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Plenty of mixed-martial-arts offerings during crowded weekend


Feel like there's a lull in the MMA calendar this week? Certainly not. While the sport isn't dishing out another major championship fight until next Wednesday (and then again on Aug. 21, followed by Aug. 28), more than enough MMA is available on television the next three days to sate any fight fan.

Bellator Fighting Championships 24Thursday, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Hollywood, Fla. Fox Sports Net (Check Local Listings)

Bellator will make news this week for more than tit-for-tat lawsuits with Zuffa. The Chicago-based promotion begins its third season Thursday a half-hour north of Miami with opening-round tournament bouts in the women's 115-pound and men's heavyweight divisions.

Neither Eddie Sanchez nor Neil Grove is expected to make moves in the heavyweight field, which does feature some watchable talent later in the draw. So it's the women who deserve your attention, if you can find the evening's broadcast on FSN.

Megumi Fujii, MMA's top-ranked pound-for-pound female fighter, boasts one of the most impressive records in the sport. With 20 wins against zero losses, Fujii deserves to be the pre-tournament favorite. But she likely will not go untested.

Fujii meets late replacement Carla Esparaza to start her march to the finals. Meanwhile, Jessica Aguilar and Lynn Alvarez tangle for a spot in the semis.

In non-tournament action, Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard gets one more tune-up, this time against heavy underdog Herbert Goodman, two and a half months before he's set to defend his title for the first time, against Season 2 winner Alexander Shlemenko.

King of the Cage - Imminent DangerFriday, Inn of the Mountain Gods Casino Mescalero, New Mexico HDNet (10 p.m. ET)

You have to really want to immerse yourself in the sport to catch this one, but KOTC's latest attempt on HDNet appears to be its most watchable yet. We're still talking mostly mid-tier prospects passed off as budding superstars, but the addition of heavyweight Daniel Cormier makes Friday's card semi-interesting. The Olympic heavyweight wrestler is coming along nicely training in San Jose, Calif., at the American Kickboxing Academy, and is credited by fighters in that camp as reinvigorating its wrestling program. He should have few problems against Tony Johnson, who holds the KOTC heavyweight title.

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Also worth mentioning are two additional KOTC title fights: Daron Cruickshank fights Bobby Green at 160 pounds, and Levi Stout challenges notable welterweight prospect Quinn Mulhern.

Strikeforce Challengers 10Friday, Dodge Theatre Phoenix, Ariz. Showtime (11 p.m. ET/PT)

It's a big weekend for the women. Strikeforce continues to push female MMA with a one-night tournament in Sarah Kaufman's division designed to crown a No. 1 contender. We don't know the draw for the 135-pound, four-woman field (that will be determined at the weigh-ins late in the afternoon Thursday), but it should turn out quality fights regardless.

The format has undergone plenty of tweaking. As it stands now, according to the whims of the Arizona State Athletic Commission, tournament bouts will feature two three-minute rounds. There had been talk about adding a round in the event of a draw, but this was scrapped as the event approached.

Miesha Tate has been pegged as the favorite, followed by Carina Damm, Hitomi Akano and Maiju Kujala. In case one of the participants wins and cannot advance because of injury -- remember that the antiquated process of winning two fights in one night will determine the next No. 1 contender -- either Colleen Schneider or Liz Carmouche should be available to step in, assuming they're not too beat up from their reserve fight earlier in the evening.

Women's MMA not your thing? The Challenger's card features the return of veteran welterweight Joe Riggs, who takes on prospect Louis Taylor. Also, Ryan Couture, the 27-year-old son of MMA legend Randy Couture, makes his professional debut at lightweight against Lucas Stark.

PWP - War on the MainlandSaturday, Bren Events Center Irvine, Calif. PPV (10 p.m. ET)

You spend enough money on MMA pay-per-views, so no one could hold it against you if you decided against dropping $30 for a card full of aging fighters, some of whom are well past the point of no return. But if you're home Saturday night with nothing to do, perhaps the idea of watching veteran heavyweights Tim Sylvia and Paul Buentello might appeal to you.

It's somewhat surprising the two never met during their respective runs in the UFC, which saw Sylvia twice control the heavyweight belt. Stylistically, there doesn't seem like much of a chance it'll turn out to be a bad fight. Sylvia prefers to stand and use his long frame to frustrate opponents; Buentello usually just wings punches no matter who's in front of him.

Also on the card, Jason Lambert meets Allan Goes and Thales Leites fights late replacement Matt Horwich. Neither bout is terribly appealing, though Leites remains a quality middleweight working himself back into contention after losses to Anderson Silva and Alessio Sakara in 2009.

Jens Pulver has yet to retire, and the former UFC lightweight champion, loser of five in a row and seven of his last eight, meets prospect Diego Garijo. For some, this may be reason enough not to order the card, which is understandable. But as fighters are put out to pasture, new ones always emerge. One of the more interesting prospects in the sport, welterweight A.J. Mathews, fights the equally inexperienced Sean Choice.