Bellator 175 comes to the All-State Arena in Rosemont, Illinois on Friday night. The main event is a rematch between Rampage Jackson and King Mo. The two first fought at Bellator 120 where Jackson took a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28). The co-main event is a battle of featherweight contenders when Emmanuel Sanchez takes on Marcos Galvao.
The five fight main card rounds out with Chase Gormley taking on Sergi Kharitonov in a battle of heavyweights, in the lightweight division Jake Roberts looks to end Steve Kozola’s undefeated run, and finally Lloyd Carter goes up against Noad Lahat.
The prelims will stream live on Bellator.com starting at 6 PM CT with Spike TV taking over at 8 PM CT for the main card.
Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal (20-6) vs. Quentin “Rampage” Jackson (37-11) – Heavyweight – 265 lbs.
Current Odds: Lawal -325; Jackson +255
MMA veteran Quinton “Rampage” Jackson is undefeated since making the move from UFC to Bellator. His most recent win occurred at Bellator 157 where he won a split decision over Satoshi Ishii. He will be looking for his sixth straight win when he steps into the cage to face Lawal on Friday night. Rampage won the first fight back at Bellator 120 by decision in a fight many thought he should have lost. While it wasn’t the worst decision in MMA history, it was certainly debatable, with many thinking Lawal won rounds one and three.
After going on a seven fight undefeated streak King Mo is 1-2 over his last three. His two losses were against Phil Davis at Bellator 154 and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic in the second round of Rizin 3 – Rizin Fighting World Grand Prix 2016. Lawal sandwiched a win in the middle of the losses when he beat Satoshi Ishii at Bellator 169.
The path to victory for King Mo is clear; take Rampage down, get him on his back and score with ground and pound. In the first fight Lawal had success with takedowns; unfortunately, once he had control he did nothing with it.
Rampage has the advantage on the feet. If he is able to keep the fight standing and utilize his jab to keep distance he’ll win the fight. However, if he can’t defend the takedown and tries to fight from underneath he’s going to lose.
If Lawal decides he wants to stand and trade with Rampage it will be a mistake. His ground game will be the difference if he decides to use it. That said, King Mo at -325 is a pass for me.
Pick: Lawal by decision
Emmanuel Sanchez (14-3) vs. Marcos Galvao (18-7-1) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
Current Odds: Sanchez -245; Galvao +195
Emmanuel Sanchez will look to make it two wins a row when he faces off against Marcos Galvao. Sanchez is 4-1 over his last five. His most recent fight took place at Bellator 170 where he won a majority decision over Georgi Karakhanyan in a fight I predicted him to lose.
Former Bellator bantamweight champion Marcos Galvao had his four fight win streak broken by Eduardo Dantas at Bellator 156, but he returned at Bellator 166 where he won a split decision over LC Davis. Now, Galvao will also be looking to make it two wins in a row and get himself in title contention.
Sanchez really showed me he’s ready to take the next step in his win against Karakhanyan. He’s a good, young fighter I’d like to see Bellator get behind and with a win here it should put him in title contention.
This should be a close fight. With Galvao’s experience there isn’t anything that Sanchez can throw at him that he hasn’t seen before. Neither fighter are finishers. In 32 combined career wins only 11 have ended inside the distance. Both fighters match up well against each other; however, I expect Sanchez to be the busier fighter earning him a close fought decision.
At -245 the odds are a bit too high for me to back Sanchez. However, I do favor the rounds total over.
Sanchez by decision
Chase Gormley (14-5) vs. Sergei Kharitonov (23-6) – Heavyweight 265 lbs.
Current Odds: Kharitonov -265; Gormley +215
Russian veteran Sergei Kharitonov lost his Bellator debut when he was stopped by Javy Ayala in the first round at Bellator 163. Kharitonov has 22 finishes in 23 career wins and will look to make a statement against Gormley on Friday.
Chase Gormley was on a five fight winning streak until he was stopped by Dan Charles in his Bellator debut back at Bellator 143. Since then he is 2-0 under the Bellator banner with his most recent win occurring at Bellator 162 where he won a split decision over Bobby Brents.
Just like in his fight against Ayala, Kharitonov is the favorite to win here. He has the advantage in both striking and power. Losing to Ayala in his debut was a big blow so losing here again will surely halt any thoughts of Bellator giving him a push up the ladder.
Gormley will have his hands full with the big Russian. While there’s always the chance in heavyweight fights of one punch ending it, Gormley’s best chance of winning is to get the fight into the latter rounds, tire Kharitonov out and possibly win the fight on points or finish him.
