Bellator MMA is set to continue its ninth season on Oct. 25 with Bellator 105. Live from New Mexico, the card boasts a deep lineup that includes the semifinals of the season-nine lightweight tournament and feature fights at middleweight and heavyweight.

Will Brooks headlines opposite of Saad Awad, with the winner moving on to the welterweight tournament final. The winner of that bout will meet the winner of the clash between Alexander Sarnavskiy and Ricardo Tirloni, which serves as the evening’s co-main event. Plus, we will see the return of Mighty Mo and the debut of Eugene Fadiora, who take on Ron Sparks and Andreas Spang, respectively.

Without further ado, let’s preview the Bellator 105 card and make some predictions.

LW Tournament Semifinal: Saad Awad (15-5) vs. Will Brooks (11-1)

A rematch is afoot with a lightweight tournament finals spot on the line when Saad Awad meets Will Brooks for the second time. The first outing saw Awad drop Brooks early and knock him out in under 45 seconds.

Awad is a knockout artist who has immense power in his hands and is quick out of the gate. Those aspects of his game were on display in last season’s sub-minute knockouts of Brooks and Guillaume DeLorenzi in the lightweight tourney. He showed he can still bang in this season’s quarterfinal against Martin Stapleton, but ended up finishing him with a rear-naked choke. He needs to come out quickly, like usual, and head hunt on Brooks before Brooks can get comfortable.

Brooks looked as though he learned a lot since taking his first-ever loss to Awad. In addition to knocking out Cris Leyva, he won his quarterfinal bout against John Alessio using a very methodical, scientific approach. He used improved striking in unison with his already polished wrestling to dominate the Canadian. However, Brooks often keeps his hands down, something he cannot afford to do with a guy who throws everything into his punches.

Brooks will be more wary of Awad’s strengths in this bout. He will come out in a calmer manner and use a more refined game plan to throw off Awad. Brooks will use a grinding attack of clinch and takedowns to get a decision, effectively earning back the loss he took just eight months ago.

LW Tournament Semifinal: Alexander Sarnavskiy (24-1) vs. Ricardo Tirloni (16-4)

In the co-main event, Russian super prospect Alexander “Tiger” Sarnavskiy looks to move into the lightweight tournament final when he takes on Brazilian veteran Ricardo Tirloni. The winner takes on the victor from the Awad-Brooks bout.

At just the age of 24, Sarnavskiy already has 24 wins, 20 of which have come by finish. He opened up his Bellator career with a close, controversial decision loss to Rich Clementi, but has fired back with three straight wins (over Tony Hervey, Thiago Michel and Marcus Davis) in the company. The bout against Davis was in this season’s quarterfinals, where Davis couldn’t get anything started because the Russian blew out of the gates. The win over Davis was Sarnavskiy’s 14th career submission victory.

Tirloni benefited from a an injury to Rob Sinclair, who was originally in the tournament. Tirloni took advantage of that opportunity and defeated Clementi in a pretty one-sided affair. Tirloni is a submission specialist, but has struggled against wrestlers like Dave Jansen and Will Brooks in the past. That could be bad news for Tirloni, given that Sarnavskiy has good takedowns and a suffocating top game.

This is Sarnavskiy’s tournament to lose. The match-up he snagged here should be an appetizer to the tournament finals. He will latch onto a leg, drop the Brazilian on his back and punish him on the ground. We could see a decision win or some sort of ground stoppage from strikes for the Russian.

HW: Mighty Mo (4-2) vs. Ron Sparks (8-2)

Mighty Mo looks to follow up a successful Bellator debut at heavyweight when he takes on Bellator tournament vet Ron Sparks. A win for Mo could push him into a heavyweight tournament, should one materialize next season.

Mo is a K-1 kickboxer that has won every single one of his MMA fights via knockout. He has sledgehammers for fists and throws with reckless abandon. Of course, his ground game is always going to be suspect, but opponents first have to close the distance, which puts them in his wheelhouse. His Bellator debut saw him batter and eventually knock out Dan Charles with authority.

Sparks has been very inconsistent since joining the Bellator company. He opened his tenure with three straight wins via finish, including a brutal knockout in a tournament quarterfinal against Mark Holata. However, he has lost his last two, both tournament bouts, via knockout to Eric Prindle and Vitaly Minakov. Though he throws heavy leather himself, he does not have a good chin, something which can be exposed by Mighty Mo.

This one should be pretty cut and dry. The equation is Mighty Mo’s fist plus Sparks’ chin equals spectacular knockout. It will be on Bellator highlight reels for some time to come, and Mo will find himself in a position to join a future tournament.

MW: Eugene Fadiora (12-1) vs. Andreas Spang (8-3)

With a possible future middleweight tournament spot on the line, British debutant Eugene Fadiora looks to start things off right when he takes on Bellator vet Andreas Spang. This is Spang’s first fight since he had to drop out of this season’s middleweight tournament due to an injury.

Spang’s tournament history has been up and down with Bellator. He took a spot in a recent semifinal as an injury replacement against Brian Rogers, where, despite being battered, he came back and won. He eventually faltered in the finals against Maiquel Falcao. He then entered into last season’s tournament against Doug Marshall and was brutally knocked out. Spang is a powerful striker that will look for the knockout blow early and often.

Fadiora will likely be more than willing to engage with Spang on the feet. He is a devastating striker and owns notable wins over UFC veteran Brad Scott, Danny Mitchell and Matt Inman, showing he can hang with tough, quality opponents. He does have good submission skills as well, with his last three victories coming via tapout.

