Bellator have unveiled the opening round match-ups for their four-man, one-night light-heavyweight tournament which will takes place at their Bellator MMA: Dynamite! show on September 19th.
In the first bracket former UFC top 10 205lb’er Phil Davis will be going up against former Bellator champion Emanuel Newton.
Davis suffered two losses in his last three fights for the UFC against Anthony Johnson and Ryan Bader, then opted to leave the company when his contract ended after being enticed by a more lucrative offer from Bellator. The 30 year-old went 9-3 (+1nc) in his UFC career and in total is 13-3 (+1nc) heading into his promotional debut.
Newton became a surprise success story in the Bellator promotion over the past couple of years by compiling a seven fight winning streak, winning the title along the way, and successfully defending it twice.
However, he lost the belt to Liam McGeary by unanimous decision back in February and to make matters worse then tested positive for marijuana post-fight. With an overall 25-8-1 record the 31 year-old Newton is the most experienced campaigner in the tournament.
In the second bracket we find former Strikeforce light-heavyweight champion Muhammed ‘King Mo’ Lawal facing the UK’s Linton Vassell.
‘King Mo’ was a high-profile signing for Bellator back in early 2013, but he hasn’t been the runaway success there so far that they may have been hoping for.
That being said, falling a shaky start that saw him go just 4-3 in the promotion, the 34 year-old has now put together a three-fight winning run that most recently saw him step up to heavyweight to earn a split decision win over Cheick Kongo.
Vassell is the least well known of the four fighters on display, though he actually holds exactly the same career record as his opponent Lawal – 15-4 (+1nc), so this is far from his first rodeo.
The Brit has put together a solid 4-1 record inside the Bellator cage to date with his only slip up being an unsuccessful title challenge against Newton last year which saw him submitted in the final round. A TKO win over MMA veteran Sokoudjou since then has got him back on track though.
It should also be noted that there is an alternate bout between another former UFC fighter Francis Carmont going up against Philipe Lins which will establish a stand-in should one of the other fighters be unable to continue at any stage.
The match-ups make sense as it keeps the two biggest stars and former wrestling stand-outs in the tournament, Davis and ‘King Mo’ apart and also avoids seeing an immediate rematch of a fight we’ve seen before since Newton already has two wins over Lawal and one against Vassell.
The winners on the night will go on to fight each other later the same evening, with the winner of that then booking themselves a title shot at a later date against the winner of the evening’s main event which sees Tito Ortiz take on current champion Liam McGeary.
With GLORY! kickboxing bouts also taking place in a ring in the same arena simultaneously there’s no doubt that the Dynamite! event is going to be a big night for Bellator, so make sure to mark this one in your diaries.