However, I think Kharitonov knows this a must win fight and will get the finish.
I would consider backing Sergei Kharitonov as well as the rounds total under.
Pick: Kharitonov by TKO
Jake Roberts (7-1) vs. Steve Kozola (7-0) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Current Odds: Kozola -180; Roberts +150
Steve Kozola enters his fight against Jake Roberts looking for his eighth straight win. He is 2-0 under the Bellator banner. He most recently fought for World Series of Fighting where he finished Matt Church at WSOF 30. Of his seven career wins, six are by KO/TKO with one submission.
Jake Roberts was on a seven fight win streak until he dropped a decision to Carrington Banks at Bellator 165. Roberts is 1-1 under the Bellator banner and will be looking to get back in the win column on Friday. Like Kozola, Jake Roberts is a finisher. Six of his seven wins ended inside the distance.
Kozola is an aggressive fighter who likes to pressure his opponents. I’m interested to see how Roberts handles the early onslaught. If Roberts can weather the storm and get the fight into the latter rounds his chances of winning increases. Jake Roberts will be Kozola’s toughest fight but I think he has the advantage regardless of where the fight goes. I would consider backing him at -180.
Pick: Kozola by TKO
Lloyd Carter (10-8) vs. Noad Lahat (10-2) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
Current Odds: Lahat -720; Carter +480
Lloyd Carter makes his Bellator debut on Friday after a lengthy run on the regional circuit. He’s 2-1 over his last three fights. After winning two in a row he was subbed by Miguel Torres at UCL-Havoc in Hammond 3.
After suffering two knockouts from flying knees and going 2-2 in the UFC, Noad Lahat was released. He signed with Bellator MMA in June of 2016 and made his debut for the promotion at Bellator 164 where he tapped Scott Cleve with a rear naked choke. He’ll go for his second straight win when he takes on Lloyd Carter.
As the odds reflect, this should be an easy win for Lahat. He is the better fighter in all areas and should finish Carter inside the distance. Consider backing the rounds total under in this one.
Pick: Lahat by submission
Prelims Quick Look
Fuentas over Shelhart
Askar over Esposito
Akins over Delavega
Garcia over Galloway
Streaker over Holder
Patterson over Buckley
Hardwick over Cho
Vazquez over Williams
Bochnovic over Paul
Shoaff over Norris
Maciejewski over McLean
Enjoy the fights!
Originally posted on MMATorch.com on 03-23-2017
Are you in favor of a Legends Division in UFC, as Vitor Belfort has suggested? Whether you’re for it or not, what is the best set-up for it in terms of parameters and how it’s featured?
MICHAEL GROCKE, MMATORCH CONTRIUBUTOR
When I first heard about the idea of a Legends League or Legends Division, my first reaction was, no way. After sitting on the idea a bit longer, my answer is still no way. Look, we all reminisce about the past and, the older you get, the more you do it. But, the past is the past and me, like you and the world of MMA, need to keep moving forward.
Would there be an appetite for such a league? Absolutely. It will also allow aging fighters to continue to earn a payday, but at what costs? The health and well-being of any fighter, young or old(er), has to be the number one priority of any organization. The fighters of yesteryear already have taken a ton of damage throughout their careers and to allow them to continue fighting only means more damage and more miles on their bodies.
If this were to come to fruition, it would be wildly popular for a short period of time. But after we see the lack of quality fighting over time, interest would begin to wane. Not to mention the copy-cat organizations out there that will look to capitalize on short term profits while taking advantage of fighters who don’t know their time is up.
For me, I want to remember my favorite fighters as the baddest men on the planet, not not as shells of themselves looking to recapture their glory years.
Originally posted on MMATorch.com on 03-15-2017
Who in the world of MMA is poised to become the Next Big Draw and mainstream breakout personality who hasn’t achieved that level before?
MICHAEL GROCKE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Michael “Venom” Page: So far Page has shown he has the skills needed to be successful in the cage amassing a 12-0 record while fighting in the Bellator Welterweight Division. Page is a fighter who goes for the finish whenever possible and, in 2016, he scored the Knockout of the Year when he KO’d Evangelista Santos with a flying knee that fractured Cyborg’s skull. Big John McCarthy, who was the referee for the bout, called it “absolutely the hardest knee” he’s ever seen. Michael Page is also a flashy, outspoken, good talker with the ability to sell his fights.
