Bellator MMA is set to continue its ninth season on Oct. 18 with Bellator 104. Live from Iowa, the card boasts a deep lineup that includes the semifinals of the season-nine welterweight tournament and feature fights at middleweight and heavyweight.

Rick Hawn headlines opposite of Brent Weedman, with the winner moving on to the welterweight tournament final. The winner of that bout will meet the winner of the clash between War Machine and Ron Keslar, which serves as the evening’s co-main event. Plus, we will see the returns of Eric Prindle and Kendall Grove, who take on Peter Graham and Joe Vedepo, respectively.

Without further ado, let’s preview the Bellator 104 card and make some predictions.

WW Tournament Semifinal: Rick Hawn (16-2) vs. Brent Weedman (22-8-1)

In the main attraction, a pair of welterweights are set to rematch with a spot in the finals on the line. Rick Hawn, a former tournament winner, takes on Brent Weedman in what looks to be a very competitive affair.

Hawn is an Olympic judo fighter that rarely uses his ground game to dominate his opponents. Instead, he uses his dynamite-packed hands to test the chins of those brave enough to stand opposite of him. His quarterfinal saw him grab a unanimous decision over a tough Herman Terrado. We, of course, have to remember that Hawn took a decision over Weedman in an interesting fight not long ago.

Weedman is a multiple-time tournament veteran that has been close to winning, but just can’t get there. His quarterfinal-round performance saw him tap out Justin Baesman with a first-round armbar. He is well-rounded, having a nice Muay Thai attack that goes along with an exciting BJJ style. He has been training with Team Curran as of late, so he is coming in off a great training camp.

It’s difficult to see this fight being any different than the first. Weedman needs to avoid getting hit by one of Hawn’s sledgehammers or he could be sucking meat through a straw for a while. Hawn will use power strikes and clinch work with occasional takedowns to keep Weedman off-balance. Hawn will take the victory and compete for another tournament championship.

WW Tournament Semifinal: War Machine (14-4) vs. Ron Keslar (10-3)

With a spot in the finals on the line, the controversial War Machine takes on Ron Keslar. Keslar was a late replacement in the tournament for Matt Riddle and this would make a great run for him, should he end up in the finals.

Keslar is an American Kickboxing Academy rep that mostly uses his wrestling and submissions to make opponents uncomfortable. In the quarterfinals, he took a close split decision against Luis Melo on extremely short notice. Previous to his time in Bellator, Keslar took notable wins over Ultimate Fighter alums Dominic Waters and James Chaney. In this fight, he will likely want to continue to use his wrestling.

War Machine’s tumultuous past, including his two stints in prison, is well-documented. Upon his second release, he entered Bellator and beat Blas Avena in his first fight since his incarceration. Then, in the quarterfinals, Machine claimed an impressive victory over Vaughan Anderson, whom he put to sleep with a rear-naked choke. He has actually looked quite good since returning to action, using a suffocating ground game to outlast the competition.

This fight is going to be very interesting. It is going to be a game of position where both men want to be on top. Keslar winning on late notice against Melo was very impressive, but War Machine has shown great patience and skill on the ground. Keslar may tire, as his cardio looked decent, at best, against Melo. It will be close, but War Machine will take a decision.

MW: Kendall Grove (18-13) vs. Joe Vedepo (13-7)

A pair of UFC veterans are set to collide when former TUF winner Kendall Grove takes on Joe Vedepo. This could thrust either man into next season’s middleweight tournament, especially given the fact that Bellator’s middleweight division is among its most shallow in terms of talent.

At 6-foot-6, Grove is one of the tallest middleweights in the world. He is incredibly rangy, but somewhat inconsistent. One night, he’ll win with a slick submission or impressive knockout, and another, he’ll lose to someone he should beat, like Jay Silva. The biggest factor will be how well he uses his reach and range to stay out of his opponent’s wheelhouse.

Vedepo is a well-rounded fighter and is 1-1 with Bellator. After finishing Mike Bernhard with a shin choke, Vedepo was brutally put away via knockout courtesy of Louis Taylor. Vedepo can knock out opponents or tap them, but going to the ground with Grove raises some major concerns due to Grove’s long limbs.

Grove has stated in the past that he doesn’t like being strapped to one company, but one has to think he would like a consistent gig. Bellator could offer that opportunity. He has drawing value due to his size and UFC background, so a win here is a must, especially if it can lead to a tournament berth. Vedepo may give him some scary moments, but Grove will likely walk out with his hand raised.

