Bellator MMA Preview
Regional Fight Sports
Written by Michael Strazzere and Tom Evans
Bellator MMA returns to the beautiful Mohegan Sun Casino, Friday, February 28th, and will feature a who's who of local stars. UFC and Pride legend Quinton “Rampage” Jackson will be in the main event as he takes on former Bellator LHW champion Christian M'Pumbu. This will kick off the 205 lb. tournament. Former Strikeforce 205 lb. champion, “King” Mo Lawal, will be on the other side of the bracket as Bellator will surely be hoping for a dream matchup between King Mo and Rampage.
Not to be outdone the Bellator 145 lb. tournament will also be kicking off featuring two regional veterans, Matt Bessette and Dez Green.The prelims will be full of Northeast region studs attempting to make some noise and get to the main card in future Bellator events. This should be an awesome night of fights, filled with KO's, subs, wars and future stars being made!
145 lb. Tournament First Round
Matt "The Mangler" Bessette (12-4) Underdog BJJ vs Diego "The Gun" Nunes (18-5) X-Gym
This fight has excitement written all over it. Bessette is one of the most popular local fighters around and seems more than ready to get on the big stage. He has never shied away from a tough fight locally, and certainly isn't shying away on the national stage either. Matt is coming off of 4 straight wins including a vicious knockout in his last Bellator fight over Nick Piedmont. He has never been in a boring fight and promises this will be no different. Bessette can finish fights wherever they go and he has a gas tank to push for 15 minutes straight. Saying he will be a crowd favorite is an understatement. A win here for the “Mangler” would blow the roof off of the Mohegan Sun. Bessette's opponent,
Diego Nunes, is as durable a fighter as there is in Bellator. He is an 11 time UFC and WEC veteran, racking up several big wins. His explosive technical standup, especially kicks, is matched by his dangerous, slick ground game. He rolled through Brazil finishing everything in his path before getting the call for the big shows. In the UFC;/WEC he had some very nice wins, including Manny Gamburyan, Raphael Assuncao and former WEC champ, Mike Brown. However, Nunes is coming off a knockout loss to Patricio Freire, which was the first of his career. Will affect him? That is yet to be seen.
This fight has the feel of a changing of the guard type of fight. Can Bessette do what everyone in the Northeast wants, and once again step up in a huge fight and take a huge step in his promising career? Or will Diego Nunes make his final stand. Nunes may be favored to win this fight but I don't think the experts can measure the strength that is in Matt Bessettes heart and mind. This one is a can't miss fight!
145 lb Tournament First Round
Dez "The Predator" Green (9-2) Bombsquad MMA vs Mike "The Marine" Richman (16-3) Academy
Dez Green returns to the cage following a big stoppage win in Bellator over Angelo Sanchez in his last outing. The former division 1 wrestler from the University of Buffalo has beaten some top regional fighters such as CES MMA champion, Rob Font and Reality Fighting champion, Brandon Fleming. Dez took home the NEF MMA title in Maine by knocking out UFC veteran Henry Martinez. Grinding out his opponent is what Dez is best at. Dez however is always improving his stand up game in every fight Dez is definitely dangerous and has the skillset to take this whole tournament.
Mike Richman is a very accomplished Bellator mainstay. He has finished 14 out of his 16 wins, including TKO's in 5 out of his 6 Bellator fights. This man is dangerous everywhere. One would think he would like to keep this standing and finish Dez from there.
155 lb. Fight
Ryan Quinn 9-4-1 (ATT) vs Andrew Calendrelli 6-3 (Ultimate MMA)
Ryan Quinn comes into this fight 5-0 in Bellator including a first round finish in his last fight over late replacement, Brylan Van Artsldalen. Interestingly, Van Artsdalen was replacing his opponent for this fight, Andrew Calandrelli. Calandrelli had some issues with his weight cut landing him in the hospital unable to compete in the first fight. Quinn has some huge wins locally on Bellator shows including TUF veteran Marc Stevens and one of the region's best 170-185 lb fighters, Brett Oteri. My guess is Quinn will look to use his decorated wrestling to get this fight to the ground and grind it out while making a great case for an invitation to the next lightweight tourney.
Calandrelli may just want Quinn to take him to the ground so he can show off his BJJ black belt skills. He has finished his last two Bellator fights by submission and will be looking for a third Friday night. Like Quinn, Calandrelli will be hoping for a tourney invite with an impressive win. The key to this fight could be the standup of both guys. Both of these guys have not really been in many standup battles and putting Calandrelli on his back may be easy for Quinn. The question is do you really want a BJJ black belt on his back for 15 minutes? We will see Friday night. This is a very well matched fight!
In other local prelim action:
Tri Force's/TBBJJ Josh "The Freight Trian" Diekmann (14-5) looks to continue his tear through Bellator Heavyweights as he takes on late replacement, Chad Herrick (10-8). Diekman will look to win his 3rd straight by knockout and also make a case for a future tournament bid. After talking to Diekman he stated he feels ready. “I know my opponent is tough, but they all are at this level. I am going to PLANK this kid, no doubt about it.”
Saul "The Spider" Almeida will be looking to stop a skid of 4 out of 5 losses when he welcomes Englishmen, Andrew Fisher into the cage. This is a huge fight and fairly close to a must win in the experienced, yet young, Almeida's career.
One of the most intense and exciting 135 lb. fighters in the region will be back in the Bellator cage when SYT's Rico DiSciullo looks to duplicate his vicious KO in his Professional and Bellator debut. Anyone who has seen Rico fight knows two things. #1 it WILL be exciting, #2 do NOT blink.
He will be taking on a very tough late replacement, Marvin Maldanado out of Bruno Tostes in Albany, New York. Marvin is 1-1 as a pro and had over 15 amateur fights. His best bet will be looking for a takedown, which will be a tall order against the much bigger DiSciullo. This should be an awesome fight to watch!
Opening the night will be CCFA co-owner and TUF veteran Pat “The Rain Maker” Shultz taking on Rampage Jackson associate, David Roberts 5-8. Both David and Pat where in the same TUF show season 7. Pat has said this will be his retirement fight so expect it to all be left in the cage. We would like to congratulate Pat on a great career. After this fight of course! Pat holds an 8-2 record. His last fight was 3 years ago. Pat is a regional legend in the sport of MMA and at the young age of 38 we salute him as he enters the cage for his last time!
The doors open at 6:30 pm with the first fight at 7:00 pm. You can watch the prelims on Bellator.com and the main card on Spike TV if you can’t make it in person!