There are two factors that could derail his momentum, though. The first issue is he hasn’t fought the best in the division up until this point in his career. If he starts losing to the top fighters in the Welterweight Division, then he’ll likely become just another fighter under the Bellator banner. The second issue is he fights for Bellator. If he continues beating everybody the organization puts in front of him, eventually he’ll have to go to the UFC in order to become the biggest star possible.
Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis: The heavyweight division needs someone like Derrick Lewis. To be honest, he wasn’t even on my radar as someone who could be a star not long ago. But after his knockout of Travis Browne and his post-fight comments, how can anyone not be entertained by him? If you haven’t read the quotes or watched the interview, then do it now. And if you’re not following him on Twitter, you should be.
Oh yeah, and he’s also pretty good in the cage. Don’t blink during his fights because you might miss the end. He has 16 KO/TKO’s and 1 submission in his 18 pro career wins.
Honorable Mention: Mackenzie Dern. While nowhere near ready, she is definitely someone to keep an eye on.
Originally posted on MMATorch.com on 03-15-2017
Predict who will be the Middleweight Champion one year from now and play out how we get there.
MICHAEL GROCKE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I think it comes down to three fighters: Michael Bisping, George St. Pierre, and Yoel Romero. I have no idea what to expect from GSP when he returns to fight Bisping sometime in the fall. Bisping isn’t even the best fighter in his division, yet he holds the title. He’s only defended the title once since he won it back in June of 2016, and it wasn’t even against a Top 10 Middleweight. He’s managed to avoid fighting the best in the division and, who knows, maybe he’ll retire before he’s forced to.
Although it pains me to say, I’ll go with Bisping over GSP in the fall. If Bisping is true to his word and gives Romero the next shot, Romero will be the Middleweight Champion next year. The worst thing for Romero is for GSP to beat Bisping for the title because I don’t see the UFC giving him the first shot at the new champion.
The UFC continues its overseas tour with a stop at the O2 Arena in London, England for Fight Night 107. The main event takes place in the light heavyweight division where Corey Anderson takes on Jimi Manuwa in what should be an excellent fight. The co-main event pits Gunnar Nelson against the surging Alan Jouban in what should be another exciting fight, which takes place in the welterweight division.
The four fight main card rounds out with the final fight in the long career of Brad Pickett as he takes on Marlon Vera and England’s own Arnold Allen vs. Mackwan Amirkhani.
Fight Night 107 will air exclusively on Fight Pass starting at 12:30 PM CT with the prelims, and the main card which starts at 4 PM CT.
Jimi Manuwa (16-2) vs. Corey Anderson (10-2) – Light Heavyweight 205 lbs.
Current Odds: Manuwa -150; Anderson +120
After winning his first 14 fights in a row, Jimi Manuwa is now 2-2 over his last four. Although the two losses came against two of the division’s best in Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Johnson, he was completely overmatched and was stopped inside the distance in both fights. His most recent fight was at UFC 204 where he looked better than ever finishing Ovince Saint-Preux with punches in the second round.
Corey Anderson was riding a three fight win streak until dropping a split decision to Mauricio Rua at UFC 198. Anderson returned at UFC Fight Night 102 where he finished Sean O’Connell to get himself back in the win column. He’ll look to make it two in a row on Saturday.
I expect Manuwa to keep the fight standing where he does his best work. He is extremely quick with knockout power and will try to stalk Anderson down looking for the finish. Manuwa is also dangerous in the clinch where he can utilize his strength and land hard shots while in close. He’ll want to avoid getting taken down by Anderson at all costs due to his weak ground game. Hopefully he’s worked on his takedown defense for this fight because I see Anderson trying to get the fight to the ground early and often.
Corey Anderson is still searching for that signature win. It was supposed to be against Rua, but that didn’t happen. His skills continue to improve, especially on the feet. He will look to utilize his strong wrestling and get the fight to the ground where he can take advantage of Manuwa with ground and pound. Although Anderson works well in the clinch I don’t see him winning that battle.
This fight comes down to which fighter can execute their game plan better. If Manuwa has success in defending the takedown and keeping the fight standing then I can see him finishing Anderson within the first two rounds. However, Anderson’s chances of winning increases with each passing round. I think he’ll fend off Manuwa early and take him deep into the fight where he’ll start having success with takedowns and his strong ground and pound. At + money on Anderson, consider taking the underdog.
Pick: Anderson by decision
Gunnar Nelson (15-2-1) vs. Alan Jouban (15-4) – Welterweight 170 lbs.
