Bellator MMA is set to return on April 18 to continue its 10th season. Live from Iowa, the card boasts a lineup that includes the welterweight championship and one of the lightweight tournament semifinal bouts.

Douglas Lima and Rick Hawn are set to fight for the vacant welterweight title, which was abandoned by Ben Askren when he parted ways with the company. The winner will hold the gold and wait for this season’s tournament winner to challenge them in the future.

In the lightweight semis, Patricky Freire fights Derek Campos. The winner meets the victor of the night’s other lightweight semifinal between Marcin Held and Derek Anderson, with a chance at a future title shot at 155 pounds.

Without further ado, let’s preview the Bellator 117 card and make some predictions.

WW Championship: Rick Hawn (18-2) vs. Douglas Lima (25-5)

The welterweight title will be up for grabs when American judoka Rick Hawn takes on Brazilian banger Douglas Lima. The winner takes home the gold and fills the throne vacated by Ben Askren.

Hawn is an Olympic judoka with dynamite in his hands. He has challenged for a title before, but was denied the gold by Michael Chandler, the lightweight champion at the time. To get this title shot, he won last season’s tournament on late notice over the likes of Herman Terrado, Brent Weedman and Ron Keslar. The Keslar bout was a signature win for Hawn, who blasted the wrestler with a massive punch.

Lima is a jiu-jitsu fighter who has greatly displayed his striking as of late. He earned this shot at the title by winning a recent tournament. In that bracket, Lima put away Michail Tsarev, Bryan Baker and Ben Saunders, all of whom he beat via strikes. He has added some solid leg kicks to his arsenal as well, which is further opening up his ability to land power strikes.

This bout has all the makings of a classic. Both men like to throw haymakers and they can handle themselves on the ground. Lima is the bigger fighter, whereas Hawn may be a tad more athletic. Lima is quicker, though, which could make the difference here. I don’t know if either man will be finished, but there will be some dicey situations and Lima will prevail to become the champion.

LW Tournament Semifinal: Patricky Freire (12-5) vs. Derek Campos (14-3)

With a spot in the lightweight finals hanging in the balance, Brazil’s Patricky Freire takes on Derek Campos in an intriguing bout. The winner meets the winner of the fight between Marcin Held and Derek Anderson, who also fight on this card.

Freire is a jiu-jitsu fighter who has become a striker in his most recent affairs. After dropping three straight fights not long ago, Freire got back in the win column against Edson Berto to earn this tournament slot. In the quarterfinals of the tournament, Freire clobbered David Rickels with strikes to advance to this semifinal bout.

Campos is a power wrestler with immense physical strength and good aggressive takedowns. He defeated Martin Stapleton to earn a nod to this tournament. He followed that up with a domination of Tim Welch in the quarterfinals, where he used timely takedowns and heavy top pressure to work to a clear-cut decision.

This bout has an interesting stylistic match-up. Freire is going to want to stand and bang with Campos, whereas the American is going to look to plant the Brazilian on the mat. Campos, if he can pace himself, has a good style to beat Freire with a wrestling-heavy attack.

LW Tournament Semifinal: Marcin Held (17-3) vs. Derek Anderson (11-0)

Polish Bellator staple Marcin Held looks to continue his recent dominant ways, but an undefeated beast by the name of Derek Anderson looks to halt his ascent. The winner will advance to the tourney finals and meet the victor of the fight between Patricky Freire and Derek Campos.

Held is a leg-lock specialist who has increased his abilities on the feet and improved his wrestling. He is starting to hit his stride, as seen in recent performances against Rich Clementi and Ryan Healy. In his quarterfinal fight, Held quickly grounded Muay Thai specialist Rodrigo Cavalheiro and tapped him with a nasty toe-hold submission.

Anderson is a dangerous striker with good ground abilities and rugged disposition. His biggest claim to fame is a win over fellow tournament semifinalist Patricky Freire, which really earned him attention from the Bellator brass and fans. In his quarterfinal bout, he used a timely stepping knee to crush Brandon Girtz in the jaw, effectively putting the wrestler out before he hit the mat. It was spectacular and violent.

This bout will be a battle of wills. Will Held be able to ground Anderson long enough to work one of his patented leg and foot locks, or will Anderson keep this fight standing and light Held up with his long punches and violent knockout power? My guess is that Anderson, who looks like a fighter to keep an eye on, will prevail.

WW: Karl Amoussou (16-6-2) vs. David Gomez (16-7)

A pair of welterweights likely trying to enter the next 170-pound tournament kick off the main card. Frenchman Karl Amoussou, a former title challenger, takes on David Gomez. Both men are experienced vets that could make this a “Fight of the Night” contender.

Amoussou is a former tournament winner who had his shot at Ben Askren after beating Chris Lozano, David Rickels and Bryan Baker to earn that fight. However, Amoussou was repeatedly taken down by Askren and eventually succumbed via doctor’s stoppage. He had a comeback fight at Bellator 104, but he was outwrestled and hustled by Paul Bradley, who took a clear-cut decision.

