Raphael Davis (r) (photo courtesy of Sherdog)

Of all the Bellator season four tournaments, its last to get underway might also be its least anticipated. While the light heavyweight lineup might not include the initially intriguing names that graced the other Bellator brackets, it might prove to be the sleeper tournament of them all, with a number of prospects competing for the chance to become the promotion’s first 205-pound champion.

The event, Bellator 38, goes down in Tunica, Miss., and airs live on MTV2 beginning at 7 p.m. ET.

Rather than just previewing one night’s worth of action in the tournament, we’re going to preview the entire bracket. So, let’s get started.

The Competitors

Tim Carpenter (6-0) already holds a split decision win over IFL veteran Jamal Patterson under the Bellator banner. The Balance Studios fighter launched his pro career in 2005, but only fought once a year for three years before going inactive. He returned in 2010, winning three bouts in eight months.

Daniel Gracie (5-2-1) has had an on-again, off-again professional MMA career. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt fought in Japan from 2002 to 2003, then returned to the sport in 2006 for three fights including two bouts in the IFL, then went inactive until late 2010. He holds two wins under the Pride banner and submitted UFC veteran Wes Sims in an IFL contest. He is 2-1-1 over his last four outings.

Raphael Davis (10-1) comes into the tournament following two victories within the Bellator cage, including a unanimous decision over former multiple-division King of the Cage champion Tony Lopez. The former NCAA Division I wrestler has also tallied wins over Mike Martelle, Vinny Magalhaes and Emanuel Newton. His lone loss came under the IFL banner to Brent Beauparlant.

D.J. Linderman (8-1) has fought for a number of small promotions, but this will be his first appearance with Bellator. The Team Do Somethin’ fighter holds wins over Mike Hayes, Devin Cole and Mario Rinaldi, but also has dropped a decision to Cole. Linderman holds the Sportfight heavyweight title and has fought as large as 261 pounds.

Xtreme Couture fighter Nik Fekete (4-0) might have a brief resume, but it does include two stoppage victories and a decision win over rising Strikeforce star Ovince St. Preux. “The Machete” is a former NCAA Division I wrestler and was a member of the U.S. Olympic wrestling team.

Richard Hale (15-3-1) is the Rage in the Cage light heavyweight champion, and has also held that promotion’s heavyweight and super heavyweight belts. Hale has been competing professionally since 2006 and trains out of the Koncrete Gym.

Former U.S. Marine Chris Davis (10-2) has been competing professionally since 2008. “The Professional” trains out of Headhunters MMA and has won all of his fights via stoppage. Win or lose, Davis has rarely been out of the first round. His only defeats have come at the hands of UFC veterans Vinny Magalhaes and Jeremy Horn.

Christian M’Pumbu (15-3-1) is one of the more experienced combatants in the bracket, but M-1 Challenge, KSW and Deep are the largest promotions in which he has appeared. A professional since 2004, M’Pumbu is coming off a loss in his most recent outing after winning five of his previous six fights. He trains out of the Yogata Fight Team in France.

Quarterfinal Match-ups

Tim Carpenter vs. Daniel Gracie
Raphael Davis vs. D.J. Linderman
Nik Fekete vs. Richard Hale
Chris Davis vs. Christian M’Pumbu

The Favorite

Raphael Davis might not have much name recognition, but a look at his resume reveals a number of impressive wins. Most notable was his victory over Tony Lopez. Lopez has long been a fighter trying to break through to the big leagues, yet Davis was able to score the decision win over him. If there’s one fighter in this lineup that has been in a number of tough fights and has met with a lot of success, it’s Raphael Davis.

The Sleeper

Fekete doesn’t bring as much experience to the cage as his tourney counterparts, but his wrestling background could give him an interesting edge. He trains alongside UFC lightweight contender Gray Maynard and is the only competitor in the bracket who trains at an elite camp. His wrestling and time with an elite camp could be enough to allow him to dominate, much in the same fashion as Ben Askren and Joe Warren did in their tournament appearances.

The Underdog

Carpenter has an undefeated record, but it’s hard to say what to expect out of the veteran. He won his first three outings via submission between the years of 2005 and 2007, but was inactive after that until 2010. Upon returning, he has gone to a decision in all three of his fights. That’s a trend that suggests he’s lost his ability to finish opponents. He’s up against a tough lineup in this tournament, so if he can’t put his submission skills to good use he will definitely struggle. Not working in his favor is a first-round matchup against Daniel Gracie, whose own specialty is the ground game.

The Quarterfinal Fight to Watch

Raphael Davis’ first-round matchup with Linderman could hold the key to who wins the whole thing. Linderman will be fighting at 205 after previously competing as a heavyweight. If Linderman can manage the weight cut and retain the abilities that led him to the Sportfight heavyweight crown, he could be an excellent test for Davis, who has already proven himself against a number of tough foes.

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