HW: Peter Graham (8-5) vs. Eric Prindle (8-3)

A pair of hard-hitting heavyweights meet with a potential tournament spot up for grabs when former tournament winner Eric Prindle takes on Australian kickboxing ace Peter Graham. It could be a fight that fails to leave the first round.

Graham enters Bellator on the strength of a seven-fight winning streak. His weakness is obviously on the ground, where he has lost all five of his bouts. He has turned that around as of late, knocking out everybody in his path. His leg kicks are absolutely nasty, as seen in his chopping down of Aleksander Emelianenko. Not only that, but he has clobbered notables Konstantin Gluhov (twice) and Felise Leniu, as well as Emelianenko.

Prindle comes into this fight with a similar-but-different style. He is an Army boxing champion and owns five knockouts of his own, including devastating finishes of Ron Sparks and Vince Lucero. He is best known for his two fights with Thiago Santos, both of which ended with illegal groin shots. Prindle is also a novice on the ground, so this fight should stay on the feet.

If you haven’t seen Graham compete, this may be a treat for you. Prindle is a heavy hitter, but Graham has a lot of high-level international kickboxing experience. Graham could keep the powerful Prindle away with his heavy leg kicks before he moves in for the home-run punch. Graham will earn a highlight-reel knockout and a future heavyweight tournament slot.

Preliminary Card

LW: Cole Williams (6-1) vs. Mike Estus (5-0)

A pair of up-and-coming fighters meet when Fight Master vet Cole Williams takes on undefeated Iowa regional mainstay Mike Estus. Estus is a submission fighter that has won all five of his fights via tapout. However, the level of competition he has faced isn’t nearly as high as what Williams has seen. Williams had a good run on Bellator’s reality series, where he showed good wrestling and submission fighting. He should ground Estus and finish him to stay in the win column.

WW: Karl Amoussou (16-5-2) vs. Paul Bradley (20-5)

Former welterweight tournament winner Karl Amoussou returns to the Bellator cage for the first time since his title-bid failure against Ben Askren. He takes on UFC vet Paul Bradley, who is coming off a loss of his own. Bradley is a wrestler who looks for the shot early and often. He is not just a lay-and-pray artist, though, as he has 14 stoppages by strikes or submission. He will look to use the blueprint that was used by Askren, who dominated the Frenchman on the ground. Amoussou is a submission fighter and possesses great knockout power. When he is fresh, he can be tough to take down. He will stick and move in this bout, while looking to tag Bradley. A decision will go the Frenchman’s way, as he likely finds himself in next season’s tournament.

BW: Derek Loffer (4-1) vs. Cliff Wright (7-5)

Unheralded bantamweights and fellow Iowa natives Derek Loffer and Cliff Wright will throw down in the cage. Wright is a submission fighter who has taken all seven wins via tapout. He is 1-3 with Bellator, but his biggest win to date came outside the company against UFC vet Dakota Cochrane. Loffer, a once-beaten fighter, makes his Bellator debut on the heels of a two-fight winning streak. He has solid wrestling and ground-and-pound, which has led to all four of his stoppages. Loffer will need to be careful of Wright’s submissions on the ground, but he should be able score a win via decision.

LW: Paul Sass (13-2) vs. Rod Montoya (15-15)

UFC vet Paul Sass looks to make a successful debut following his Zuffa release when he takes on .500 fighter Rod Montoya. Sass has won all but one fight via submission, including eight by way of triangle choke. He is on a two-fight skid, but those losses came against wrestlers. He should not have to worry about that with Montoya, whose weakness is his submission defense. Montoya would be smart to keep this fight upright, but he has been tapped 10 times, showing that he can be brought down. Don’t expect this one to last long, and do expect Sass to win via submission.

FW: Jared Downing (9-3) vs. Rob Emerson (12-10)

A pair of prospective featherweight tournament hopefuls meet when UFC vet Rob Emerson clashes with Jared Downing. Emerson has not competed in over a year and a half, when he took out Savant Young with a rear-naked choke. The incredibly tough Emerson has good knockout power, as evidenced in his UFC knockout of Manny Gamburyan where he put the Armenian fighter to sleep from his knees. Downing is a bright prospect, but finds himself on a two-fight skid, with losses to Lance Palmer and Patricio Freire, who knocked him out on short notice. Emerson is tough to finish, but his all-around skills aren’t as refined as Downing, who should take a decision.

Photo: Rick Hawn (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.