Bellator continues their ‘summer series’ events, announcing the start of an abbreviated four man Heavyweight tournament that kicks of on the already stacked June 19th Bellator 96 event scheduled for the Winstar Casino in Oklahoma. The tournament features Richard Hale taking on Vinicius Kappke de Quiroz and Vitaly Minakov will face off against Ron Sparks, so Bellator at least has shed some of the dead weight in their heavyweight division. No more Thiago Santos and Eric Prindle, thank heavens!
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Bellator is forced to do this tournament because divisional champion Alexander Volkov sits in wait of a challenger. Volkov won a Bellator tournament and earned the vacant title with three straight wins. Volkov is a tall fighter at 6’7″, and his solid striking and overall toughness make him a fighter to watch, however he may ultimately be better off fighting at 205 lbs.
But he will be favored in a fight against whoever comes out of this tournament. The favorite is likely to be Richard Hale, who at 21-5 is a solid veteran fighter who could benefit from a tournament win on his resume. He did succumb to Volkov in the finals, but Hale should be able to handle Kappke de Quiroz, who is 1-2 in his 3 fights over the last 3 years.
Vitaly Minakov is the x-factor of the tournament. Undefeated at 10-0, he is a big and aggressive striker who has taken people out with punches, however not much is known about his level of competition. In Ron Sparks, he faces a tough guy who is 8-1 at 38 years old. Sparks was dropped fast for his first loss by Prindle in his last outing, but is otherwise 3-1 in Bellator. Unfortunately for him, Bellator has been tapping solid Russian talent that has seen Russians earn titles in several of Bellator’s weight classes, and Minakov is a solid prospect. Look for a final of Hale vs Minakov sometime later in the year.
The rst of the card features a Lightweight title defense for champion Michale Chandler, and the Lightheavyweight four man tuornament kicks off as well, so this is a card to be on the lookout for at the books.