4. Diego Nunes
(Photo via MMAWeekly)
One of the best signings Bellator made this summer was inking former top-10 ranked featherweight Diego Nunes to a deal and putting him into the season nine featherweight tourney. Like Sass, I think Nunes was cut far too soon by the UFC after going 3-3 against top competition, and at only 28 years of age he still has a lot of time to put it all together. Unfortunately for Nunes, however, Bellator has matched him up against buzzsaw Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, who he meets in the main event of Bellator 99 tonight. This sure seems like a fight that’s designed to gain “Pitbull” some legitimacy over a UFC vet, as he’s constantly forgotten in the rankings of the top featherweights, and it’s arguably an even tougher matchup for Nunes than his recent fights against Nik Lentz and Dennis Siver, of which he lost both.
3. Cheick Kongo
(Photo via MMAJunkie)
Speaking of heavyweight nut shots, the king of the shorts grab and knee to the groin technique, longtime UFC heavyweight Cheick Kongo — who was cut after a KO loss to Roy Nelson in April — signed with Bellator for its season nine heavyweight tournament and, in his first fight with the promotion, he’ll take on Mark “The Hand Of” Godbeer in a fight that just begs for a crazy, ridiculous Bellator-heavyweight-esque finish. Although he was always going to be the ultimate gatekeeper in the UFC, in Bellator Kongo will have a legit opportunity to be a world champion. Or maybe he’ll just be the definition of gatekeeper on UrbanDictionary.com once again. We’ll see.
2. Tito Ortiz
(Photo via Sherdog)
Bellator dropped a bombshell announcement during Bellator 97 when they revealed former UFC light heavyweight champion and MMA icon Tito Ortiz had come out of retirement to take on former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in the main event of Bellator 106, the organization’s first foray into pay-per-view. The announcement was met with mostly laughter by fans and media alike, and I admit while I would have preferred Ortiz to stay retired, he does put on entertaining fights [Ed. note: ???] and I’m curious to see how he promotes the fight against “Rampage.” Although he is 1-7-1 in his last nine fights, Ortiz has the opportunity to take out “Rampage” – who is still ranked in many people’s top 15 at 205 pounds – and make a serious statement that he can become one of Bellator’s poster boys going forward. Oh wait, he already is.
1. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
(Photo via Bellator)
I picked “Rampage” over Ortiz as the top Bellator prospect heading into season nine because he’s most likely going to be the fighter to emerge victorious when they compete — he’s currently a -240 betting favorite — and therefore he has more of a chance to become a star for the promotion. Or at least Bellator hopes so, because they’ve basically given this guy the keys to the city, so to say, by giving him a sweet contract, a new car, and the opportunity for him to accomplish his dream of wrestling professionally. Although he was run out of the UFC with three-straight losses to Glover Teixeira, Jon Jones, and Ryan Bader, there is the hope that getting cut by the UFC and signing with Bellator will light a fire under “Rampage.” And for between $35 and $45 on November 2nd on PPV, we’ll all get to find out. Well, maybe not all of us. But for those of you who actually order this thing, do us a favor and tell us what happens, okay?