Bellator is set to return on Feb. 28 with with the premiere of its 10th season. Live from Connecticut, the card boasts a heavy lineup that includes the opening round of the four-man light heavyweight tournament, as well as the quarterfinals of the featherweight tournament.

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson headlines opposite Christian M’Pumbu in one of the two semifinals in the light heavyweight tournament. M’Pumbu is the former champion of the division. Jackson makes his sophomore effort with the company. In the co-headliner, Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal meets Mikhail Zayats in the other light heavyweight tournament bout

Without further ado, let’s preview the Bellator 110 card and make some predictions.

LHW Tournament Semifinal: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (33-11) vs. Christian M’Pumbu (18-5-1)

The main feature contains two former champions. Former UFC light heavyweight kingpin Quinton “Rampage” Jackson takes on former Bellator light heavyweight champ Christian M’Pumbu. The winner gets a finals spot, which could lead to a title shot for the Bellator light heavyweight strap.

In his Pride days, Rampage was known as a ground-and-pound fighter with superior wrestling, but in more recent times he is known as a power boxer with a granite chin. He hasn’t been nearly as successful as he was several years ago, though he picked up his first win in almost two years against Joey Beltran last season in the Bellator cage. One would assume he will keep this fight on the feet, as has been his tendency in his recent history.

M’Pumbu has not fought in over a year since he lost the belt to Attila Vegh at Bellator 91. M’Pumbu, like Jackson, is a striker, but he is small for the 205-pound weight class. In that respect, he may want to stay on the outside, as he could get outmuscled in the clinch and in dirty boxing game that Jackson utilizes. It could be his only chance.

This fight is just a warmup for Rampage, who Bellator expects to be its champion once this tournament is over. He is bigger, more powerful, more experienced and more skilled than M’Pumbu. Rampage will keep this fight upright, walk M’Pumbu down, nail him with his fists and likely end this fight somewhat early.

LHW Tournament Semifinal: Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal (11-3) vs. Mikhail Zayats (22-7)

Former Strikeforce champ and tournament veteran Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal returns to the light heavyweight tournament for the third time when he takes on Russian tourney vet Mikhail Zayats. Zayats is entering his second tournament in Bellator history.

Lawal is a wrestler who has been developing his boxing. Lawal has been given every opportunity to be the champion of this company, but he hasn’t been able to break through to the next level. He won a four-man tournament already, but he failed to grab the gold on two separate occasions. Both of those instances were against Emanuel Newton, who knocked him out of his first tournament semifinal and bested him for the interim title in Lawal’s most recent bout.

Zayats is the dark horse to win this tournament. His style features a mixture of sambo and striking. His money is made on the ground, where he has a ferocious top game and great submission ability. Other than a loss to Newton, he has dominated with submission wins over Jacob Noe and Aaron Rosa, as well as a knockout of Renato “Babalu” Sobral. It may be tough for him to take down Lawal, but that’s where he would like to take this fight.

Lawal has lost all confidence from his performances against the better guys in Bellator. This fight is really a toss-up. It could depend on Zayats ability to score the takedown. On the feet, it could be competitive, but Lawal may have the crisper hands. When the chips are down, though, I trust Zayats more. He could win a pretty convincing decision.

FW Tournament Quarterfinal: Diego Nunes (18-5) vs. Matt Bessette (12-4)

The featured featherweight tournament bout brings together a Brazilian and an American, The Brazilian is UFC and tournament vet Diego Nunes. He meets up with the American, Matt Bessette. Nunes is considered the favorite in this tournament, so it will be an uphill battle for Bessette.

After going 3-3 with the UFC and receiving his pink slip, Nunes signed with Bellator and took part in last season’s tournament. He was run through by Patricio Freire, who knocked Nunes into next week. Nunes, however, gets a mulligan for that performance. His Muay Thai and movement are superior to most men in Bellator, and he will need to utilize both of those assets here.

Bessette is more of a grappling wrestler with a good guillotine choke and great physical strength. He is 3-0 in Bellator with wins over Saul Almeida, Paul Barrow and Nick Piedmont, the latest of which ended in a brutal knockout. He would be wise to close the distance on Nunes and work the ground in this bout.

This will likely come down to who can dictate where the fight occurs. If Nunes can avoid the takedown, he can tag and hurt Bessette throughout the contest. If Bessette can drag Nunes down, he can punish him for 15 minutes of ground-and-pound. I’ll bet on the former. Nunes advances to the semifinals.

FW Tournament Quarterfinal: Mike Richman (16-3) vs. Desmond Green (9-2)

A striker vs. grappler bout is afoot in the featherweight tournament when former Marine Mike Richman meets up with fellow tournament vet Desmond Green. The bout’s outcome will depend on where the fight goes.

Richman is a power striker with quick hands and good feet. Of his 16 wins, 14 have been finishes, showing his killer instinct. Two of his last three wins have come in brutal fashion—he head-kicked Mitch Jackson into oblivion and smashed Akop Stepanyan. If he keeps this fight on the feet, he will light up Green.

On the other side, Green is a wrestler who is known for grinding out opponents. He hasn’t looked especially impressive in Bellator thus far. He lost a lackluster fight to Fabricio Guerreiro and beat an overmatched opponent in Angelo Sanchez. His wrestling is set up with wild strikes where he lobs punches and searches for a leg to attain a takedown. That’s what can be expected here, too.

