Bellator preview: Hale vs. Santos hook it up in heavyweight semifinals



By Daniel Galvan | This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

For the second time this season, Bellator will return to Canada, and also, for the second team this season, a pair of fighters will have the opportunity to punch their way to the finals Bellator’s seventh regular season.

In the featured fight of the night at Bellator 79, heavyweight-turned-light heavyweight-turned-heavyweight Richard Hale (20-4-1) will face fellow tournament semi-finalist Thiago Santos (11-1, 1 NC) in a fight that will bring one of the combatants closer to the vacant Bellator heavyweight crown. Having finished his last three opponents in under a minute and a half, Richard Hale is highly dangerous and entertaining fighter to watch.

While his striking and grappling speed are vastly superior to the rest of the Bellator heavyweight division, it is his powerful punches that make stand out as a legitimate threat to win the championship. Thiago Santos made Bellator history in the opening round of this season’s heavyweight bracket, but it’s probably not the type of history that he’d want. Santos is the first Bellator fighter to advance the next round of a tournament due to his opponent being disqualified.

With less than a minute left in the round, Eric Prindle (7-3, 1 NC) disobeyed referee Gary Copeland’s order of “no groin” strikes when he thrashed the family jewels of Santos with a kick so severe that it rendered the Brazilian unable to continue. Before the fight’s untimely ending, Santos utilized his strength to bring Prindle down to the canvas.

Santos is a strong, plodding fighter that has KO power and submission capabilities. Although he’s giving up some serious size, I believe Richard Hale has the edge in nearly every facet of the game. Hale’s striking and grappling game is much more refined than Santos’. Even if Santos is able to score with takedowns, Hale should be able to create space and either sweep his opponent or attempt submissions.

Unless he gets hit with a powerful punch from Santos, Richard Hale will likely be one of the two heavyweights fighting for Bellator gold. To say Mike Richman (13-1) and Shahbulat Shamhalaev (10-1-1) looked impressive in the featherweight tournament opening round would be an understatement. Richman showcased his flash KO power with a devastating head kick that knocked Jeremy Spoon (12-2) out in 23 seconds. Shamhalaev thrashed Cody Bollinger’s (13-3, 1 NC) body and head with cinderblock-like ground and pound until referee Yves Lavigne called a stop to the contest.

This fight could very well end up being the fight of the night due to the both fighters having a tendency to stand and bang. In a striking contest, I would have to give the edge to Mike Richman. Shamhalaev’s has a bit of an open stance that Richman should be able to expose with his hand-speed, power, and diverse set of striking combinations.

Speaking of diverse set of striking combinations, versatile stand-up artist Douglas Lima (21-5) will look to get back on track after dropping a tough, lackluster decision to welterweight champion Ben Askren (10-0) at Bellator 64. Lima’s opponent will be Jacob “Kobe” Ortiz (13-3), a heavy-handed, Arizona state wrestling champion.

Ortiz has the skill-set to win at the Bellator level, but he’s facing a tough opponent in Douglas Lima. Lima should be able to put together an impressive win with his scary and adept striking and submission game.

The other welterweight fight on the main card pits MFC-grown Ryan Ford (18-4) against the criminally underrated Kyle Baker (12-6). By no means would I say Baker is a world beater, but I believe he’ll get his hand raised in this fight. It’s just not that great of a stylistic match-up for Ryan Ford.

Ford is a fighter that possesses deadly ground and pound and clinch strikes, but he’s facing a fighter in Baker who has one of the best clinches in the welterweight division. Baker should be able to fend of Ford’s takedowns control the bout when he attempts to close the distance. As long as Baker evades a big knee or punch from Ford in the clinch, he should be able to leave Canada with a close decision win over Ryan Ford under his belt.

If you’re an MMA fan and have the time on a Friday night, investing some of it on Bellator 79 should prove to be worthwhile. The card looks to be a fun one that features impressive displays, talented fighters, and action-packed contests.

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