poor, and so Baker’s efforts were poor, but on a fair point, the performance itself was far from one of the first times in MMA that a bad performance could have been chalked up to a bad weight cut.

That being said, Baker will have to get the whole weight-cutting thing down ASAP when he comes into Rama this May to face Ben Saunders, who also admitted that he would have loved his win to come in a finish against Raul Amaya but nonetheless applauded the toughness of Amaya via Twitter.

Against Saunders, Baker will bring in speed, hard hands, and heart into the cage, but the big question for Baker is his weight cut and whether he will experience similar problems against “Killa B”, who will be bringing experience, height, an underrated grappling game, and a sadistic Muay Thai clinch game to the Great White North. With those tools in his bag, Saunders should take this by turning the tables on Baker and throwing him off before working his Muay Thai, and if Baker should not be phased by what Saunders possesses in the stand-up, Saunders will find an alternative route to victory by out-grappling Baker after getting it to the ground.

If I’m taking a first guess, I’ll throw down on what Saunders’ odds are, and the best bet I’d see is a little bit of Muay Thai from Saunders, a little bit of heart from Baker—who will get dropped but will not be out from Saunders’ clinch game—and the grappling game of Saunders for the tap out and the move through to the finals to face the winner of the Karl Amoussou-David Rickels bout.

Prediction: Ben Saunders def. Bryan Baker in Round 1 by Submission (Omoplata)

Semifinal: Karl Amoussou vs. David Rickels

Karl ”Psycho” Amoussou’s submission win by rear-naked choke over “The Cleveland Assassin” Chris Lozano was not very surprising, as his submission game has been well noted in the past and the ground game has often been seen as one of Lozano’s more outstanding flaws, and in addition to that, some may argue that Amoussou got in Lozano’s head with his pre-fight trash talk and the intense staredown at the weigh-ins.

While Amoussou’s win over Lozano was to have been expected, it was thought that the tournament’s youngest competitor, 23-year-old David “The Caveman” Rickels, would have trouble with Jordan Smith—despite Smith being  last-minute replacement for Brian Foster. Few could have anticipated Rickels’ victory coming in just 20 seconds, and though Smith initially protested the stoppage, the young prospect has nothing to be ashamed about, as it’s doubtful that anyone could have seen that quick of a finish from a mile away.

As for Rickels, he came out like a man on fire and after the first shot that rocked Smith, Rickels couldn’t miss. Fans should probably pay more attention to this man as we get set for May 4. Truth be told, the brackets lined up as anticipated for the third week in a row, as it was believed that the winner of Smith vs. Rickels would face Amoussou and that the winner of Perreira-Baker would face Saunders.

Now that Rickels is facing Amoussou, one has to wonder if the intense Amoussou knows what he’s really up against. Amoussou is as crazy as they come, but he’s never had to deal with a kid that could do what Rickels has done so far in his still-brewing career.

Rickels will give Amoussou all he can handle and more by coming out aggressively and surprising Amoussou. Amoussou will find his rhythm late in one of the early rounds, and while Rickels will be put through the fire by Amoussou, he will put together a strong enough effort to pull off what some might call an upset as he moves through to the finals to combat his toughest test to date in Ben Saunders.

It won’t be pretty, and most won’t see it coming, but it’s an MMA bout we’re talking about here, so until Amoussou demonstrates otherwise, a Rickels win is a strong possibility.

Prediction: David Rickels def. Karl Amoussou by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)

Final: David Rickels vs. Ben Saunders

Is it hard to believe that Rickels would get by Amoussou to face Saunders? Absolutely. But is it hard to believe Rickels first beating Amoussou, and then Saunders, when that notion is compared to what the thought of Ben Askren beating Lyman Good for the welterweight belt was just a few seasons ago?

Not quite, but on paper, it’s understandable to see why some might call it shocking, since Rickels has been established as the “dark horse” of the tournament with win over Smith, whereas Saunders’ win over Raul Amaya was all but a bit of a foregone conclusion from the onset of this tournament.

Saunders, as we’ve already established, has his strong striking game and his evolving grappling game, but if you flash back to recent history, you’ll see that it takes an aggressive  fighter—and a great wrestler—to neutralize both of Saunders’ strengths.

Twenty seconds isn’t enough round time for one to justify a possibly underrated wrestling game, but on one hand, Rickels did wrestle growing up and he’s kept with it as he’s progressed into the sport, incorporating Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and kickboxing into his arsenal along the way, and if his wrestling is any bit as good as it sounds, Saunders could be in for a long night.

On the other hand, twenty seconds also isn’t enough round time to justify his BJJ being underrated—though the quick finish does speak volumes to his ability to end nights with his kickboxing—so if Rickels should establish either his kickboxing or his BJJ early against Saunders, then Saunders could be in for a shorter night than the last time he fought in the welterweight finals.

Prediction: David Rickels def. Ben Saunders in Round 1 by Submission (D’Arce Choke)

Bellator Welterweight Title Bout 1 (Bellator 66): Ben Askren (champion) vs. Douglas Lima

Ben Askren is the Bellator Welterweight world champion, and as it stands right now, he’s undefeated as a professional. In his last fight, against Jay Hieron, Askren retained the title, but he did so in a split-decision victory over Hieron. His fight with Lima next weekend will tell us about Askren’s development as a fighter.

He will need all the improvements that he can work into his game between now and the night he faces Douglas Lima for the belt. Lima knows what Askren is capable of on the ground—both as an Olympic-level wrestler and as a fighter who has shown some decent submission skills in the past—and although Lima’s one-punch KO power blasts Askren enough to lay him out cold nine times out of ten, it takes an impenetrable degree of takedown defense in order to really take Askren to school. That should be no problem for Lima, as that is one of the always-improving aspects of his game, along with the technical facets of his BJJ game.

Askren’s striking is improving, but it’s not his strongest of suits in comparison to his wrestling. Obviously there’s the possibility of Askren just taking Lima down and trying to keep Lima there. Unless Duke Roufus has brought in a Peter Aerts, a Semmy Schilt, or a Gokhan Saki to help Askren with his striking regiment, Askren is going to going to survive with his wrestling for at least two of the first three rounds, but Lima will turn his lights out in the championship rounds, likely going out in the fourth.

Prediction: Douglas Lima def. Ben Askren in Round 4 by KO (Right Hook) to become the NEW Bellator Welterweight champion

Bellator Welterweight Title Bout 2 (post-season-six): Douglas Lima vs. David Rickels

David Rickels, the winner of the Bellator season-six welterweight tournament, does have strengths in areas which some have previously seen as “weak spots” for Lima, especially from a technical standpoint in relation the BJJ aspect of his game, as well as the wrestling aspect of his game.

Much like with Askren, Rickels is undefeated. His experience in the wrestling department has been noted, but fans of Bellator may recall the BJJ of Rickels a little bit more, as Rickels won two of his first three Bellator fights by triangle choke.

Rickels will only be an inch shorter than Lima—in height—when it comes time to fight, so a takedown is not out of the question, but the footwork of Lima could be a little bit more than what young Mr. Rickels might be able to contend with. If Rickels cannot figure out Lima’s movement patterns or find a way to force any linear forward movement—in other words, tiring Lima out to where his movement is flat-footed—Lima will end Rickels’ undefeated streak the only way he knows how.

Prediction: Douglas Lima def. David Rickels in Round 2 by TKO (Head Kick and Punches) to retain the Bellator Welterweight championship

 Photo: Douglas Lima (Sherdog)

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.