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MMA: Bellator 39
Saturday, April 2, 9 p.m. ET, MTV 2
Bellator 39 features a lightweight title fight and two more fights in their lightweight and welterweight tournaments.
Eddie Alvarez (21-2) vs. Pat Curran (13-3)
Eddie Alvarez defends his lightweight crown for the second time this weekend at Bellator 39 against young upstart Pat Curran. Alvarez, a native of Philadelphia, comes into this bout having lost only twice in the past seven years. Even more impressive is the fact that one of those losses came at a higher weight class in a fight he took because he had cleaned out the lightweight division in the now defunct BoDog Fight organization.
Alvarez uses a rare blend of power and great technique in his game and it has served him well, compiling wins against fan favorites and all- around tough guys like ‘Hell boy’ Hansen, Josh Neer and Roger Huerta in recent years. You can also see him hurting civilians in his spare time on the show ‘Bully Beatdown’. His overwhelming boxing game sometimes overshadows the fact that he’s a really good wrestler, and he uses that wrestling prowess to make sure the fight stays where ever he wants it.
Pat Curran on the other hand is a fighter who doesn’t have any major strengths in his game yet but he manages to grind out wins. The younger cousin of former WEC veteran and jiu-jitsu ace Jeff ‘Big Frog’ Curran, Pat gets by on toughness and a strong wrestling game. Even with a strong background in jiu-jitsu, Curran seems to find himself winning by decision more often than not and that’s partly because his stand up game hasn’t quite developed yet. His improbable wins over Roger Huerta and Toby Imada vaulted him into title contention a year ago before an injury forced him to withdraw from his first ever shot at the title. He gets his chance Saturday.
To me, this fight looks to be winnable in every single facet for Eddie Alvarez. I expect him to showcase his power early and deny Curran’s takedown attempts en route to a second-round TKO for his second successful title defense.
Lyman Good (11-1) vs. Rick Hawn (10-0)
This is the semifinal fight in the welterweight (170 pounds) portion of Bellator’s tournament set up.
Lyman Good is no stranger to this tournament, as he was crowned the champion in the promotion’s first ever go-round. He lost his crown in his only title defense however and he looks to get back on track for a rematch if he can get past Rick Hawn. Good has solid power and looks to abuse his opponents using strong kick-boxing and an even stronger will.
Hawn is a rising undefeated fighter out of Boston’s Sityodtong camp. He trains alongside UFC veterans like Stephan Bonner and Marcus Davis so he shouldn’t be too awestruck in this match. Team Sityodtong is known for its tough fighters with impressive muay thai skills to boot. Hawn’s also got an impressive background in Judo, as he was selected to the Olympics as a team USA member and finished in the top 10 overall.
Despite taking a big step up in competition here and this fight looking like an obvious “gimme” for Good, I’m going to call for an upset by Hawn on this one. I think he uses his judo to control Good on the mat and score a surprising decision victory.
Toby Imada (29-15) vs. Patricky Friere (8-1)
This is the lightweight semifinal fight in this year’s tournament.
Like Lyman Good, Toby Imada is a veteran of Bellator’s tourney format, having made it to the finals both times he’s competed. He’s fought a “who’s who” list of great opponents and that experience has proved invaluable to Imada in these formats. Known for his slick jiu-jitsu, he’s one of only a handful of guys in MMA to finish 20 opponents by submission. Despite his grappling skills, he’s also shown he’s surprisingly susceptible to losing in the same manner as he lost to Eddie Alvarez via rear naked choke the last time he fought for the title and five other times that way in his career.
‘Pitbull’ Freire is an explosive fighter without a wealth of experience to draw from. He does however have the advantage of training with the Noguiera brothers who are active legends in the sport. Freire seems capable of pulling off show-stopping finishes each time he goes out. He reminds me of a poor man’s Jose Aldo in that regard, because you just don’t know what this kid is going to pull out of his hat.
This fight should be entertaining from start to finish. Imada’s experience and submission skills and Freire’s youth and explosiveness make this a must watch. I’m taking Freire in another upset to win via TKO late in the fight.
Ben Saunders (9-3-2) vs. Matt Lee (13-9-1)
This is one of those fights that is put on a card to showcase a particular fighters talents or reintroduce him to the fans. Consider this the latter as Ben Saunders finally looks to get back on track after being shown the door by the UFC last year. “Killa B” got his walking papers from the UFC after coming up short in consecutive bouts where he was effectively wrestled to death by Jon Fitch and Dennis Hallman. He knows putting together a string of fights that show his improvement could land him back in the big show.
In Saunders’ stint on “The Ultimate Fighter” he showcased a nasty muay thai game helped out by his lanky 6-2 170-pound frame and a trademark smile during fights that surely angers and frustrates his opponents. Matt Lee is essentially a body put in front of Saunders to get his feet wet with the organization, and I really feel like this fight ends early and in brutal fashion. Saunders via KO in round 1.
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