Bellator MMA is set to continue its ninth season on Oct. 11 with Bellator 103. Live from Kansas, the card boasts a deep lineup that includes the semifinals of the season-nine featherweight tournament and feature fights at light heavyweight and lightweight.

Patricio Freire headlines opposite of Fabricio Guerreiro, with the winner moving on to the featherweight tournament final. The winner of that bout will meet the winner of the clash between Justin Wilcox and Joe Taimanglo, which serves as the evening’s co-main event. Plus, we will see the return of both David Rickels and Mikhail Zayats, who take on J.J. Ambrose and Aaron Rosa, respectively.

Without further ado, let’s preview the Bellator 103 card and make some predictions.

FW Tournament Semifinal: Patricio Freire (19-2) vs. Fabricio Guerreiro (19-2)

A pair of Brazilians are set to duke it out when Bellator poster boy Patricio Freire takes on Fabricio Guerreiro with a spot in the featherweight tournament finals on the line. This fight should be interesting, as both men are exciting fighters that have similar skill sets.

Freire has a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu base, but it has been his striking as of late that has been shooting people down left and right. He is a former tournament winner looking to get another crack at champion Pat Curran, who beat him via narrow decision. Since that loss, Freire has clobbered Jared Downing and Diego Nunes (in the quarterfinals) with his immensely powerful hands.

Guerreiro made it to the semifinals after a boring, lackluster bout with Dez Green. That was not entirely Guerreiro’s fault, though, as Green was backpedaling the entire fight and not trying to engage much. Guerreiro, who has earned 12 of his 19 wins via tapout, would be wise to try to get this fight down.

Guerreiro getting a takedown on Freire is going to be very tough. Freire likes to stay upright and throw hands, which is likely going to happen. Guerreiro’s striking is still not completely where it should be, and Freire is going to exploit that early. “Pitbull” will land a huge punch and end Guerreiro’s night in extremely violent fashion.

FW Tournament Semifinal: Justin Wilcox (12-5) vs. Joe Taimanglo (19-4-1)

American wrestler Justin Wilcox takes on Guamanian scrapper Joe Taimanglo, and one man will find himself in the featherweight tournament final when it’s all said and done. It should be a close fight, as well as a good one.

Taimanglo, who is a natural bantamweight, looked incredibly good in both his Bellator debut and his quarterfinal bout. In his debut, he sprawled and brawled with Ronnie Rogers before choking him out with a north-south choke. In the quarterfinals, he out-struck and defended takedowns well against Andrew Fisher, who had no answer for Taimanglo. Taimanglo’s low center of gravity and quickness are a great combo that often allows him to defend takedowns well.

Wilcox, who entered this tournament on late notice for Shahbulat Shamhalaev, had a very tough time getting through his quarterfinal bout. The wrestler had his legs tenderized by Akop Stepanyan, and many thought he was seconds away from getting finished. However, the American Kickboxing Academy rep shot a takedown and was able to secure a fight-ending rear-naked choke.

Wilcox needs to use his wrestling here, but Taimanglo does a good job of staying upright. Wilcox’s striking is not fully where it needs to be, and Taimanglo showed his boxing is very solid. This is probably an upset pick, but Taimanglo will utilize sprawl-and-brawl en route to a decision victory.

LHW: Mikhail Zayats (21-7) vs. Aaron Rosa (17-5)

Bellator tournament veteran Mikhail Zayats is seeking another tournament bid, and this may be his first step in reaching that goal. He welcomes UFC vet Aaron Rosa, who would love to find his way into next season’s light heavyweight tourney as well.

Rosa hasn’t fought since he was cut by the UFC over a year ago. He was 2-1 with the UFC, where he won against the overmatched Matt Lucas, but was knocked out by Joey Beltran and James Te Huna. He is a kickboxer, but he is going to need to find a strategy that sees him stick and move. He will also need to avoid the takedowns of Zayats.

The Russian Zayats is coming off a tournament final loss against Emanuel Newton in last season’s bracket. He knocked out Renato “Babalu” Sobral with a nasty spinning back fist before he tapped Jacob Noe with an armbar. He was then beaten via decision by Newton, dashing his dreams of a title shot. He is a sambo practitioner that prefers the submission game, but he showed in the Sobral fight that he can strike.

