It has been almost a month since Bellator’s ninth season concluded and yet it’s already felt like an eternity since the weekly program showed up on Friday night programming. It may be while before Bellator is set to return, but let’s take a look ahead into season 10.

In past seasons, not every weight class has had a featured tournament. However, we never really know which weight classes will get a tournament, so we’ll look at each division and lay out some potential bracket scenarios that could come to fruition.

There are still men who have won past tournaments, such as Dave Jansen and Patricio Freire, who now are waiting for their title shots. With the reigning champions and top contenders in mind, let’s create some tournaments for season 10 using the remaining current talent roster that Bellator possesses.

Heavyweight Tournament
  • Blagoi Ivanov vs. Vinicius Queiroz
  • Ryan Martinez vs. Alexander Volkov
  • Mighty Mo vs. Peter Graham
  • Raphael Butler vs. Josh Appelt

A new heavyweight tournament champ was crowned in season nine when Vitaly Minakov used his Summer Series tournament win to cash in on a title shot and beat countryman Alexander Volkov for the strap. Volkov should get some kind of road back to potentially reclaiming the title.

Putting Volkov up against a tournament veteran and former finalist in Ryan Martinez would be a smart move. Both men have already made it to a tournament final, and one could weed out the other en route to making it to another tourney final. Martinez possesses a rugged durability and a punishing ground-and-pound game, whereas Volkov is a tall, rangy striker with good hands and endurance.

Put two exciting kickboxers up against each other and it could provide a fight of the tournament in the quarterfinals. That’s where Might Mo and Peter Graham come in. Both have high-level kickboxing experience, and they could combine to put on a barn-burner of a fight. They would be underdogs of the tournament, but could at least excite the crowd with their aesthetically pleasing styles.

Bellator loves a good backstory, and there may be none more crazy than that of Blagoi Ivanov. The Bulgarian is a tournament veteran who had to spend over a year out of the cage after almost being stabbed to death in his native country. He is back with the company and already 2-0 in his return. Matching him up against Vinicius Queiroz, a guy who was in the last heavyweight tournament but had to bow out due to injury, would be a wise move. It would allow one of the formerly injured tournament vets the chance to make another run.

Last, putting two recent Bellator employees on winning streaks opposite each other in Raphael Butler and Josh Appelt would provide one prospect a shot at the tournament glory and the other a trip back to the drawing board. Butler is an undefeated power boxer that is 3-0 with three knockouts in Bellator over the last six months, and Appelt is a grinder that is also 3-0 with Bellator. It only makes sense that they see who the better man is in this tournament.

Light Heavyweight Tournament
  • Christian M’Pumbu vs. Vladimir Matyushenko
  • Mikhail Zayats vs. Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal
  • Liam McGeary vs. Joey Beltran
  • Carlos Eduardo vs. Linton Vassell

The light heavyweight division is in disarray for several reasons. There is the champion, Attila Vegh. There is the interim champion, Emanuel Newton. There are aging stars Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Tito Ortiz, who are big attractions. There is still some talent though.

Former champion Christian M’Pumbu hasn’t fought since losing his title due to injury. However, a run at his former title is warranted, considering how he dominated the field of competitors when he won the title over a year ago. He should not get an easy opponent, though, and putting him in the cage with UFC vet and 40-something Belarusian Vladimir Matyushenko would prove whether or not he is ready to get his title back.

Then there is Joey Beltran, a man who stepped up on late notice to save a marquee fight with Rampage. Sure, he got knocked out, but he is a fan-favorite who did the company a favor by filling in on short notice. He should get a chance to make a run in a tournament, but he shouldn’t receive a gimme either. Enter Liam McGeary, a powerful Brit with an undefeated record and an incredible mean streak. He has proven he has killer instinct and, with the right exposure, the ability to become a star.

Russian star Mikhail Zayats is a tournament veteran that has proven he can hang with top talent. His track record has been solid in Bellator tournaments, but he should get a stiff test. Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, who is pretty much confirmed to be in the tournament, would be that test the Russian needs to get to the next level. It would be sambo against wrestling, which could be very interesting.

