By Ryan Young
What better way to spend a Valentine’s Day with your significant other than watching some hard-hitting mixed martial arts?
… I tried guys.
Championship gold will be on the line for the fifth time in Bellator’s five-week run on Spike TV when Bellator 89 takes over The Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday night at 10 p.m. ET.
Bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas defends his strap against friend and training partner Marcos Galvao, while the Season 8 middleweight tournament begins with all four quarter-final bouts.
Here’s how the night’s main card should play out (with an undercard extra)…
Bantamweight Championship bout (135-pounds)
Eduardo “Dudu” Dantas (14-3, 4-0 Bellator) vs. Marcos “Loro” Galvao (13-5-1, 4-2 Bellator)
A lot has changed since Eduardo Dantas was inside a Bellator cage.
He last appeared in April 2012 choking Zack Makovsky unconscious to win the belt. At that time he was quickly ascending up the bantamweight world rankings, but that all changed when he was knocked out by the relatively unknown Tyson Nam in his native Brazil at a charity event in August. Originally scheduled to face Galvao in November, Dantas dropped out of the bout citing post-concussion problems. Now the 24-year-old has to respond from the most definitive loss of his young career, and do it against an opponent who knows him well.
Galvao, 30, has trained alongside Dantas at the famed Nova Uniao camp in Brazil. He earned his shot at the title by winning the Season 6 bantamweight tourney with decisions over Ed West and Travis Marx leading up to his emphatic second-round TKO of Luis Nogueira in the finals. The BJJ black belt displayed improved striking throughout the tourney.
Stylistically speaking this fight could go a lot of different ways. As previously noted, Galvao has improved his stand-up whereas Dantas is coming off his first knockout loss. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the two feel each other out in the striking department before really engaging, but I expect this to culminate into a grappling affair. There could be tense moments, but Dantas overcomes a slow start with his athleticism proving to be the difference.
Winner: Dantas via unanimous decision.
Season 8 Middleweight Tournament Quarter-Final bout (185-pounds)
Dan “Cosmo” Cramer (9-3, 6-1 Bellator) vs. Brian “The Predator” Rogers (10-4, 3-2 Bellator)
I don’t know about anyone else but Brian Roger’s flying knee knockout of Vitor Vianna last March was my favourite Bellator KO of 2012 by a long margin. Unfortunately for Rogers, he failed to build any momentum off the win as he was stopped by Andreas Spang in his next fight. The 28-year-old got back on the winning side of things with a one-sided unanimous decision over Dominique Steele in October. He’s trying to make it to his first final in three tournament attempts beginning with a stern opening test.
Cramer has won five of his last six bouts, all of them in Bellator, including a decision over Jeff Nader to avenge the lone defeat of the string. The 27-year-old American Top Team product KO’d Joe Lamoureux in November to give him back-to-back victories as he enters his first Bellator tournament.
Unlike the main event, this matchup is pretty straightforward. We saw a much more conservative stand-up attack from Rogers in last outing, a far cry from the Wanderlei Silva-esque strategy he’d always seemed to employ. I’d like to see him stay the course but pick up the aggressiveness a tad against an opponent who will be trying to put him on his back. Rogers could end the fight in a flash with just one strike, but I foresee Cramer scoring enough takedowns and wearing him down en route to a decision.
Winner: Cramer via unanimous decision.
Season 8 Middleweight Tournament bout (185-pounds)
Brett “Fudoshin” Cooper (17-7, 4-2 Bellator) vs. Norman Paraisy (10-2-1 1nc, 0-2 Bellator)
Last week Brett Cooper had to sit and watch as the only man to beat him in his last seven fights won Bellator’s middleweight championship. He can earn a rematch with that man, Alexander Shlemenko, by emerging from the eight-man bracket with his hand raised. The timing seems about right as the 25-year-old journeyman has found his groove as of late rattling off four straight wins over the likes of Valdir Araujo, Joe Doerksen, Jared Hess and Darryl Cobb.
The Frenchman Paraisy has struggled to come by success in the Bellator cage. He lost his debut back in April 2009 to former UFC champion Dave Menne before building up a six-fight undefeated streak outside of the organization. In March of last year, he returned to enter the Season 6 middleweight tourney and lost to eventual winner Maiquel Falcao via decision. The 26-year-old will look to make no mistakes in his third Bellator opportunity.
To me, Cooper is the definition of a scrappy fighter. He’s not exactly overly threatening in any one area, but he can grind it out and wear his competition down. He’ll be trying to close the distance and get ahold of Paraisy who is most comfortable standing and exchanging. Even if Cooper is successful in getting Paraisy down to the mat his ground and pound was less than impressive in last fight against Cobb. I like Paraisy to get the better of the striking and avoid spending too much time on his back as the judges give him the nod in a close contest.
Winner: Paraisy via split decision.
Doug “The Rhino” Marshall (15-6, 1-0 Bellator) vs. Andreas “Sweet Swede” Spang (8-2, 1-1 Bellator)
Andreas Spang nearly pulled a Daniel Cormier last year jumping into the Season 6 middleweight tourney as a replacement in the semifinals and knocking out fan favourite Brian Rogers. The 34-year-old came up short in the finals though losing a unanimous decision to Maiquel Falcao for his second professional loss.
Marshall, a WEC veteran and former light heavyweight champion, lived up to his reputation of being a brawler with a blistering 22-second knockout of Kala Hose in his Bellator debut in November. The 37-year-old has lost three of his last five with four straight bouts lasting under 35-seconds. “The Rhino” seems to go big or go home in all of his fights regardless, but one would have to think a tournament entry at this stage of his career should only rile him up further.
There will be bombs thrown and bombs landed — it’s just a matter of which way. Marshall will be the aggressor, but as we saw in Spang’s fight with Rogers he is more than capable of counter-striking. I’m siding with “The Rhino” in this one, more out of respect for his berserker fighting-style than anything else.
He has some power, too.
Winner: Marshall via first round knockout.
Undercard Extra Prediction
Mikkel Parlo def. Sultan Aliev via second round knockout.
Bellator 88 Results: Thanks to Alexander Shlemenko going into beast mode and a clean sweep of the featherweight tourney quarter-finals we went a perfect 5-for-5 with one finish called correctly. That puts us at 18-2 overall this year.
Ryan Young is a regular contributor to Sportsnet.ca’s MMA section. Follow him on Twitter @YoungRyan4.
Bantamweight Title Fight: Marcos Galvao (134.7) vs. Eduardo Dantas (134.6)
Middleweight Tournament Quarterfinal Fight: Brian Rogers (186.0) vs. Dan Cramer (185.9)
Middleweight Tournament Quarterfinal Fight: Brett Cooper (185.2) vs. Norman Paraisy (185.8)
Middleweight Tournament Quarterfinal Fight: Andreas Spang (186.0) vs. Doug Marshall (185.5)
Middleweight Tournament Quarterfinal Fight: Sultan Aliev (185.5) vs. Mikkel Parlo (185.7)
Bantamweight Feature Fight: Timothy Goodwin (135.9) vs. Mike Maldonaldo (135.9)
Welterweight Feature Fight: Chris Mierzwiak (170.5) vs. Johnny Buck (170.5)
Middleweight Feature Fight: Kyle Bolt (185.0) vs. Joe Pacehco (185.9)
Middleweight Feature Fight: Aaron Johnson (185.5) vs. Brennan Ward (185.6)
Heavyweight Feature Fight: David Mejia (264.3) vs. Mont McMullens (265.7)