Current Odds: Nelson -345; Jouban +275
Gunnar Nelson was on a 13 fight winning streak until losing to Rick Story by decision at UFC Fight Night 53. Since that loss he’s gone 2-1. His most recent fight was at UFC Fight Night 87 where he tapped Albert Tumenov in the second round with a neck crank. Gunnar is an excellent grappler and a submission machine. 11 of his 15 career wins are by submission. He’s extremely quick and if Jouban finds himself on the mat he can expect a heavy dose of ground and pound leading to endless submission attempts.
Alan Jouban enters Saturday’s bout on a three fight win streak. His most recent win was a decision over heavy handed Mike Perry at UFC on FOX 22. Jouban’s strength is in his striking. 9 of his 15 career wins are by KO/TKO with only one submission. He’ll likely come into the fight looking to turn it into a brawl. He mixes in strikes and kicks very well while keeping his opponents off balance. Surprisingly, Jouban is capable of maintaining a quick pace while attempting to out strike opponents as well.
This is a fight between two fighters with completely different styles. Jouban is an extremely dangerous fighter on the feet, while Nelson’s strength in on the ground. If Gunnar decides to trade hands with Jouban he’s going to lose. Jouban works at a much higher pace and will eventually figure out Nelson’s timing and finish him with punches. Unfortunately for Alan Jouban I don’t see Nelson taking that approach. While it may take a round or two, Gunnar will eventually start having success with takedowns and add another submission win to his record.
Pick: Nelson by submission
Brad Pickett (26-13) vs. Marlon Vera (8-3-1) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Current Odds: Pickett -145; Vera +115
After 39 fights Brad Pickett will call it a career in front of his hometown fans on Saturday. Pickett enters the fight losing five of his last six fights. His last fight was a loss to Uriah Faber in Faber’s retirement fight at UFC on FOX 22. Pickett has had a long, successful career fight for organizations such as Cage Rage, WEC and UFC. He even holds a victory over Demetrious Johnson, beating him by decision at WEC 48.
Marlon Vera is 2-2 under the UFC banner. His most recent fight was a win over Guangyou Ning at UFC Fight Night 101. At just 24 years old, Vera already has 12 fights under his belt so I don’t expect the atmosphere to get the best of him.
Brad Pickett is willing to take the fight anywhere, but he definitely isn’t one to shy away from a good old fashioned slug fest. He is the better fighter in all areas. Unless he comes out recklessly and gets caught with a lucky shot, this is his fight to lose. Pickett wins this one by stoppage and ends his career on a high note. Consider laying the -145.
Pick: Pickett by TKO
Arnold Allen (11-1) vs. Makwan Amirkhani (13-2) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
Current Odds: Amirkhani -125; Allen -105
England’s own Arnold Allen will be making his third appearance for the UFC when he steps into the cage opposite Makwan Amirkhani. Allen is 2-0 under the UFC banner subbing Alan Omar at UFC Fight Night 69 and beating Yaotzin Meza by decision at UFC Fight Night 84. Allen possesses a well-rounded skill set. Of his 11 wins, 5 are by KO/TKO and 3 by submission.
Makwan Amirkhani enters Saturday’s fight in search of his fifth straight win. His most recent victory took place at UFC Fight Night 84 where he decisioned Mike Wilkinson. Amirkhani has excellent wrestling skills and tries to get the fight to the ground where he can work his submissions. He doesn’t possess a lot of power and his striking is average at best. 9 of his 13 wins have come via submission with only one KO/TKO.
This is a tough fight to predict. Allen has the advantage on the feet so if he has success avoiding the mat, his chances of winning increases. Not only is Amirkhani dangerous on the ground, but he also is a submission threat in scrambles. I expect a very competitive fight with Amirkhani coming out on top. This fight is a pass for me.
Pick: Amirkhani by decision
Prelims Quick Look
Duffy -625 over Madadi +425
Barroso +150 over Stewart -180
Johnson -175 over Omielanczuk +145
Diakiese -220 over Packalen +170
Breese -270 over Bamgbose +215
Luque -130 over Edwards ev.
Johns -420 over Entwistle +320
Scott +120 over Askham -150
Lansberg -300 over Pudilova +240
Enjoy the fights!
Originally posted on MMATorch.com on 03-07-2017
What was the single key highlight of Brock Lesnar’s MMA career?
MICHAEL GROCKE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
While I understand and respect those that say Lesnar vs. Mir at UFC 100 was his greatest highlight, for me it was his victory over Randy Couture at UFC 91. Most, if not all, of the MMA community (including Dana White) was hoping Couture demolished Lesnar and sent him back to “wrasslin.” That wasn’t the case as Lesnar pounded out Couture in the second round, won the UFC Heavyweight Title, and launched one of the biggest PPV attractions the UFC has ever known.
