Bellator’s 2014 ‘Summer Series’ kicks off this Friday from Thackerville, Oklahoma. The card features the majority of their latest light heavyweight tournament’s first round, and a pair of matches which seem to offer some familiar faces and not much else. The main event of the card seems to be between two of the men that Bellator would like to win this tournament and develop into bigger stars for the promotion. Austen Heidlage (7-0) and Phelipe Lins (8-0) are both relatively unheralded at this point in their careers, but three victories over the next few months could do wonders for either of their careers. Heidlage has been submitting most of his opponents with ease thus far in his career, with six of seven victories by tapout, and all six of those in the first round. Lins had his first professional fight nearly a decade ago, but took a five-year hiatus from the sport between 2006 and 2011, after being the last man to defeat Antonio Mendes prior to his short UFC run. Lins is the more well-rounded of the two fighters, but that may not be enough to overcome Heidlage’s grappling game. Although it was originally announced as the main event for the card, the blockbuster heavyweight showdown between Eric Prindle (8-5) and James Thompson (19-14) has sadly been knocked down to the co-main event slot. One thing that can be said for this bout is that these two have combined for just six decisions in their 48 career fights, so it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing the final bell here. The third bout on the card features another familiar name, as Sokoudjou (14-12) takes on Terry Davinney (10-7). It’s rare to see a fighter start of their career with victories over fighters like Rogerio Nogueira and Ricardo Arona in their first five bouts end up in the place that Sokoudjou is now, at only 30 years of age. Bellator seems to be looking to get him back on track with Davinney as an opponent, although they attempted that once before with Davinney (against Matt Van Buren) and it didn’t quite go to plan. The final main card bout is another 205lb tournament quarterfinal, between Carlos Eduardo (11-3) and Egidijus Valavicius (26-10). Eduardo’s claim to fame thus far in his career is being the only man to take Jon Jones to the third round prior to Jones’ UFC career. Somewhat similarly, Valavicius has loss to Fedor Emelianenko on his resume from 2003 — the height of Emelianenko’s power. Both men hope to make new watershed moments in their careers in this tournament. One more bout will have odds available, and that’s the third light heavyweight quarterfinal, which will air on the Spike.com preliminary stream. It may actually be the best match of the lot, as solid grappler Kelly Anundson (7-2) tangles with UFC veteran Rodney Wallace, who still sports one of the best nicknames in MMA, “Sho Nuff the Master”. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting lines for Bellator 121 today at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Take a look: ——————– MAIN CARD (Spike TV, 9pm ET) Light Heavyweight Tournament Quarterfinal Phelipe Lins -405 Austen Heidlage +285 James Thompson -180 Eric Prindle +140 Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou -350 Terry Davinney +250 Light Heavyweight Tournament Quarterfinal Carlos Eduardo -260 Egidijus Valavicius +180 ——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (Spike.com, 7pm ET) Light Heavyweight Tournament Quarterfinal Rodney Wallace -210 Kelly Anundson +160 ——————– Brad’s Analysis: I’m not really sure you can call this analysis, as this fight card really isn’t deserving of much thought. The main event is the one fight on this card I can see meaning something down the road. I like Lins to win as he is the far better and more powerful striker, and I think he can nullify Heidlage’s ground game, if not having an advantage there as well. It’s a shame he took such a long layoff, because based on his early results he was on track to sign with a big promotion many years ago. Entertaining as he may be, James Thompson is not a good fighter. He’s 7-12 since 2006, and he gets knocked out a lot. Luckily for Thompson, Eric Prindle is worse. Sure, he could knock Thompson out early, but if it gets past the three-minute mark, Prindle will start looking like a giant tomato and basically be incapable of doing anything. I lean Thompson because of the skill and cardio edges, but please don’t bet this fight. “What if Sokoudjou had good cardio?” One of the great questions in MMA history. His below average chin and lacking motivation have certainly contributed to his supernova-like career as well, but it’s still difficult to look at the physical tools he brings to the cage and wonder what could have been. Terry Davinney is the perfect opponent to make Sokoudjou look good once again, as he has been finished in the first round in six of his seven losses, and is outmatched on the feet, while also not being able to take this fight to the ground. Sokoudjou has only been finished early twice in his 12 losses, so I expect him to avoid the same fate as Matt Van Buren and get the job done here. It will be interesting to see what happens if Carlos Eduardo and Phelipe Lins make it to the finals of this tournament, as both have ties to Nova Uniao. I do think both will make it to the second round at the very least. Valavicius has had a long MMA career, but has very rarely faced any solid competition. Eduardo has faced the better overall competition, and has found some success — he holds a win over Marcos Rogerio de Lima. I think that Eduardo has an advantage on the ground, while the striking is relatively even, so this all depends on where the fight takes place. Kelly Anundson impressed in his last outing against Volkan Oezdemir, but that seemed due in large part to the fact that not only has Oezdemir never wrestled, I’d be shocked if he’s heard the word wrestling. Rodney Wallace on the other hand, has. Wallace has also faced much better competition and generally done well. He’s not the most exciting fighter you’ll ever see, but he gets the job done more often than not. I think his experience will provide him the edge in a closely fought decision in this one.
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