There are two really intriguing prospects currently in the Bellator ranks at light heavyweight. They are Carlos Eduardo and Linton Vassell. Both should get spots in the tournament. The best match-up to be made is to pair them in the quarterfinals. Both men are well-rounded fighters somewhat young into their careers that can provide a glimpse into the future of Bellator’s 205-pound division. It would be an intriguing fight that could lead off any main card.

Middleweight Tournament
  • Brett Cooper vs. Mikkel Parlo
  • Kendall Grove vs. Dan Cramer
  • Andreas Spang vs. Perry Filkins
  • Eugene Fadiora vs. Jonas Billstein

Out of nowhere, the middleweight division has become an interesting weight class for Bellator. Before, it was the same old faces. Now, following the improvements to its roster, Bellator has some good potential fights.

The first match-up worth noting would combine former tournament finalists Brett Cooper and Mikkel Parlo. The point of this match-up is to eliminate one finalist and advance another, with the intention of making sure we don’t see the same fighters in the tournament finals. Cooper and Parlo have proven to be durable in their bouts and could provide a great, grinding fight.

Then, Bellator should put together two guys who had their tournament runs ruined by injury last season. Those men would be Andreas Spang and Perry Filkins. Spang never got to participate in last season’s tournament, as he was injured before the quarterfinals. Filkins, meanwhile, won a barn-burner against Jeremy Kimball, but was too banged up to continue in the tourney.

An international flavor is always a desirable ingredient in the tournaments, and a match-up of England and Germany could fit that bill. Eugene Fadiora is a much-sought-after prospect who made his Bellator debut in impressive fashion. Jonas Billstein is a well-rounded fighter that would test the skill of Fadiora, who would be a tournament favorite.

Finally, there’s UFC veteran Kendall Grove. He seems to have made a home for himself within the Bellator cage and may be the biggest name in the division. It would only make sense to put this star in a tournament and give him a proven tourney vet like Dan Cramer as an opponent. Cramer is a grinder with heavy wrestling and great durability. This is the type of fighter that can give Grove problems and help to determine if Grove is truly ready to be a Bellator poster boy.

Welterweight Tournament
  • War Machine vs. Joe Riggs
  • Nathan Coy vs. Paul Bradley
  • Ron Keslar vs. Andrey Koreshkov
  • Nah-Shon Burrell vs. Jesse Juarez

There are three guys that we know will have tournament berths coming into season 10. Those men are War Machine, Joe Riggs and Nathan Coy. Riggs won his spot by claiming top honors on the Fight Master reality series, Coy got in by default when Matt Riddle dropped out of their qualifying match and War Machine is in because of his cult following and Bellator’s investment in him.

Although War Machine calls out many a man on Twitter, the most intriguing idea came when he called out Riggs following the veteran’s Fight Master win. Both are long-term vets that train on the West Coast and represent a hard-nosed style that could complement each other well.

As for Coy, give him a guy with a similar style in Paul Bradley, who beat former title challenger Karl Amoussou last season. Both men are good wrestlers, which could turn this into a brawl between two high-level fighters.

Next, there are former tournament finalists Ron Keslar and Andrey Koreshkov, the latter of whom challenged for the title. As with Cooper and Parlo at middleweight, having two former finalists removes the chance of having the same men in the finals every time. Also, Keslar is a wrestler and Koreshkov showed in his title fight with Ben Askren that he needs to tighten up his wrestling defense.

Nah-Shon Burrell and Jesse Juarez could take the last two spots in this tournament. Juarez is 2-0 with Bellator in 2013, including wins over Fight Master vet Joe Williams and The Ultimate Fighter veteran Jordan Smith. Those type of wins should be rewarded with a tournament berth. Burrell, a former UFC fighter, is a power boxer that is immensely athletic and was successful in his Bellator debut. Having Burrell and Juarez square off would be the smart move, given how the match-ups were made in the other welterweight quarterfinals.