The UFC travels overseas to Fortaleza, Brazil for UFC Fight Night 106. The main event takes place in the middleweight division where Brazil’s own Vitor Belfort tries to stop a two-fight skid when he takes on Kelvin Gastelum. The co-main event features another native of Brazil in Mauricio “Shogun” Rua as he goes up against Gian Villante in a battle of light heavyweights.
The six-fight main card rounds out with Edson Barboza taking on Beneil Dariush in the lightweight division, Jussier Formiga vs. Ray Borg in a battle of flyweights, then we go to the women’s bantamweight division for Bethe Correia vs. Marion Reneau and finally back to the men’s welterweight division for Alex Oliveira vs. Tim Means.
The early prelims will air on Fight Pass starting at 5:30 PM CT, with Fox Sports 1 taking over at 7 PM CT for the prelims. Keep it on FS1 for the main card starting at 9 PM CT.
Vitor Belfort (25-13) vs. Kelvin Gastelum (13-2) – Middleweight 185 lbs.
Current Odds: Gastelum -365; Belfort +285
Vitor Belfort is 1-3 in his last four fights. Although the three losses came against the best the division has to offer, Belfort wasn’t competitive in any them. He lost by KO/TKO in all three with two not making it past the first round. The one win was against Dan Henderson who thought it would be a good idea to enter the fight with no game plan and get into a slugfest allowing Vitor to land the knockout blow. Even while approaching 40 years old Vitor Belfort still possesses big power and surprising quickness.
While Belfort won’t be fighting for a championship again, a win here will at least keep him relevant. Although, if he does somehow pull off the upset then this might be a good opportunity for him to ride off into the sunset after such a huge win.
Kelvin Gastelum is a young fighter just coming into his own. He’s riding a two fight win streak after beating Johny Hendricks by decision at UFC 200 and stopping Tim Kennedy at UFC 206. The only two blemishes on his record are split decision losses to Neil Magny and current champion, Tyron Woodley. Gastelum is a small middleweight but his constant pressure and knockout power make him a very dangerous fighter. He is also a good wrestler with an excellent gas tank, which comes into play the longer his fights go.
There’s a reason Kelvin Gastelum is almost a 4-1 favorite. Unless Belfort can land a knockout punch in the very first round, which is a very real possibility, this is Kelvin’s fight to win. Even if Belfort hurts him with strikes, Gastelum can fall back on his wrestling and take Vitor down and work his ground game. Expect some fireworks in the first and possibly the second round. If the fight goes past the second round Belfort will have long since gassed out allowing Gastelum to finish him. I’ve been a fan of Kelvin Gastelum ever since he won TUF and a win here should put him in line to face a top contender next.
Mauricio Rua (24-10) vs. Gian Villante (15-7) – Light Heavyweight 205 lbs.
Current Odds: Rua -145; Villante +115
After losing back to back fights to Dan Henderson and Ovince Saint Preux, Mauricio Rua is now on a two fight winning streak. Both wins were by decision, first against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 190 and then Corey Anderson at UFC 198. While the UFC veteran is no longer contending for the title, his fights are still exciting to watch. And while the days of beating the best in the division are behind him, he can still compete with the bottom half. At 35 years old he still possess knockout power. 19 of Rua’s 24 wins are by KO/TKO, with only one via submission.
Gian Villante comes into the fight looking for his second straight win. After dropping a decision to Ilir Latifi at UFC 196, he returned at UFC Fight Night 102 where he stopped Saparbek Safarov in the second round with punches. Like Rua, Villante has the ability to put fighters to sleep. 10 of his 15 wins have come by way of KO/TKO, with only two via of submission.
Shogun in his prime would destroy Villante. Now, at 35 years old along with the damage he’s taken over the years it’s a much closer fight. Both fighters are strikers who like to press. They can also end the fight at any time with one punch. Neither of them has a problem standing in the pocket while exchanging punches. The difference here is that Rua is the better counter puncher.
This fight can go either way. I still think Shogun is quicker and the better striker. This one should be a slugfest with Rua finding the mark before Villante.
Pick: Rua by TKO
Edson Barboza (18-4) vs. Beneil Dariush (14-2) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Current Odds: Barboza -155; Dariush +125
After getting tapped by Tony Ferguson at The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale, Edson Barboza has won two fights in a row. First, he beat Anthony Pettis at UFC 197 and then at UFC on FOX 20 he beat Gilbert Melendez. Both wins were by decision. Here, he looks for his third win a row when he goes up against fellow top 10 contender Beneil Dariush.