Zayats is going to be aggressive in looking to put Rosa on his back. Rosa trains with Rodrigo Pinheiro on his ground game, but there is something about sambo guys that makes them perfect for MMA. Zayats will pound Rosa on the ground before eventually securing a submission victory.

LW: David Rickels (14-2) vs. J.J. Ambrose (19-4)

David Rickels and J.J. Ambrose, a pair of Bellator tournament veterans, meet in a lightweight feature bout. This is a fight that could push the winner into next season’s lightweight tournament.

Rickels has been one of Bellator’s tournament mainstays in the last couple seasons. The exciting Kansas native was a semifinalist in the season-six welterweight tournament, where he knocked out Jordan Smith before dropping a close decision to Karl Amoussou. Then, in season eight, he ran the lightweight tournament with decisions over Lloyd Woodard and Jason Fischer and a brutal knockout of Saad Awad in the finals. His most recent outing saw him get absolutely train-wrecked by champion Michael Chandler. That greatly took away the momentum of the well-rounded Rickels, who will look to recover from the devastating loss.

Ambrose appeared on the 12th season of TUF, but failed to make it into the house. The submission fighter was in one Bellator tournament, where he was choked out by Brent Weedman in the quarterfinals. He was on a two-fight winning streak before his last fight, which was deemed a no-contest.

Ambrose is going to want to put Rickels on his back, but that is going to be tough. Rickels has good takedown defense and is going to look to initiate a game plan of striking and clinching against the fence. Rickels should grind his way to victory, likely earning a clear-cut decision.

Preliminary Card

LW: Donnie Bell (7-2) vs. Marcio Navarro (9-8)

Donnie Bell of Texas and Marcio Navarro of Kansas are set to meet in a lightweight bout. Navarro is inconsistent, but has beaten some tough guys in Herman Terrado, Rudy Bears and Aaron Derrow. Bell is a submission fighter who has been active since 2011. He has thrived on the Texas regional scene, where there is some tough competition. If Navarro shows up in top form, he can definitely win, but he is way too inconsistent to bet on here. Bell takes a decision.

FW: Cody Carrillo (4-6) vs. Ricky Musgrave (9-4)

A pair of under-the-radar featherweights clash when Ricky “The Spazmanian Devil” Musgrave takes on Cody Carrillo. Carrillo’s record is none too sexy at 4-6, and he has been finished in all six losses. Musgrave has fought higher-level competition and has dominated his way to decisions. Expect takedowns mixed in with heavy top-game grappling from Musgrave on his way to earning a submission win.

BW: Jeimeson Saudino (6-1) vs. Jesse Thornton (4-7)

Jeimeson Saudino moves up from flyweight to challenge bantamweight Jesse Thornton. The 22-year-old Saudino’s only loss came in Bellator, but that was two years ago in his second career fight. Though he will be the smaller man in this fight, he has the advantage in that Thornton’s submission defense is suspect and Saudino is comfortable on the ground. Saudino beat Thornton once before. Expect him to do it again via submission or TKO.

LHW: Carlos Eduardo (10-2) vs. Wayman Carter (2-1)

Experienced veteran Carlos Eduardo comes to the United States in search of a victory, and in his way is three-fight veteran and Kansas native Wayman Carter. Eduardo is one of the top light heavyweights outside of the UFC and is intent on making his mark in Bellator. He is well-rounded, but his ground game is going to be vastly superior to that of Carter. Carter’s only loss came via submission, and it was to a guy not nearly the caliber of Eduardo. The Brazilian should be able to earn an early tapout here.

HW: Maurice Jackson (2-1) vs. Matt Uhde (3-3)

A pair of small heavyweights are set to meet when once-beaten Maurice Jackson takes on .500 fighter Matt Uhde. Jackson is going to be the much smaller man here and has only won by decision in his brief career. Uhde has lost three straight, but has shown some finishing ability with a TKO and two kimuras. Being the larger finisher, Uhde should overwhelm Jackson and score a knockout victory.

LW: Blake Pool (0-0) vs. Remy Bussieres (2-0)

Debuting pro Blake Pool meets Canadian Remy Bussieres in a lightweight tilt. Bussieres won both of his pro fights via knockout and has fought as high as middleweight. He is going to be the bigger fighter of the two, and his experience is going to be key. Pool needs to keep his hands up in order to combat Bussieres’ serious power and technique. The Canadian should be able to secure a knockout.

Photo: Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

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.