This Friday Bellator returns to Atlantic City for its sixty-eighth installment, and while I won't be there (best friend's daughter is getting baptized, gotta be there, yadda-yadda), I will most definitely be watching the action on both the SpikeTV website and MTV2. So. A lot of fights on the card. Which ones matter the most to me? Glad you asked...
-Marlon Sandro vs. Daniel Straus - If not for the pact Pat Curran made with the Devil and the superpowers Curran was then granted, Sandro would be a Bellator champ now. And why not? The dude is a monster when it comes to jiu-jitsu and a beast when it comes to Muay Thai. On the other side of this featherweight tournament final is Straus, who's scarier than a Baseball Fury and about as dangerous as a Gramercy Riff. I like this match-up because it pits two bad sonofabitches against each other, and there's a good chance for highlight-reel carnage. If I had to pick I'd say Sandro takes the decision, but who knows.
-Marcos Galvao vs. Travis Marx - When not getting screwed over by the athletic commission in Arizona, Galvao is using jiu-jitsu and decent standup to beat the fuck out of people. Marx, meanwhile, made it to this bantamweight semifinal bout by making former Shooto stud Masakatsu Ueda lay a gigantic egg in the cage. The jury's still out on Marx, though, so I'm picking the truly battle-tested Galvao to slap a saddle on Marx's back and ride him around like a pony. No homo.
-Seth Petruzelli vs. Carmelo Marrero - Petruzelli KO'd Kimbo Slice and was directly responsible for the death of EliteXC, and not many fighters can boast that they totally ended an MMA promotion, so he'll always be a fascinating cat in my book. Marrero peaked at UFC 64 when he used his wrestling to decision Cheick Kongo, but maybe he's got some ground and pound left in him, maybe not. Regardless, this is an interesting match-up because Petruzelli and Marrero are somewhat historic dudes, and we need to keep in touch with our history lest we repeat it. Or something.
-Marius Zaromskis vs. Waachiim Spiritwolf - Lithuanian striker extraordinaire Zaromskis is an ace at kicking ass and Spiritwolf excels at taking punishment, and when these guys fought before (at a Strikeforce event) Spiritwolf suffered an accidental poke to the eye that rendered the bout a "no contest" - an outcome I seriously doubt will happen again. Instead, we're going to get a re-enactment of the opening scene of "Saving Private Ryan", except instead of machine gun nests and Nazis we're going to have acrobatic kicking and no-nonsense punching. Also, heads exploding.
-Claudio Ledesma vs. Anthony Leone - Behind Aljamain Sterling, Ledesma is the best bantamweight in the Northeast - an honor he earned through the judicious employment of his jiu-jitsu and punching prowess. Leone has fought in everything from the UCL to Strikeforce, but he hasn't shined in a while, so I see Ledesma notching up another win after an exciting scrap.
-Eddie Fyvie vs. Jeff Lentz - Technically, Lentz should be fighting for a ROC belt, but I guess a rematch with the perennial badass Fyvie comes first. When first they met, Lentz put Fyvie away with a knee to the dome. I don't think it'll play out in the same way, as both men have aged like fine wines (plus, Lentz doesn't seem to be KOing people much anymore). What we should get is a nice, technical donnybrook.
-Aung La Nsang vs. Jesus Martinez - Martinez fell to Karl Amoussou, but prior to that he beat a bunch of tough guys, and notched a sweet win via head-kick KO over Chris Wing. La Nsang is a rangy Muay Thai dude with a moderately-dangerous ground game, so this one is intriguing to me the same way pitting two mid-level Marvel superheroes against each other would be intriguing. You know, like Ant-Man versus Cypher from the New Mutants.
-Marcin Held vs. Derrick Kennington - I still think Held should have lost the decision in his fight against Phillipe Nover, but whatevs, and anyway, his submission attempts are crazy Genki Sudo-esque numbers that make you say, "Huh? What? Okay, I see now." I know nothing about Kennington; however, Held makes it interesting.