The 2013 Bellator Summer Series will begin tomorrow night with Bellator 96 from the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma and the opening round fights of the heavyweight tournament will be on the card.
The opening round fights will be Rich Hale (21-5) vs. Ryan Martinez (9-2) and Ron Sparks (8-1) vs. Vitaly Minakov (10-0). Hale was originally scheduled to face Vinicius “Spartan” Quieroz but a knee injury forced him to pull out of the fight.
The winners of tomorrow nights fights will advance to the heavyweight tournament final and Bellator is planning to have the final at Bellator 97 on July 31st in New Mexico.
The winner of the tournament will earn a title shot against Bellator heavyweight champion Alexander Volkov and that title fight will likely take place sometime during Bellator’s ninth season which begins on September 7th.
Rich Hale (21-5) vs. Ryan Martinez (9-2)
This will be the second heavyweight tournament for Hale and this is the inaugural Bellator tournament for Martinez who took this fight on short notice due to the injury to Spartan.
Martinez is a three fight veteran of Bellator and is a training partner of UFC heavyweight Roy Nelson and Bellator light heavyweight Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal. After dropping his Bellator debut to Mike Wessel, he has won back to back fights and is coming off a 18 second knockout win over Travis Wiuff at Bellator 93.
This will be the third time that Hale has entered a Bellator tournament and he is hopeful that the third time is the charm. He was a finalist in the season four light heavyweight tournament along with being a finalist in the season seven heavyweight tournament. Prior to his lost to Volkov, he had won four straight fights in the first round by TKO/KO and 18 of his 21 career wins are by stoppage.
Both fighters have the ability to knock out there opponent with one punch and that will likely happen in this fight. Expect this fight to end in either the first or second round with the winner stopping the fight by TKO/KO.
Ron Sparks (8-1) vs. Vitaly Minakov (10-0)
In the other semifinal bout, Minakov will meet Sparks and Minakov enters this tournament as the favorite in most peoples minds. He is a sambo world champion but injuries have slowed him down. Sparks was a semifinalist in the season five tournament and all of hi wins in Bellator have come by stoppage.
Minakov entered mixed martial arts and won his first nine fights before being signed by Bellator and making his debut with the company in 2012. His debut came at Bellator 79 and he defeated Vladimir Starcencov by TKO in the second round. It was his fifth career win by TKO/KO and he has only gone to decision once in his career which was in his third career professional fight.
During his professional career, Sparks has proven to be a fighter that does not waste anytime when he steps into the cage. In his nine fights, only one fight has made it out of the first round and six of his wins have come in under 90 seconds. Two of his three wins in Bellator have come by knockout including his knockout against Holata in the season five heavyweight tournament quarterfinals.
Both fighters have combined for 15 first round victories and there is no reason to think that this fight will not end in the first round. With the background of Minakov, Sparks will likely plan to keep this fight on the feet and not go to the ground. If Sparks is able to get the victory, it would be considered an upset which do tend to happen in Bellator tournaments.