It was rumored that Gomez was originally slated to fight Ryan Jensen, but he was moved to the main card to challenge Amoussou. The longtime King of the Cage vet is set to make his Bellator debut. He’s a power striker and top-game grappler who brings a good amount of experience to the cage. He has stepped into the squared circle with the likes of Andrey Koreshkov, Joshua Aveles and Tom Gallicchio.

This fight is a conundrum. Gomez likely wants to stand and trade with Amoussou, but that would be dangerous. Gomez would be wise to work his wrestling here, but Amoussou has faced better wrestlers than Gomez. The Frenchman will work his strikes and close in when he smells blood. He will win and punch a ticket to next season’s tourney.

Preliminary Card
LW: Jordan Parsons (9-1) vs. Tim Bazer (14-15)

Lightweight prospect and Minnesota Fight Factory rep Jordan Parsons is ready to make his Bellator debut, but in his way is sub-.500 fighter Tim Bazer. Parsons is a wrestler that relies on takedowns and a grinding style to suffocate opponents. He does have some developing submission skills, which will come in handy against Bazer, who has been tapped on numerous occasions. This is a thorough mismatch. Parsons should take the win with ease.

FW: Julio Cesar Neves (28-0) vs. Josh Arocho (13-12)

Undefeated Brazilian phenom Julio Cesar Neves looks to make his American and Bellator debut in style. The undefeated fighter meets Bellator vet Josh Arocho. Neves is known for his flashy striking, which incorporates a variety of capoeira stylings. Arocho is a noted submission fighter whose claim to fame is taking one of the most one-sided beatings in the history of MMA at the hands of Ronnie Mann. This is basically a showcase for Neves. Bellator is banking on him to be a star. He will destroy Arocho with his striking.

WW: Ryan Jensen (19-8) vs. Mark Stoddard (8-6)

Finisher Ryan Jensen is likely looking for a tournament berth at 170 pounds, but between Jensen and that wish stands journeyman Mark Stoddard. Stoddard is a fighter who relies on gaining the top position when the fight goes to the mat. He likes using ground-and-pound, which sometimes sets up submissions. Jensen is a pure finisher. All 19 of his victories have come by way of knockout or submission. Jensen is known for his wicked guillotine, which has been his choice hold, especially in recent outings. Wherever this fight goes, Jensen, a two-stint UFC vet, should have the advantage. He should win by any method he chooses, but most likely by submission.

MW: Anthony Smith (17-11) vs. Victor Moreno (32-19)

UFC and Strikeforce veteran Anthony Smith looks to impress the bosses and earn a future tournament slot when he takes on 50-plus fight vet Victor Moreno. Smith is an aggressive finisher that has never gone to a decision, win or lose. He is susceptible on the ground against wrestlers and jiu-jitsu artists. Moreno is more of a striker, but he has been tapped out 16 times in his career and could be exposed by Smith’s top game. Expect Smith to return to his winning ways here.

MW: Joe Vedepo (14-8) vs. Ben Crowder (10-11)

UFC veteran Joe Vedepo makes his return outing to Bellator against sub-.500 fighter Ben Crowder. Vedepo is an American Top Team rep known for finishing his fights. He is riding a three-fight skid right now, but has a gimme of a fight on his hands here. Crowder is a submission fighter that won’t be able to take down Vedepo, nor stand and bang with him. This should be an easy win for “The Doctor.”

LW: LaRue Burley (3-0) vs. Cliff Wright (8-5)

Undefeated prospect LaRue Burley returns to Bellator coming off the biggest win of his career. He takes on five-fight Bellator vet Cliff Wright. Wright is a submission fighter known for his tapout ability. All eight of Wright’s wins come via submission. Burley who just beat top prospect Bubba Jenkins in an impressive showing. Burley has solid counter-wrestling and superior stand-up to Wright. That should carry him to another win over the more experienced Wright.

LW: Jared Downing (9-4) vs. Martin Brown (4-2)

Jared Downing is a former prospect who has fallen on hard times. He is set to return to Bellator when he takes on Martin Brown. Downing is a wrestler with decent striking that he will need to utilize in this bout. He is a grinder who is known to fight to decisions. Brown hasn’t fought since 2012. The grappler has been exposed by wrestling in the past against JP Reese. Expect Downing to dictate where this fight goes and take another decision over Brown.

LHW: Houston Alexander (15-10) vs. Matt Uhde (3-4)

UFC veteran Houston Alexander is set to make his sophomore outing with Bellator when he takes on sub-.500 fighter Matt Uhde. This is one of the many squash matches on the card, if you haven’t noticed the trend. Alexander is a striker with more experience, especially at the higher levels. Uhde is more of a grappler, but he will have trouble getting Alexander down. Alexander should score a knockout blow here.

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.