Dariush is on his own two fight win streak after losing to Michael Chiesa at UFC on FOX 19. First, he stopped James Vick with punches at UFC 199 and then at UFC Fight Night 98 he won a decision against Rashid Magomedov.
Barboza is an excellent striker who likes to keep distance. His speed and quickness is second to none; along with his excellent movement he is capable of doing damage from the outside without getting caught in the pocket. Barboza’s biggest weakness is his ground game. Of his 18 career wins only one is by submission.
On the other hand, Beneil Dariush has a great ground game. Six of his 14 wins are by submission. Dariush is the more aggressive fighter and will pressure Barboza looking to close range, get inside and try taking advantage of Barboz’s suspect chin. That said, Dariush’s best chance of winning is on the ground.
I love this fight and think it’s the best one on the card. It’s a shame one of these fighters has to lose because I like them both. If Dariush can get the fight to play primarily on the ground then he’ll win the fight. However, I think Barboza’s speed and quickness will be the difference here. His superior striking will keep Dariush at bay as he picks him apart on the feet leading to a decision.
Pick: Barboza by decision
Jussier Formiga (19-4) vs. Ray Borg (10-2) – Flyweight 125 lbs.
Current Odds: Borg -120; Formiga -110
Ray Borg has won four of his last five fights. His most recent fight was at UFC 207 where he earned the decision over Louis Smolka in a fight I thought he’d lose. The 23 year old’s ground game is his biggest strength. Six of his ten wins have come via submission. His speed and quickness allows him to gain the advantage on his opponent in most scrambles where he’ll then look for the submission. Although he only has one KO/TKO in his entire MMA career, he is a capable striker.
Jussier Formiga has also won four of his last five fights. He’s 1-1 over his last two fights with his most recent fight coming at UFC Fight Night 95 where he took a decision over Dustin Ortiz. Formiga’s strength also lies in his ground game. Of his 19 wins, eight have been by submission. While Borg doesn’t have the best stand up, it’s still better than Formiga’s as his zero KO/TKO’s would indicate. Formiga’s best chance of winning is on the ground.
Ray Borg is clearly the faster and quicker fighter at this stage in each of their careers. I give Formiga the slight edge on the ground, and Borg the slight edge on the feet making this a tough fight to predict. I’m going to go with the younger, faster and quicker fighter, but would not be surprised if Formiga won.
Pick: Borg by decision
Bethe Correia (10-2) vs. Marion Reneau (7-2) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Current Odds: Reneau -120; Correia -110
Bethe Correia takes on Marion Reneau in what should be a very competitive bantamweight bout. Correia got back in the win column her last time in the cage after losing two straight fights. She beat Jessica Eye by decision at UFC 203 after losing first to Ronda Rousey at UFC 190 and then to Raquel Pennington by decision at UFC on FOX 19. Bethe prefers to keep the fight standing. While she doesn’t possess big power with only two knockouts in ten wins, she is a very solid striker.
Marion Reneau is also 1-2 in her last three fights. She followed up losses to Holly Holm at UFC Fight Night 71 and Ashley-Evans-Smith at UFC Fight Night 83 by finishing Milana Dudieva at UFC Fight Night 99. Here she is at another UFC Fight Night looking to get into title contention with a big win over Correia. Reneau is a finisher with six of her seven wins coming by either submission or KO/TKO.
I see this fight taking place mostly on the feet. Reneau has the advantage in both speed and power, but Correia is the more technical striker. This is the hardest fight on the card to predict. I’m going with Reneau by decision with little confidence.
Pick: Reneau by decision
Alex Oliveira (15-3-1, 1 NC) vs. Tim Means (26-7-1, 1 NC) – Welterweight 170 lbs.
Current Odds: Means -200; Oliveira +160
Veteran Tim Means takes on fellow veteran Alex Oliveira for the second time in three months. Their previous match-up was at UFC 207 which ended in a no-contest. Means connected with two knees to the head while Oliveira had his knee on the mat. The knees were considered to be accidental ruling the fight a no-contest.
Prior to the UFC 207 bout Means was on a two fight winning streak after stopping John Howard at UFC Fight Night 80 and Sabah Homasi at UFC 202. Means excels in the clinch and at striking. He is a strong, aggressive fighter who works extremely well inside the pocket. 18 of his 26 wins are by KO/TKO. I don’t expect Tim to take this fight to the ground at any point on Saturday night.
