Bellator MMA returns to Albuquerque, N.M., Wednesday, July 31, as the Santa Ana Star Center will play host to reigning Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren defending his title against Russian phenom Andrey Koreshkov.
The night will also feature the long awaited conclusion to the Bellator Welterweight Tournament Finals as Douglas Lima faces Ben Saunders in a second epic battle, while featherweights collide as Patricio “Pitbull” Freire returns to battle Rob Emerson.
The event has a special early start time starting at 7:00 p.m. EST on Spike. The preliminary card will be streamed live on Spike.com starting at 6:00 p.m. EST.
Askren comes to Albuquerque sporting a spotless 11-0 record and is regarded as one of the best welterweights in the world. The former U.S. Olympian has continued to impress during his illustrious career with Bellator, and will be looking to add another title defense to his resume with a huge victory on July 31 from the Santa Ana Star Center.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back into that cage and putting on a show,” Askren said. “I feel like I’ve continued to mature and get better in every one of my fights, and July 31 should be no different. I don’t think Andrey has any ability to stop my wrestling and ground attack, so this will be another successful title defense.”
Only 22 years old, Koreshkov had a 2012 to remember as the Russian knockout artist was 5-0 over the year, including a tournament run that featured victories over Jordan Smith, Marius Zaromskis and Lyman Good.
“I’ll be 110-percent ready for this fight,” Koreshkov said. “I’ll make sure that Askren’s tactics to put everybody in the audience to sleep won’t work this time. Instead, I’ll keep everybody entertained by putting him to sleep.”
After two devastating knockout victories on his way to the Bellator Welterweight Tournament Finals, Douglas Lima is ready to collect his second tournament championship with a victory over Ben “Killa B” Saunders. Originally schedule for March of 2013, Lima suffered a fractured hand that delayed the fight, but is fully healed and ready to capture his $100,000 prize and shot at the Bellator welterweight championship.
“It’s an honor to fight a fighter like Ben again,” Lima said. “With the time off I’ve been able to fully heal to 100 percent and like always, will be looking to finish the fight early.”
For Saunders, the South Florida native is looking to avenge his 2011 Tournament Finals loss to Lima with a signature finish and finally achieve the title shot that has since evaded him.
“Quite simply, it’s about damn time Douglas and I get back into the cage,” Saunders said. “July 31st can’t get here soon enough. Can’t wait.”
The night will also feature the return of fan favorite and top featherweight “Patrico Pitbull” Freire, as the Brazilian striker will battle California native Rob “The Saint” Emerson. After suffering just the second loss in his dominating career to the hands of reigning Bellator featherweight champion Pat Curran, Pitbull is eager to get back to his winning ways.
“I’m very motivated to get back in the cage, and I feel that I still haven’t left totally removed myself from my fight with Curran, a lot of me is still in the fight,” Pitbull said. “But it’s gone now and I have a tough opponent ahead, I’ll be going stronger for this next challenge and doesn’t matter how tough my opponents will be I will be stronger than I was! It’s great to know I’m back.”
“Our first event in Albuquerque was a huge success,” Bjorn Rebney said. “With a Welterweight Title fight, the conclusion of our Welterweight Tournament, and a stacked fight card top to bottom, we’re looking at another huge night of fights July 31st live on Spike.”