If last week’s event proved any indication, then Bellator 86 will help to cement the move to Spike as one of the best maneuvers in Bellator MMA history. Headlined by a Bellator welterweight championship title defense where champion Ben Askren faces top contender Karl Amoussou, the event card will introduce the participants in this season’s welterweight title tournament.

With a total of $100,000 and a crack at the belt on the line, former title contender Douglas Lima returns to the field to combat Michail Tsarev, Koffi Adzitso faces Ben Saunders, Brent Weedman fights Marius Zaromskis, and Jose Gomes contends with Raul Amaya.

Additionally, the long-awaited debut of Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal co-headlines the card and closes out the opening round of Bellator’s season-eight light heavyweight tourney. With Lawal returning to action for the first time since his win (since overturned to a no-contest) over Lorenz Larkin, questions arise as to whether he can challenge Przemyslaw Mysiala without exhibiting cage rust. But not just anyone beats Gegard Mousasi for a Strikeforce title, so Mysiala will have his hands full with Lawal.

Once again, The MMA Corner thanks you for making us your home for your official Bellator 86 preview, and as Askren, Lawal and the welterweights of this season’s tourney look to reassert their dominance in devastating fashion, we thank you for allowing us to walk you through everything you must know about this card from top to bottom!

WW Championship: Ben Askren (10-0) vs. Karl Amoussou (16-4-2)

Amoussou (Sherdog)

If you don’t like “Funky” Ben Askren’s style of wrestling or the way he effortlessly shuts down grappling wizards, stop him.

Douglas Lima couldn’t do it, nor could former champion Lyman Good. One judge and a handful of fans feel Jay Hieron already did, but Askren still packs the gold. Just as he shut down every challenger in front of him thus far, Askren wants to reset Karl Amoussou’s rise to the top and ultimately neutralize Amoussou’s ground game as effortlessly as possible.

Amoussou’s game does not go away unless a fighter comes in willing to outwork him. Except for his 2008 TKO loss to UFC vet Lucio Linhares, Amoussou’s loss column consists of decision losses, including a split decision he dropped to Sam Alvey. Otherwise, Amoussou handles his own everywhere and proves he can go the distance.

However, going the distance with Askren means not only possessing the cardio to go all five rounds, but also possessing the tools needed to shut down Askren’s wrestling. That Askren sports a perfect record through ten fights before this title defense highlights how little success his previous foes found in trying to shut that wrestling game down. Expect this fight to prove competitive for five rounds, but barring a sinister submission from Amoussou, Askren should take another unanimous decision.

LHW Tournament Quarterfinal: Muhammed Lawal (8-1) vs. Przemyslaw Mysiala (16-7)

Lawal (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal returns to the cage after a year away from action. The American Kickboxing Academy product remains a threat in the wrestling department and he also possesses heavy hands, so nobody will find it a shocker if Lawal can put those tools to work against Przemyslaw Mysiala. Not only does Lawal possess the tools to give Mysiala fits, but with Renato “Babalu” Sobral and Seth Petruzelli out of the running, the tournament seems Mo’s for the taking.

That said, we can’t sleep on Mysiala. He owns a reputation for finishing fights and comes in off a loss, so he will come out fighting like he needs the win. Also, Mysiala comes off a layoff himself, having not fought since March of 2012.

The biggest question we find ourselves asking doesn’t concern both fighters’ layoffs, however. Rather, the biggest question concerns whether the veteran experience of Mysiala will kick in against Lawal. Likely, it will have an impact at first, but Lawal almost always finds his rhythm and finds his moment to strike. That moment will come in the first round when Lawal’s right hand cracks Mysiala on the jaw and knocks him out cold.

WW Tournament Quarterfinal: Douglas Lima (22-5) vs. Michail Tsarev (24-3)

Lima (L) (Sherdog)

Douglas Lima lost to Ben Askren and exposed his own lack of defensive wrestling, but one could also say that Askren did what he does best in shutting down the ground game of a BJJ black belt. Lima rebounded from the loss by finishing Jacob Ortiz in the third round and looks to show that he deserves the rematch with Askren by tearing through this season’s tournament.

However, Michail Tsarev does know a thing or two about the grappling department. With 19 wins by submission, Tsarev will look for the takedown against Lima, and he will look to either out-grapple or submit the MFC veteran. All of this happens provided he can expose a hole in Lima’s takedown defense and gas him out early, before hunting for that submission.

However, Lima’s awareness of the takedown appeared to have improved since the Askren fight, and it will show against Tsarev. Against former champ Good, Tsarev fell to a furious striking effort. Against Lima, Tsarev will feel the same result, regardless of how long it takes for Lima to earn it. It likely will not come until the second round, but Lima will get the finish via TKO once again.