There is a chance that Green will grind out Richman in a boring fight. However, Richman is quick and has good footwork, which should keep him at a distance. Green will tire out eventually in looking for numerous takedowns while taking some shots. Richman will either finish him late or earn a close decision.

FW Tournament Quarterfinal: Daniel Weichel (31-8) vs. Scott Cleve (14-3)

In another featherweight tournament bout, we get near-40 fight vet Daniel Weichel, a German, making his Bellator debut against Scott Cleve, an American. Both men are on solid winning streaks and look to continue that into the semifinals and an eventual title shot.

Weichel is just 29 years old and has fought 39 times in his career. He is a M-1 veteran with great mat skills—he has submitted 19 of his 31 opponents. He owns a victory over tournament winner Magomedrasul Khasbulaev, as well as a submission win in his latest outing over Artiom Damkovsky. Yet, Weichel has to be considered a dark horse in this tournament.

Cleve, a Colorado native, enters the tournament coming off the biggest win of his career against Isaac de Jesus. He would be wise to keep this fight standing, as most of his wins come by way of knockout and grappling with Weichel could draw disaster. He has solid kicks that he mixes in with his hands, making him unpredictable on the feet.

Weichel’s experience is definitely going to be an x-factor here, but what about this fight being contested in America? Most of the German’s fights have been in Europe, and the travel may affect him here. However, his skill set is hard to ignore. Weichel should be able to beat Cleve, though it definitely will not be easy.

Preliminary Card
FW Tournament Quarterfinal: Goiti Yamauchi (16-1) vs. Will Martinez (8-2-1)

In the only tournament fight to grace the prelims, Brazilian phenom Goiti Yamauchi takes on Will Martinez with a spot in the semifinals on the line. Yamauchi is known for his incredible grappling, but it was his striking that was on display in his last fight, where he utterly decimated Saul Almeida. Martinez is a power wrestler who has been known to show weaknesses in his submission defense. Wherever this fight goes, Yamauchi has an advantage. Expect a finish and consider Yamauchi a favorite to win the entire tournament.

LHW: Egidijus Valavicius (25-10) vs. Atanas Djambazov (18-3)

Eastern Europe is represented heavily in this fight, where Lithuanian newcomer Egidijus Valavicius takes on Bulgarian tournament vet Atanas Djambazov. Djambazov’s first Bellator appearance was in a tournament not long ago, when Emanuel Newton submitted him out of the first round. He has since rebounded on the regional circuit, where he showed his finishing ability. Valavicius is a top European light heavyweight prospect with good striking. He is known for his kicks, of which Djambazov needs to be wary. Look for a powerful, crisp Valavicius as he strikes his way to victory.

FW: Saul Almeida (13-5) vs. Andrew Fisher (12-5-1)

British brawler Andrew Fisher looks to find his way into another featherweight tournament, but in his way is Massachusetts native Saul Almeida. Fisher, who has won all but one of his fights via finish, entered last season’s tournament, but was eliminated in the quarterfinal round by Joe Taimanglo. He will want to keep the fight upright against Almeida, who is known for his jiu-jitsu and his ability to dictate the ground tempo. That said, Fisher’s counter-wrestling isn’t where it needs to be, so Almeida should be able to ground him consistently en route to a win.

LW: Ryan Quinn (9-4-1) vs. Andrew Calandrelli (6-3)

Ryan Quinn and Andrew Calandrelli, a pair of lightweights from Connecticut, will fight for supremacy of the small state. Quinn is known for his grappling prowess, which he uses to control men on the ground and search for submissions. He tapped Brylan van Artsdalen in his last Bellator appearance to push his record with the company to 5-0. Calandrelli is similarly a grappler, and he has spent some time working with Nova Uniao, which shows that he is serious about his submission game. He is also undefeated at 2-0 with Bellator, making this an intriguing match-up. Although Quinn has shown his competence on the ground, Calandrelli is bigger and stronger, and he should be able to control the mat game against Quinn.

BW: Jake Smith (0-0) vs. Rico DiSciullo (1-0)

Team Sityodtong member Rico DiSciullo takes on to debutant Jake Smith. Not much is known about Smith, but DiSciullo has a good training camp behind him and one bout with Bellator already under his belt. He is primarily a Muay Thai stylist. He should be able to connect with Smith’s chin and gain his second career win.

LHW: Pat Schultz (8-2-1) vs. David Roberts (5-8)

New England native Pat Schultz and Floridian David Roberts, a pair of light heavyweights, make their respective Bellator debuts. Roberts has lost six out of his last seven, and all but one came via a finish. His last fight was in 2009. Schultz, meanwhile, has been on the shelf since 2010. He has been far more consistent, however, and has the knockout power to put away Roberts somewhat early.

HW: Josh Diekmann (14-5) vs. Chad Herrick (10-8)

The big boys are set to do battle in the Bellator cage when potential heavyweight-tournament participant Josh Diekmann takes on Chad Herrick, a man moving up in weight. Diekmann’s only losses have come against respectable opposition, and he has already notched a couple of solid wins with Bellator. The powerful heavyweight smashed through Parker Porter and Chris Guillen in his first two bouts with the company, taking just over a minute in each scrap. Herrick is a late replacement who has stepped into the cage with some respectable veterans. The size disadvantage will be too much for Herrick to overcome. Diekmann pushes forward and scores a knockout.

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.