Alex Oliveira was also on a two fight win streak leading up to his UFC 207 fight against Means. He decisioned James Moontasri at UFC on FOX 20 and finished Will Brooks with punches at UFC Fight Night 96. Oliveira is a striker who likes to keep the fight standing. Ten of his 15 wins are by KO/TKO with only two by submission. Like Means, he also excels in the clinch so it’s going to be interesting to see who will get the better of those exchanges.
This fight is sure to provide fireworks as I don’t see either fighter wanting to go to the ground. Oliveira is the better athlete with more speed and quickness, but Means is the more skilled striker.
Pick: Means by TKO
Prelims Quick Look
Trinaldo over Lee
Moraes over Ramos
Yahya over Soto
Prazeres over Burkman
Early Prelims Quick Look
Kennedy over Jason
Borrachinha over McLellan
Enjoy the fights!
WWE Fastlane comes to us live at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on the WWE Network. The event starts at 6 PM CT with the Kickoff Show, with the main card starting at 7 PM CT.
Fastlane is the final stop before WrestleMania and while some of the matches on the card hold little importance, others will have major ramifications heading into the big show.
The following predictions are how I would book the finishes, which will make the PPV and the product most enjoyable for me going forward.
Kevin Owens vs. Goldberg for the WWE Universal Championship
I just can’t see Kevin Owens defending the Universal Championship against Chris Jericho at WrestleMania. I do see that match taking place, just without the title on the line. As much as I like the idea of Owens retaining, I like the idea of Goldberg going into his match against Brock Lesnar as champion better. While Goldberg vs. Lesnar at WrestleMania doesn’t need the title, the title needs them fighting over it.
I don’t think it’s wise to give Owens more offense against Goldberg than Lesnar. I do expect him to get some offense in, but not much. Any interference in this match would be a big mistake. There are plenty of scenarios I can see that happening lower on the card.
Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
It would be a big mistake to have Strowman lose here. I think a lot depends on the health of the Undertaker. He didn’t look good the last time we saw him in the ring. If WWE is dead set on Reigns vs. Undertaker at WrestleMania then Reigns has to turn heel. A face Undertaker vs. a face Reigns has absolutely zero juice behind it.
This is a great spot for a double turn. Strowman wins in a wonky way and afterwards Reigns destroys Braun. Undertaker comes out to make the save and Reigns destroys him too giving the Dead Man an out for losing at WrestleMania. Strowman has the potential to be a great baby face, and well we all know what should be done with Roman.
Neville vs. Jack Gallagher for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship
This might be the easiest match on the card to book. Heel Neville has been the best part of the Cruiserweight division and there’s no reason to change course here. Neville retains and we get Austin Aries vs. Neville at WrestleMania.
Bayley vs. Charlotte Flair for the WWE Women’s Championship
WWE made a huge mistake by not having Bayley overcome the odds by beating Charlotte at WrestleMania. The company has done the Women’s division no favors with their story telling and booking recently. Nia Jax beats everyone in the division but doesn’t get a title shot. The hot potato passing around of the women’s championship has done serious damage to the belt after Charlotte did such an amazing job of building it up. Worst of all, the Bayley character is so damaged that I fear it’s close to impossible to rebuild her back to the character that was so successful in NXT.
If it’s me, I’m giving Bayley the clean win she so desperately needs over Charlotte. Unfortunately, I can see this being one of the matches that has outside interference.
Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass for the WWE Tag Team Championship
The handling of the tag team division is as bad, if not worse than the women’s division. The one thing I do like about the division is the team holding the titles. WWE needs to keep the belts on Anderson and Gallows while reestablishing the rest of the division. I won’t hold my breath while waiting for this to happen.
Winner: Gallows & Anderson
Samoa Joe vs. Sami Zayn
This is the match I’m looking forward to most. These two are very familiar with each other so hopefully they are given time to put on a good show. The addition of Joe to the HHH mix is one of the best things going on RAW and Zayn will make him look like a million bucks in their match together. I’m looking forward to what WWE has planned for Joe leading up to WrestleMania.
Winner: Samoa Joe
Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax
While I’m looking forward to Bank’s eventual heel turn, I hope it happens after WrestleMania. She’ll continue treading water while WWE builds to a Fatal-4-Way at WrestleMania with the focus more on the other women in the match. I like what WWE is doing with Nia and I think they should continue doing it. I understand the need to give Banks a win in order to make it seem like she has a chance at winning at WrestleMania, but I’d like see her get squashed here.
