Bellator Fighting Championships returns to the Event Center at L’Auberge du Lac in Lake Charles this Friday for Bellator 69 with an early first fight time of 6 p.m. Four fights will be shown live on MTV2 beginning at 7 p.m. including the main event, which features the final of the Bellator Middleweight Tournament: Andreas “Sweet Swede” Spang (8-1) fights Maiquel Falcao (30-4) for the right to fight Alexander Shlemenko (45-7) this fall for the vacant Bellator middleweight title. Plus, the winner will also get a nice bonus check for $100,000.
Spang is coming off an upset win in the semifinals over Brian Rogers. After getting beat up for nearly two rounds, Spang connected with a left hook to knock out Rogers late in the second round.
“I don’t expect a lot of guys to take steps backwards,” said Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney. “Other than two moments, Spang was losing every moment of that fight with Rogers. He took Brian’s back and then stunned him with a left hook. We brought him in as a developmental prospect and were going to develop and build him up to use him in a tournament either next fall or when we launch on Spike because we loved him as a striker. We didn’t think he was ready for this level yet. He proved us wrong and proved that he has an incredible chin, plus he wears his emotions on his sleeves.”
After the semifinals in April, both Spang and Falcao got into a shoving match, and Spang was later fined $6,000 for the scuffle. Brazilian native “Big Rig” Falcao has won his previous two tournament fights via unanimous decision.
“Who is the favorite?” asked Rebney, “I would probably give it to Falcao, just because who he has fought and were he has been. Spang is an unusual character to try to analyze at this point. If he can stand up to punches by Rogers, who I think is one of the biggest punchers in the 185 pound division, I got to assume he can stand up to the punches of Falcao.”
One of my favorite fighters in the world, Karl “Psycho” Amoussou (14-4-2), will fight David Rickels (10-0) in the Bellator Welterweight Tournament semifinals. The winner will move on to fight Bryan “The Beast” Baker (18-3) at a later date in the tournament finale.
“Amoussou is now at the weight classes he belongs in,” said Rebney about Amoussou’s move from middleweight to welterweight. “He’s an unique guy. We saw Rick Hawn go from 170 to 155, and some guys can take their power with them when they go south on a weight class. Karl (Amoussou) can do that. His explosiveness is still there, where it was a few years ago when everyone thought he was going to be the second coming in the 185 pound division. He is an amazing physical presence.”
Rebney went on to describe Rickels as “tough as nails” with a huge heart, always bringing the fight. “The longer Rickels can last with Amoussou, the better Rickels will be. But this is a different Karl now. We’ve seen Karl come out explosive and not have any gas late in the fight.”
Fans are in for a treat as Megumi “Mega Megu” Fujii (25-1) climbs into the cage to fight Jessica “Jag” Aguilar (13-4).
“Fujii is one of the best pound-for-pound female fighters in the world,” said Rebney, “And I believe Aguilar is No. 2. These two are as pure mixed martial artists as you are going to find. I’ve been excited about this fight for a long time. They are also really great spokespeople for the game from the women’s prospective. Both were on the losing end of very controversial fights. I may come out of this fight with a different perception. I wouldn’t want to judge this one.”
The women’s MMA division got a lot of publicity in March when Ronda Rousey fought Miesha Tate headlining a Strikeforce event.
“I know there was a lot of promotion done behind the other fight, and I get it, and respect the fact that those two women can fight at a good level,” said Rebney. “I just think these two are the most talented in the game.”
Opening the television portion of the card is Ron “The Monster” Sparks (8-1) vs. Kevin Asplund (15-1), and the winner will receive a spot in the next Bellator Heavyweight Tournament.
Sparks is coming off his only loss, which was to Eric Prindle (7-1) in the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament semifinal last October via flash knockout in the first round.
“There’s no added pressure in this fight,” said Sparks, who resides in Louisville, Ky. “To be honest, I think that’s what happened in my loss to Prindle. Everyone kept saying ‘the tournament’s yours,’ ‘you are going to win,’ and I put added pressure on myself to go out there and win. Hell, I am blessed to be out there. Win or lose, I am coming out to bang.”
Sparks added he doesn’t know much about his opponent and isn’t a big research guy, but learned something valuable in the loss to Prindle. “Appreciate every win,” he said. “It takes a loss to appreciate a good win.”
Headlining the preliminary fights, which will be shown online on spike.com, is Lake Charles native Josh Quayhagen (3-0) vs. Cliff Wright (6-2). Other fights scheduled are Abe Wagner (10-5) vs. Mark Holata (11-3); Andrey Koreshkov (9-0) vs. Derrick Krantz (11-5); Kalvin Hackney (11-2) vs. Emanuel Brooks (6-0); Josh Burns (6-5) vs. Richard Hale (18-4); and Booker Arthur (2-1) vs. Shanon Slack (3-0).
A few tickets remain for this event and can be purchased for $65, $50 onsite at Legends or the L’Auberge Business Center, ticketmaster.com or charge by phone at (800) 745-3000. Must be 21 years or older to attend.