With the UFC seemingly still suffering from its Thanksgiving food coma, this Friday’s Bellator 82 from Mount Pleasant, Michigan will be the only real MMA grub available for fans to feast on. But thankfully when there is no UFC, Bellator normally lay out a feast regardless.
This Friday sees Bellator’s welterweight tournament draw to a close and everyone’s favorite quasi mohawked fighter - Lyman Good [14-2] will be facing off against the much vaunted and frankly scary Andrey Koreshkov [12-0] with the winner facing undefeated Ben Askren for the welterweight title.
For Good, not to put it too lightly, this fight is a big deal. It puts squarely into his own hands the chance for vengeance, as it was Askren who handed Good his first professional defeat. Askren, a former Olympian has remained undefeated since and still has Good’s old belt firmly around his waist. Defeat for Good would mean facing the unappetizing prospect of doing what he did last time after he tasted bitter defeat. Fight and fight again, up the daunting ladder of Bellator.
There’s no questioning Good’s fortitude either. His background has been well documented. The Puerto Rican from Harlem has overcome various personal obstacles, as well as a tough childhood to make a career in MMA, and it’s drawing from these past disadvantages that has helped him in his career so far. There is no question Good is one of the top welterweights operating in the Bellator ranks.
But the problem that Good faces is one that twelve others have failed to solve - and that problem is the Russian punching rubik’s cube Andrey Koreshkov. Of the twelve opponents that Koreshkov has vanquished, eight have come by KO and most of those have come in the first round. Koreshkov, in the eyes of most MMA cognoscenti is a frightening prospect. He’s already one of the most devastating strikers in the sport and one who people see as a premier fighter in the UFC further down the line. A chance to fight for a belt on Friday would do wonders for Koreshkov.
So what should fans expect? Well, in Good is an athlete who has been spectacular in this tournament, one who’s regained the speed and athleticism of his pre-defeat days, able to dispatch two of his past two opponents within the distance. It should also be noted that Good is a fighter who himself has yet to be defeated within the distance - a feather in his cap coming up against the finisher that is Koreshkov.
As for Koreshkov, he has speed, accuracy and remarkable power on his side. Other than his slightly underwhelming quarter final victory over Jordan Smith, he has been spectacular and destructive in equal measure. If he keeps his distance, away from Good’s clinch there is no telling how much of a handful the 22-year old Russian could be for Good.
So on Friday, will it be Good? Bellator’s first ever welterweight champion facing Askren, or will it be Koreshkov, widely hailed as the best welterweight prospect on the our planet. Who will get the $100,000 and fight Askren? Well, on Friday it promises to be a rather fun process of discovery.
Igor Guryashkin is a freelance journalist whose extensive work on combat sports has been featured in ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com. He splits his time between New York and Louisville. Follow him on Twitter @IGuryashkinESPN.