Fadiora is used to fighting in the United Kingdom and will be coming to America for the first time, which could affect him. However, he is an impressive prospect that will likely have some staying power with Bellator. Spang is also talented, but he has shown some weak spots in his last couple fights. If Fadiora slams him with one of his meat hooks, it could put the Swede to sleep. But if he can take Spang down, expect him to follow up on the ground and tap him out.

Preliminary Card

BW: Frank Baca (16-3) vs. Luis Nogueira (15-3-1)

A couple of prospective bantamweight tournament participants meet when New Mexico native Frank Baca takes on Bellator vet Luis Nogueira. Baca was a Summer Series tournament semifinalist, but lost via submission to Anthony Leone. Baca looked strong in that fight, dropping Leone early with his crisp striking. Nogueira is a longtime Bellator vet whose most recent tournament saw him fall in the finals against Marcos Galvao. That reversed a two-fight winning streak for the Brazilian against the likes of Alexis Vila and Hiroshi Nakamura. Nogueira is a ground fighter, and the ground game proved to be Baca’s weakness against Leone. Nogueira will drag Baca down and snatch a submission.

BW: Adrian Cruz (5-0) vs. Jesse Brock (15-7)

Undefeated bantamweight Adrian Cruz looks to stay perfect against Jesse Brock. Cruz’s five-fight pro career has been impressive, with four finishes and two wins with Bellator already. His ground game is really key. He possesses good ground-and-pound, as well as underrated submissions. Brock is no push over, though. He has been fighting since 2006 and has only lost to top-flight competition, such as Donald Cerrone, Demetrious Johnson and Jimmie Rivera. Brock is really tough, but he has shown some weakness against good wrestlers, so Cruz should be able to take a decision, stay undefeated and earn a future bantamweight tournament spot.

MW: Rocky Ramirez (4-4-1) vs. Eddie Larrea (17-23)

A pair of struggling middleweights meet when Jackson’s MMA product Rocky Ramirez takes on natural welterweight Eddie Larrea. Ramirez is a striker with good power and a solid camp behind him. It will be interesting to see what kind of plans the coaches at Jackson’s MMA have in mind, especially considering that Ramirez has shown suspect submission defense. Larrea is similar in terms of submission defense, but does have some solid submissions of his own. He has much more experience than Ramirez, which may be key in this bout. Larrea will get Ramirez down at some point and earn a tapout.

BW: Shawn Bunch (2-0) vs. Steve Garcia (0-0)

In an important test for the young American Kickboxing Academy member, Shawn Bunch, a prospect wrestler who is still building himself up through Bellator, will meet pro debutant Steve Garcia. Bunch is still learning the ropes, but can rely on his superior wrestling to hold down and stifle opponents. That has been the case in his wins over Russell Wilson and Chad Coon. Garcia is a striker with a 3-0 amateur record. His only shot to win here is to stay off his back against the frantic takedown artist, but one has to believe that “Bunch the Great” will look for a shot early and often, holding Garcia down to a decision.

FW: Des Green (8-2) vs. Angelo Sanchez (12-3)

Season-nine featherweight quarterfinalist Des Green returns following his expulsion from the tournament. He takes on New Mexico native Angelo Sanchez. Green was ousted from the tournament after a dismal performance against Fabricio Guerreiro where Green did little to impress on his way to dropping a unanimous decision. His attack is clinch and wrestling heavy, but that could prove to be a difficult formula for success against Sanchez, a submission fighter that is comfortable fighting off his back. Sanchez will attack off his back and make Green uncomfortable, but the wrestler should be able to grind out Sanchez to an unexciting decision.

HW: Raphael Butler (6-0) vs. Joseph Bryant (4-2)

The big boys collide when undefeated boxer Raphael Butler takes on Joseph Bryant. Bryant has split his four wins with the two losses on his record. He fell by a knockout and submission. He takes on Butler, a powerful puncher that can end the fight in an instant. Butler returns to Bellator for the first time since blowing through Jeremiah O’Neal in his debut with the company. Butler has left the first round just once and will be looking to knock Bryant’s head off his shoulders. Look for that to indeed happen, as Butler scores the knockout win.

HW: Volkan Oezdemir (9-0) vs. Josh Lanier (3-7)

Undefeated Swiss heavyweight Volkan Oezdemir is set to make his Bellator and U.S. debut when he meets New Mexico native Josh Lanier. Lanier’s record indicates that he is very beatable, especially since he took a loss to welterweight Frank Lester. He has been finished in all seven losses, which is great for Oezdemir, who has finished all but one of his opponents. Lanier’s track record doesn’t leave room for a lot of confidence, and Oezdemir looks to be a great prospect. Look for the Swiss fighter to notch yet another knockout.

Photo: Will Brooks (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

If you’d like to make your own predictions for Friday’s event, check out William Hill Betting Online

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.

  • NM Fight Fan

    There is plenty overlooked in the local matchups which I won’t fault the author as the majority of “media” don’t really get into the trenches and do investigative work for each and every regional circuit. Rocky Ramirez runs his own gym in Albuquerque and is condition focused. His striking is more than ample and his strength should play a huge role against smaller Larrea. Steve Garcia is a tall, TALL lightweight with outstanding striking and grappling skills. He is a 1-0 pro and 13-0 amateur. Bunch nearly lost in his last bout against a fighter very similar to Garcia.

  • NM Fight Fan

    The swfight.com website has very thorough articles on their local guys.