Bellator MMA is set to continue its ninth season on Sept. 20 with the historic Bellator 100. Live from Phoenix, the card boasts a deep lineup that includes the quarterfinals of the season-nine welterweight tournament and the finals of the eighth season’s welterweight tourney.

Ben Saunders headlines opposite teammate Douglas Lima. The pair have met previously with Lima walking away with a knockout victory. One of those men will earn a title shot against Ben Askren. Also, the controversial War Machine will be in competition, as will Rick Hawn, Brent Weedman and other top names in MMA.

Without further ado, let’s preview the Bellator 100 card and make some predictions.

WW Tournament Final (Season Eight): Douglas Lima (24-5) vs. Ben Saunders (16-5-2)

A rematch is afoot. Douglas Lima and Ben Saunders will meet again with a welterweight title shot on the line. In their first meeting, Lima knocked out Saunders in the second round.

Saunders is deadly in the clinch, which is exactly where he needs to get this fight to soften up Lima. So far in this tournament, Saunders has outhustled Koffi Adzitso to a decision and then crippled Raul Amaya with a nasty head kick. He has had plenty of time to train for Lima, as the two were scheduled to meet earlier but injury reared its nasty head.

Lima is a powerful striker with great submission skills. His resume in this tournament includes a leg kick finish of Michail Tsarev and a blistering one-punch knockout of Bryan Baker. Though he is a handful on the ground, he has proven that his kickboxing is possibly the most dangerous part of his game.

This fight won’t be much different than their first encounter. Saunders will want to close the distance, but will open himself up to the powerful hands of Lima. When that happens, you will see Lima clip the UFC vet and hurt him. Lima has the killer instinct to finish the fight, which he will do to earn his title shot.

WW Tournament Quarterfinal: War Machine (13-4) vs. Vaughn Anderson (16-1-1)

Once-beaten Canadian Vaughn Anderson will take his talents to Bellator for the first time when he faces the polarizing War Machine. The prize for the winner is a trip to the semifinals of this season’s welterweight tournament.

Anderson has spent his time in Asia knocking off the competition with a well-rounded attack. He really has not faced anybody of note and this will be a big step up in competition for him. This will be a true test to see if he is the real deal or if he has been building a resume on the skulls of lambs.

War Machine’s cardio came into question in his return fight following a stint in prison, but it’s possible he has that sorted out. The well-rounded American blasted through Blas Avena, a BJJ black belt, utilizing a mounted crucifix to pound him out. Here, he will want to use his superior wrestling and solid ground-and-pound to soften up Anderson. That will be his best route to victory.

This one is close on paper, but from looking at a competition standpoint, War Machine has faced higher levels of opposition and will be ready. Anderson’s best bet is to soften War Machine up on the feet and drag him into deep waters, but it’s difficult to see that happening. War Machine comes out aggressive and finishes Anderson on the ground.

WW Tournament Quarterfinal: Luis Melo (29-11-3) vs. Ron Keslar (9-3)

Luis Melo of Brazil enters his first Bellator tournament ever when he takes on late replacement Ron Keslar. Keslar takes this spot in the tournament after Matt Riddle fell to injury and subsequently retired from mixed martial arts.

Melo earned his tournament spot after tapping out Trey Houston in his last fight. Though he is well-rounded, his submission game is what is key in this match-up. He holds significant wins over tournament vet Jose Gomes and Carlos Alexandre Pereira, though when he steps up in competition, he struggles. Against the American Kickboxing Academy rep, he will definitely want to get the fight to the mat.

Keslar has most of his wins by submission, but Melo is going to be the better submission fighter. Though Keslar can wrestle his way to victory, one has to assume he is the more refined striker of the two. One concern here is that he has not competed since last year, when he outpointed TUF veteran Dom Waters. He also owns a win over another TUF competitor in James Chaney, showing he can hang with solid competition.

The late notice and an experienced opponent will hurt Keslar’s chances. One cannot judge how good of shape he will be in, and Melo will be coming in with a full training camp. The longer this fight goes, the more it favors Melo. He will either snag a decision here or a late submission to move on in the tournament.

WW Tournament Quarterfinal: Rick Hawn (15-2) vs. Herman Terrado (11-2)

A powerhouse and an Olympian are matched up for the next quarterfinal, where Herman Terrado takes on former tournament winner Rick Hawn. Hawn took this tournament spot on late notice after UFC veteran Mark Scanlon had to drop out due to injury.

Terrado is not one to let fights make it all the way to the judges. Though he has some good submission skills, his striking has been the cause for people going unconscious in his fights. His one-punch knockout of Bellator vet A.J. Matthews was especially impressive, showing he can end the fight in an instant.

Hawn is another longtime tournament veteran in multiple weight classes. He was a finalist in the season-four tournament, beating Jim Wallhead and Lyman Good before dropping a close decision to Jay Hieron. He then went to lightweight, where he ran the table against Ricardo Tirloni, Lloyd Woodard and Brent Weedman. He got his title shot against Michael Chandler, but was choked out in the first round.

Hawn returned to welterweight in his latest fight, where he clobbered Karo Parisyan. Though he is an Olympic judoka, it has been his striking which has brought him great success. He has crazy power, which is the reason 10 of his 15 wins have come by knockout. If he touches your chin, you go to sleep.

Terrado is an intriguing prospect and can clip Hawn on the feet. He is powerful, but he can’t outwrestle the former tournament champion. Hawn is more technical and equally powerful with his punches, so look for him to catch Terrado and finish him before the judges can decide the winner.