WW Tournament Quarterfinal: Koffi Adzitso (18-9) vs. Ben Saunders (14-5-2)

Saunders (Sherdog)

What do we know about Koffi Adzitso? Looking at videos of his fights, we do know that he can come out aggressively and fight technically. He picks his shots, and he’s not afraid to engage regardless of where the fight goes.

Ben Saunders can bring an aggressive style in his own right. While he did show evolution in his ground game recently, his forte remains in the striking department, where his Muay Thai shines. If he gets Adzitso in the clinch, he can score a knockout over Adzitso without question.

Whether he does or not depends on what game plan Saunders brings to the cage. Saunders can get stifled by a smothering offense or a well-placed knockout shot, the latter especially if Saunders leaves an opening. Saunders should have no issue with closing up those openings as he makes great use of his elbows and knees to force a late first-round TKO stoppage.

WW Tournament Quarterfinal: Brent Weedman (20-8-1) vs. Marius Zaromskis (19-7)

Zaromskis (L) (Sherdog)

Brent Weedman and Marius Zaromskis both competed in recent Bellator tournaments, and now they both look to rebound from those losses. The only issue lies in the fact that they must face each other.

Zaromskis lost via what most consider a late referee stoppage, when undefeated contender-in-waiting Andrey Koreshkov finished him in the quarterfinals of last season’s welterweight tournament.

Weedman, a well-rounded fighter who first made his mark during season four, saw a two-fight winning streak snapped in a loss to recent lightweight title contender Rick Hawn. Now, Weedman looks to reroute his ship against Zaromskis. Against a fighter with the unorthodox striking of Zaromskis, Weedman can halt those efforts despite appearing light for the division.

However, Zaromskis doesn’t go down without a well-timed shot or a game plan which focuses on negating his striking. As a matter of fact, he will prove a difficult task to overcome because of how quickly he starts (and closes) in fights. Though many recognize Zaromskis’ striking as his lone weapon, he can still stop fights with it if given an opening.

But Weedman doesn’t leave openings very often. Furthermore, questions continue to surround Zaromskis’ chin. So, unless Zaromskis shows excellent conditioning, Weedman will likely rock him on the feet, no matter how hard he lands his own shots. Taking Zaromskis’ submission defense into consideration, Weedman will likely not find the finish unless his striking really improves at this level, but he will walk out on the winning end of a unanimous decision.

Preliminary Card

WW Tournament Quarterfinal: Raul Amaya (10-1) vs. Jose Gomes (32-8-1)

Oddly enough, Raul Amaya, the least experienced welterweight in the field, faces Jose Gomes, the most experienced welterweight in the field. Look for Amaya to work hard to make his case towards a win as the veteran Gomes pressures Amaya and attempts to best him everywhere possible. Amaya may not win convincingly, but he will take a split decision.

FW: Hunter Tucker (4-0) vs. Javier Obregon (4-3)

Javier Obregon’s three losses separate his record from that of prospect Hunter Tucker. Much potential exists in Tucker, and he will exhibit that potential as he looks to make a statement in the featherweight division. Tucker will rock Obregon and get an early first-round TKO win.

FW: Mike Maldonado (3-0) vs. Joseph Salas (2-3)

Mike Maldonado can grow with a win, whereas Joseph Salas will look to get back to the .500 mark. In the end, if Maldonado lets his hands go and overwhelms Salas early, he gets another first-round knockout before the bout leaves the first minute of action.

BW: Chris Pham (2-0) vs. Jason Sampson (9-1)

Jason Sampson owns the edge in experience over Chris Pham, and he finds more success in the submission aspect of the game. Fans should expect the exchanges in this one to play out on the ground, where Sampson should demonstrate his edge. Sampson takes this in round three by submission.

LW: Zach Church (1-1) vs. Damon Jackson (3-0)

Zach Church and Damon Jackson fought at King of The Cage’s Dec. 8 outing, with Jackson taking a mid-second-round submission win. Will things change in Bellator? They can, but if Jackson works for a submission like he did during the KOTC affair, then he will walk out with another second-round submission.

MW: Cortez Coleman (8-3) vs. Matt Jones (4-3)

The Ultimate Fighter 16 alum Cortez Coleman makes his Bellator debut on the strength of a recent KOTC win. His opponent, Matt Jones, recently improved to a two-fight winning streak under the promotion, but Coleman will prove just too much for Jones to handle. Coleman won’t make it look pretty, but he will win a unanimous decision unless Jones finishes him by the midway point of round two.

Photo: Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren (Dave Mandel/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.