Lightweight Tournament
  • David Rickels vs. Alexander Sarnavskiy
  • Marcin Held vs. Paul Sass
  • Rob Sinclair vs. Patricky Freire
  • Efrain Escudero vs. Terry Etim

The lightweight division is currently in a logjam. Michael Chandler and Eddie Alvarez are set to have their rubber match for the title, and when that clears up, Dave Jansen and Will Brooks will have their shots. In the meantime, there are plenty of talented guys left to fill out a bracket.

Again, as with other brackets, former finalists should fight in the quarterfinals. That makes a fight between David Rickels and Alexander Sarnavskiy a good match-up. Sarnavskiy is a soft-spoken Russian with good skills and Rickels is a durable brawler known for his outlandish personality. Those polar opposites could make for an interesting lead-up and fight.

Then, Poland’s Marcin Held and England’s Paul Sass, two of the better grapplers in the tournament, could square off. Held is probably the better striker, but imagine a mat war between these two. Held has deadly leglocks and Sass is known for his signature triangle choke. That could be a fun one.

Rob Sinclair came into Bellator with great hype, but an injury prevented him from participating in last season’s tournament. He should get another crack, though, as he is one of the best British lightweights in the world. A good litmus test for him would be longtime Bellator vet Patricky Freire, who has struggled as of late to string together wins.

The final match-up could see two UFC vets meet. Efrain Escudero had a win at Bellator 100 and has the name recognition to give him hype in the tournament. Terry Etim had a victorious Bellator debut after getting dumped by the UFC earlier this year. This fight is simple: one UFC vet stays, the other leaves.

Featherweight Tournament
  • Mike Richman vs. Chas Skelly
  • Rad Martinez vs. Justin Wilcox
  • Pat Curran vs. Anthony Morrison
  • Diego Nunes vs. Shahbulat Shamhalaev

Featherweight may be the most loaded division for Bellator. Plus, it has a new champion in Daniel Straus, who took the title off Pat Curran at Bellator 106. Curran should get a spot in the tournament, given his track record in title defenses. He could get that in Anthony Morrison, who took an impressive win over Kenny Foster in his latest outing.

We’ll continue with our pattern of former tournament finalists squaring off in the quarterfinals. In this case, it’s Rad Martinez, a kid with an inspirational story, against Justin Wilcox, a finalist in the last tournament who made it there on short notice. They have a similar style and their battle could result in a tournament favorite.

Speaking of tournament vets, putting together power strikers and professional killers like Diego Nunes and Shahbulat Shamhalaev could provide the fight of the tournament. Nunes had a quick loss in his Bellator debut, but he is a recognized name that could give the tourney more credit. Shamhalaev is a former tournament finalist that was supposed to be in the last tourney, but dropped out after his father fell ill.

Multi-time tournament vet Mike Richman seems like a must for this bracket. He is a crowd favorite with a pleasing style and good knockout power. Putting him in there with a top prospect and potential dark horse in Chas Skelly, who is undefeated and a good grappler, would make for an interesting clash of styles.

Bantamweight Tournament
  • Travis Marx vs. Anthony Leone
  • Luis Nogueira vs. Marcos Galvao

The Bellator bantamweight division doesn’t have too many bodies, so it’s tough to make an eight-man tournament. So, as seen in recent times, we will go with a four-man bracket.

Every man in this field is a Bellator tournament vet. Anthony Leone was a finalist in the Summer Series and Travis Marx was a finalist in the season-nine bracket. They have somewhat similar attributes and their pairing could lead to an American-Brazilian final, given that they are American and the men on the other side of the bracket would be from Brazil.

Those two Brazilians are Luis Nogueira and Marcos Galvao, who actually have already met. Galvao finished Nogueira in the first encounter, but it’s still an intriguing match-up worth seeing, given that they are among the best guys in the thin division. Since their first encounter, both have wins via finish in Bellator (Galvao over Tom McKenna, Nogueira over Frank Baca). They are ready to meet again.

Photo: Pat Curran (R) connects with a flying knee (Dave Mandel/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.