Tomorrow night, Thursday January 24th, Bellator 86 airs on SPIKETV from Thackerville, Oklahoma with a card based around the start of a welterweight tournament. The opening round matchups see newcomer Koffi Adzitso taking on Bellator main stay Ben Saunders, Brent Weedman facing Marius Zaromskis in a matchup of two Bellator vets, Douglas Lima gets Mikhail Tsarev and Jose Gomes is matched with Raul Amaya. Only Adzisto and Gomes have not competed in Bellator’s cage yet, as the company is recycling talent and creating good matchups.
Though the tournament is recycling talent and has no significant new fighters, the matchups are put together well, and unlike their Light heavyweight tournament that kicked off at Bellator 85, the four first round matchups all occur on the same day.
Picking a tournament favorite is not easy at this point. Brazilian Douglas Lima owns a Bellator tournament title from back in Season 5 and is the only fighter in the field who can make that claim. He will likely advance against Mikhail Tsarev, who owns an excellent 24-3 record, but seems to lack in the physicality department.
Ben Saunders returns and faces newcomer Koffi Adzitso. Saunders is a gigantic welterweight, and he has shown great improvement in his Bellator career. He has failed to break through and win the tournament in Bellator, and has been beaten by Lima, however Saunders will likely advance over Adzisto, who does not have the same level of opponents that Saunders has.
Brent Weedman facing Marius Zaromskis has the potential to be the best match of the opening round. Weedman also has not been able to capture a tournament title in Bellator, but he owns a win over Lima earlier in his career on a smaller show and he owns a sneaky ground game that causes trouble for opponents. Zaromskis however is a great striker and a seasoned veteran internationally, and he also fell short in his initial attempt at a Bellator tournament title. It is a high pressure matchup, as both veterans must see anything short of a tournament win as a setback.
Brazilian Jose Gomes makes his Bellator debut, bringing a solid 32-8-1 overall MMA record. This is his first competition in the USA, so he may face pressure, however he will likely use that as motivation more than anything. He faces Raul Amaya, who is 1-1 in Bellator with his lone loss coming to Ben Saunders. Amaya is looking for a signature win, however it is unlikely to come in this fight against an aggressive opponent with a lot more experience.
Check back for the lines at the sportsbooks – I look for Lima, Saunders, Weedman and Gomes to advance.