WW Tournament Quarterfinal: Brent Weedman (21-8-1) vs. Justin Baesman (14-3)

In one of the more intriguing match-ups in the welterweight tournament, Bellator staple Brent Weedman takes on Justin Baesman. Whereas Weedman is a tournament veteran, Baesman makes his debut on the heels of an upset win in Nick Diaz’s War MMA promotion.

Weedman enters his fifth career Bellator tournament, spanning two different weight classes; this will be his fourth at welterweight. In season four, he defeated Dan Hornbuckle before getting taken out by Jay Hieron in the semifinals. Then, in season five, he failed to make it out of the quarterfinals when he lost to Chris Lozano. In his most recent tournament, which was last season, he won his quarterfinal bout against Marius Zaromskis, but was injured and could not continue to the semifinals.

Weedman has a Muay Thai base with good submission ability. He has great cardio and a grinding attack that has been used to dominate opponents inside and out of Bellator.

Baesman is coming off his biggest win against UFC veteran Daniel Roberts. The wrestler has good ground-and-pound and solid submission offense, though his submission defense has come into question. In addition to the victory over Roberts, he owns a win over UFC vet Max Griffin, as well as brawling Bellator vet Jaime Jara. This will undoubtedly be another big test for the young fighter.

Weedman has good takedown defense and superior striking to Baesman. His experience is also going to be key, seeing as this will be Baesman’s debut in a big-show environment. Weedman will sprawl and outstrike Baesman. At some point, he will get Baesman on his back and tap him out with a choke.

Preliminary Card

LHW: Clifford Starks (8-2) vs. Joe Yager (5-2)

UFC veteran and Arizona Combat Sports rep Clifford Starks moves up to light heavyweight to take on Joe Yager. Starks has decent boxing, but his wrestling and top game are his best options here. Yager is similarly a ground fighter, but will need to use a sprawl-and-brawl game plan to avoid getting grinded out by Starks. Unfortunately, Starks is going to be too much for Yager and will get a late finish or a clear-cut decision.

LHW: Liam McGeary (4-0) vs. Beau Tribolet (7-2)

Undefeated Brit Liam McGeary returns to the Bellator cage when he takes on light heavyweight tournament veteran Beau Tribolet. Tribolet has never gone to decision and is known for his submission prowess. His last fight was over a year ago, when he was tapped out by Tim Carpenter. McGeary has been training with Kurt Pellegrino’s team, working on his wrestling and grappling. He has powerful striking, which he will want to use here. McGeary impresses with a TKO victory.

HW: Dan Charles (7-0) vs. Mighty Mo (3-2)

Don’t expect this heavyweight bout between kickboxer Mighty Mo meets fellow banger Dan Charles to take very long. Charles is undefeated and has a ground game, which are two things that Mighty Mo cannot claim. Charles was knocked out cold when he was an amateur, however, and Mighty Mo hits like a freight train. If Charles can attain the clinch and ground Mo, he can tap him out. If not, Mo has more power and kickboxing experience, which will lead to a knockout victory.

FW: Bubba Jenkins (4-0) vs. LaRue Burley (2-0)

If there is a prospect worth keeping your eye on in MMA today, it has to be Bubba Jenkins. The Arizona State wrestling product has taken the sport by storm, finishing every opponent he has faced in his four-fight stint. His striking needs some further development, but he has shown great power. LaRue Burley lacks on the ground, especially against an elite wrestler like Jenkins. Jenkins should ground him and pound him, earning a stoppage in the process.

LW: Efrain Escudero (19-7) vs. Zack Surdyka (6-1)

UFC veteran and local Arizonan Efrain Escudero will take on fellow Arizona boy Zack Surdyka in a lightweight bout that could push either man into the next lightweight tourney. Surdyka trains with Arizona Combat Sports, so you know he will come in with a good training camp. He has a good all-around attack, but Escudero comes in with more experience against top-level fighters. The Mexican-American has fallen on hard times as of late, but his grinding, higher-level attack will overwhelm Surdyka in the end.

BW: Travis Marx (20-4) vs. Brandon Bender (11-0)

Bellator bantamweight tournament veteran Travis Marx takes to the field again when he meets undefeated prospect Brandon Bender. Bender is a submission specialist that has won all but one of his fights via tapout. His most recent win saw him tap UFC vet Jared Papazian with an impressive rear-naked choke. Marx is a Greg Jackson disciple who is 2-1 in his last three fights, all with Bellator. He tends to use his wrestling to grind out opponents, as seen in bouts with Masakatsu Ueda and Chase Beebe. Benders is a great prospect, but the conditioning and wrestling of Marx will allow him to dictate where the fight goes en route to a decision.

WW: Johnny Buck (12-8) vs. Adam McDonough (8-0)

Undefeated Adam McDonough will try to keep his record perfect when he take on rugged veteran Johnny Buck. This is a step up in competition for McDonough, who to this point has almost an equal amount of submissions to knockouts. He has not fought since 2011, so that layoff could affect him like it did for Justin Torrey a couple weekends ago. Buck is vastly improved, as seen in his latest bouts against Ricky Rainey and Roger Carroll. He will use his wrestling and grinding approach to outlast McDonough to a decision, effectively giving him his first career loss.

Photo: Douglas Lima (L) squares off with Ben Saunders (Bellator MMA)

About The Author

Riley Kontek
Staff Writer

Riley Kontek is a Chicago-land native that has been an addict of mixed martial arts since the first Chuck Liddell-Tito Ortiz encounter. He has been writing on MMA for the last year and is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA. In addition to that, he used to host a weekly radio show on MMA. Though he has no formal training in mixed martial arts, Riley is a master in the art of hockey fighting.