Bellator MMA returns Friday night with arguably their most stacked event this year, as Bellator 136 emanates from the Bren Events Center in Irvine, California. With UFC Fight Night: Krakov offering a lackluster event, this is one of the rare weekends where Bellator could dominate the MMA headlines. Along with the lightweight championship being on the line in the main event, there are a number of pivotal matchups, in particular for the middleweight and lightweight divisions. Here are five reasons to watch Bellator 136. Lightweight Gold On The Line Headlining the nights event is none other than lightweight champion “Ill” Will Brooks who makes the second defense of his title against Season 7 Lightweight Tournament Champion Dave Jansen. Brooks (16-1) became the first person to knockout former lightweight champion Michael Chandler in his last fight – at Bellator 131 last November – and will look for his seventh straight victory in the Bellator cage. After an extended period on the sidelines due to injury, Jansen (22-2) bounced back in his last fight this past October – at Bellator 130 – by defeating two division Bellator tournament champion Rick Hawn. It’s no secret the 35-year old Jansen will want to get this fight to the mat, where he boasts 10 career submission victories in 22 career bouts. But that’s easier said than done as the 28-year old Brooks has never been submitted in his 16 fight career. Regardless fans will get to witness two of the best lightweight fighters outside the UFC go to war on on Friday night. A Standup Affair A pair of knockout artists duke it out in what could be a crucial matchup to Bellator’s middleweight division, as current GLORY middleweight Joe Schilling battles 28-year old Brazilian Rafael Carvalho. Schilling (2-1-1) is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Robert Thomas at GLORY 19 in February and in his last MMA bout, knockout out Melvin Manhoef in the first round at Bellator 131 this past November. Carvalho (10-1) is coming off an impressive first round knockout victory over Brian Rogers at Bellator 125 in November which extended his winning streak to nine-straight fights. With Alexander Shlemenko on the sidelines due to a positive test for steroids, it’s possible the winner of this matchup could earn a shot at the middleweight title. Prospect Watch Two of the best prospects outside the UFC collide in what could produce next contender for the 155 pound title, as 23-year old Marcin Held battles 26-year old Alexander “Tiger” Sarnavskiy. Held (20-3) won the Season 10 lightweight tournament in his last fight, defeating Patricky Freire by unanimous decision. Sarnavskiy (30-2) has won five in a row and most recently defeated Artak Nazaryan by first round, flying knee knockout. It’s no secret both of these fighters are well versed on the mat as both have a combined 29-career submission victories between the two of them. Held has only been finished once in his career – a first round submission loss to Michael Chandler at Bellator 36 – while Sarnavskiy has never been stopped in his 32 fight career, so this bout could end up going the full three rounds. Drago Returns! Former Bellator heavyweight champion Alexander “Drago” Volkov looks to extend his winning streak to six straight when he takes on AKA product Tony Johnson. Since losing his title to Vitaly Minakov at Bellator 108 in November of 2013, the 26-year old has finished four of his last five opponents. Johnson meanwhile holds wins over UFC veterans Tim Sylvia and Derrick Lewis and has won four of his last five fights. As Bellator’s heavyweight division appears to be wide open at the moment, an impressive win for either fighter could propel them into title contention. With 21 career knockouts between the two of them, don’t expect this heavyweight contest hitting the judges scorecards. Beltran makes his middleweight debut Former UFC heavyweight fighter Joey “The Mexicutioner” Beltran makes his 185 pound debut for Bellator, as he faces fan favourite Brian “The Professional Predator” Rogers. Since joining Bellator in late 2013, Beltran (15-11-1) has gone 1-2 dropping fights to Emanuel Newton and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Welcoming him to the middleweight division is Rogers (11-7) who is coming off a controversial first round knockout loss to Rafael Carvalho at Bellator 125. The loss was Rogers’ third in his last four fights as he looks to avoid back to back losses for just the second time in his career. Make no mistake about it, this is a must win fight for both competitors, so expect each combatant to go for the finish. The 31-year old Rogers boasts nine career knockout victories, while the California native Beltran has 11. Some pundits have suggested that Beltran could miss weight, but Rogers feels confident his opponent will show up on Friday night. With the middleweight division short on contenders, the winner of this matchup could find themselves close to a title shot in the not so distant future. Here’s the full lineup of Bellator 136 Main Card 155lbs- Will Brooks (15-1) vs. Dave Jansen (20-2) (For Bellator Lightweight Championship) 185lbs- Joe Schilling (2-3) vs. Rafael Carvalho (10-3) 155lbs- Marcin Held (20-3) vs. Alexander Sarnavskiy (30-2) 265lbs- Alexander Volkov (24-4) vs. Tony Johnson (8-2) Preliminary Card 185lbs- Joey Beltran (15-11) vs. Brian Rogers (11-7) 155lbs- Saad Awad (17-6) vs. Rob Sinclair (12-2) 145lbs- Fabricio Guerreiro (20-3) vs. John Teixeira (17-1-2) 170lbs- John Mercurio (6-7) vs. Greg Parker (4-1) 145lbs- Marcos Bonilla (1-1) vs. AJ McKee (0-0) 125lbs- Jonathan Santa Maria (3-0) vs. Steve Ramirez (0-1) 185lbs- Ben Jones (4-4) vs. Luc Bondole (4-1-1) 135lbs- Chad George (15-8) vs. Mark Vorgeas (5-2-1) 150lbs- Cleber Luciano (10-5) vs. Aaron Miller (14-9)
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