On Friday, July 25th, Bellator MMA will be returning to the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, CA to host their season 10 Middleweight Tournament Final with Brett Cooper facing Brandon Halsey, while Russian striker Andrey Koreshkov will battle rising star Adam McDonough in the Welterweight Tournament Finals. As always, these tournament finals are critical as the winners move on to earn a guaranteed world title fight.
More important than the above, we have one of our own making a return appearance. Joe Duarte of The Arena in Point Loma and The Complex Training Center of Jacksonville, Florida matched up against the former lightweight tournament finalist Saad Awad of Millennia MMA in San Bernardino, CA.
For Duarte this will be a rematch of their April 9, 2011 Strikeforce battle royale in which Durate secured a huge second round armbar victory over Awad. After falling to Duarte, Awad then improved to 15-6 with 13 finish wins and he’s looking for redemption. The Bellator matchmakers are contending with the vast improvements he’s made and his experience in the cage since their last meeting, that Awad will win this time around.
Bjorn Rebney, the Chairman & CEO of Bellator, had this to add, “We’ve got two spectacular tournament final fights that headline the show, two amazing semi-finals in our Light Heavy Weight tournament and a battle between two great names in MMA, with the Bellator debut of “The New York Bad Ass” Phil Baroni facing the resurgent and focused Karo “The Heat” Parisyan. And, on top of that we’ve got a loaded prelim card that features a crazy amount of talent. The Southern California market has been fantastic to us, it’s our home, and we are delivering a great card top to bottom.”
So who is Phil “The New York Bad Ass” Baroni anyway? Baroni has recorded 10 victories by knockout and he’s looking to put on an explosive performance and make his mark under the Bellator banner against the always exciting Parisyan, who won three of his previous four fights.
“I’m so pumped to be back with Bellator, they have treated me great here and I’m proud to be back in the cage,” said Parisyan. “This is going to be a fun one. I’ve known Phil for a long time, we have a strong friendship, but this is business, and an absolutely huge fight for both of us. Everyone knows the only chance Phil has is to try and knock me out, but I know I bring more to the table. It’s going to be your standard standup guy vs. a judo guy, but you never know what can happen. I’m not under estimating Phil, and we both know how important of a fight this is for both of us. Our futures are on the line here, and I’m taking this incredibly seriously.”
After defeating Mike Mucitelli by knockout in the light heavyweight opening round at Bellator 118, Liam McGeary returns to face Egidijus Valavicius. Valavicius claimed victory against Carlos Eduardo in the opening rounds, but will have his work cut out for him against McGeary who maintains a perfect 7-0 record. McGeary has won all four of his Bellator bouts by first round finish. And don’t you know, if we combine the total time he has spent in the cage (for those four bouts) it comes to less than 4 minutes.
With a dominate first round submission victory in the opening round of his last bout, Philipe Lins will battle Kelly Anundson in the semifinals to complete the other half of the light heavyweight tournament bracket. Lins has a 9-0 professional record with seven wins coming by KO or submission.
No stranger to the Bellator cage, Karl Amoussou will be facing Fernando Gonzalez in a welterweight match. In a battle of finishers, Amoussou has recorded 12 of his 17 wins by KO or submission. Gonzales has recorded 14 finishes, 12 coming in the first round.
Entering his match with back-to-back first round submission victories, Poppies Martinez will be fighting one of MMA’s top prospects Bubba Jenkins. With a 6-1 professional record, Jenkins has won five professional fights by KO or submission and will put his skills to the test against Martinez who has fought in 35 fights and recorded 18 submission victories.
At 8-0, Russian heavyweight Dmitriy Sosnovskiy, who signed with Bellator fresh off his first round KO victory over Aleksander Emelianenko, joins a division currently featuring Russian heavyweights Vitaly Minakov and Alexander Volkov. Sosnovskiy will be making his Bellator debut against California native Manny Lara, a four-time Bellator veteran. Lara, representing Team Reign of the Reign Training Center in Lake Forest, California, will have his hands full with Sosnovskiy, who has notched four first round KO victories.
Coming off of a 56 second victory in his Bellator debut, Stephen Martinez will fight submission ace Sergio Rios. With an undefeated 7-0 professional record, Rios has recorded 5-first round submission victories and plans on using his strong submission skills against Martinez, who himself is riding a six-fight winning streak.
Another local fighter
After recording a first round knockout in his Bellator debut, Temecula’s Virgil “Rezdog” Zwicker (12-3, 9 KOs) will be going up against his toughest opponent to date, Linton Vassell (13-3, 11 KOs). Vassell has won eight consecutive fights and recorded 11 of his 13 wins by either KO or submission.
Zwicker, who once fought in the now-defunct Strikeforce organization, trains at Team Quest Temecula along with such notables as Dan Henderson, Vladimir Matyushenko and Chael Sonnen.
It's from the minor leagues to the majors for our 3rd local fighter
Rounding out the Spike.com card will be a heavyweight clash between undefeated 23 year-old Augusto Sakai (6-0, 5 KOs) from Curitiba, Brazil who stands 6 foot tall and weighs 265 pounds and 36 year-old Matt “The American Badass” Frembling who stands 6’2” tall and weighs 255 pounds. On paper that sounds like a pretty even match-up.
That is until you look at the opponents they've faced, their strength of schedule, their quality of opposition. Mr. Frembling (9-2), a coach at the Fight Syndicate Mixed Martial Arts & Fitness in Menifee, CA, hasn't faced anyone of note. His last opponent, Lloyd Marshbanks, had lost his previous seven bouts and in all but one of those contests he didn’t even get out of the first round. The other five opponents he faced had a combined record of 9 wins and 11 losses. Now we’re about to see if the reigning Xplode Fight Series Heavyweight Champ in his Bellator debut can hang in there with a guy who can throw a punch.
Bellator 122 will be broadcast live from Pechanga beginning at 6 p.m. PST on Spike TV. The preliminary card will be streamed live and free exclusively on Spike.com starting at 4 p.m. Tickets for the event are on sale now and can be purchased by visiting Pechanga.com, Bellator.com, or by calling the Pechanga Box Office at 877-711-2946 or visiting their ticket office between noon and 8 p.m. daily.