Winner: Nia Jax
Rich Swann & Akira Tozawa vs. Brian Kendrick & Noam Dar
My picks are a bit heel heavy so I’ll go with the team of Swann and Tozawa to get the night started on a positive note.
Winner: Swann & Tozawa
Enjoy the show!
The UFC returns to the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada for UFC 209. The main event is a rematch between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson for Woodley’s welterweight title. Tyron Woodley was able to retain his title after their first fight ended in a majority draw at UFC 205.
The loaded main card rounds out with the return of Rashad Evans taking on Daniel Kelly in a battle of middleweights, then we head back to 155 for Lando Vannata vs. David Teymur and in the heavyweight division Mark Hunt takes on Alistair Overeem.
The early prelims will air on Fight Pass starting at 5:30 PM CT, with Fox Sports 1 taking over at 7 PM CT for the prelims. The main card airs on PPV beginning at 9 PM CT.
Tyron Woodley (16-3-1) vs. Stephen Thompson (13-1-1) – Welterweight 170 lbs.
Current Odds: Thompson -145; Woodley +115
The first fight between these two was ridiculously close. I was surprised to see Woodley stand and trade with Thompson instead of working in more takedown attempts to try and get the fight to the ground. He only took him down once the entire fight. While Woodley hits like a Mack truck, it’s his wrestling that sets him apart and keeps his opponents guessing. Of his 16 career wins, 6 have come via KO/TKO and 5 by submission. Prior to the first fight against Thompson, Tyron was 5-1, with 4 of the wins coming by way of KO/TKO.
Stephen Thompson is an excellent striker and prefers to keep fights on the feet. 7 of his 13 career wins have come via KO/TKO. He keeps distance well and works at a higher pace which will work in his favor once again if the fight stays standing. The only problem with his desire to stand is he can sometimes get caught with big shots while in the pocket, and getting caught by Woodley will put him to sleep.
I expect Woodley to mix in more takedown attempts and be overall more aggressive. While I think he’ll work at a quicker pace, I worry he might tire in the latter rounds. If he has success taking the fight to the ground I can see him finishing Thompson or grinding out a UD. If Thompson is successful in defending Woodley’s takedown attempts forcing him to stand for five rounds he will win the fight. I just don’t see Thompson having that type of success over a five round fight again.
Pick: Woodley by decision
Rashad Evans (24-5-1) vs. Daniel Kelly (12-1) – Middleweight 185 lbs.
Current Odds: Evans; -225; Kelly +175
After not getting medically cleared to fight his previous two fights and injuries, Rashad Evans is finally getting back inside the cage. Rashad hasn’t won a fight since he finished Chael Sonnen at UFC 167. Since that fight he’s 0-2, losing to Ryan Bader at UFC 192 and Glover Teixeira at UFC on FOX 19. Once a serious threat both standing and on the ground, age and injuries have slowed Evans down. His ability to score takedowns has diminished forcing him to have to stand and trade against opponents he normally wouldn’t have to. It will be interesting to see how the move down to 185 affects him.
After suffering the first loss of his career against Sam Alvey at UFC Fight Night 65, Dan Kelly has run off three straight wins. The latest coming by decision over Chris Camozzi at UFC Fight Night 101. While he doesn’t have the speed of Ryan Bader or the power of Glover Teixeira, he’s still a treat and someone Evans shouldn’t be looking past.
Kelly is an effective striker who works extremely well in the clinch. If he can push the pace and get inside, which Rashad struggles with, his odds of pulling off the upset increases. Evans at 185 should hold the advantage in speed and quickness. Dan Kelly will give Evans all he can handle but he just isn’t on the same level as Rashad. Evans will have success getting the fight to the ground and controlling Kelly from top position earning him the decision.
Pick: Evans by decision
Lando Vannata (9-1) vs. David Teymur (5-1) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Current Odds: Vannata -400; Teymur +300
Lando Vannata is 1-1 under the UFC banner. He lost his debut to Tony Ferguson at UFC Fight Night 91, but returned at UFC 206 and delivered a highlight reel knockout to John Makdessi. Vannata is a finisher with 8 of his 9 wins by submission or KO/TKO. Vannata is very well-rounded fighter. He’s an excellent striker with big power while working at a fast pace. While his ground game isn’t as good as his stand up, it’s still very good.
After losing his pro debut to Mattias Rosenlind, David Teymur has rattled off 5 straight wins. His most recent win came at UFC Fight Night 92 against Jason Novelli. Teymur is primarily a striker who likes to keep his fights on the feet. Four of his five wins came via KO/TKO.
Both fighters are finishers so this should be an exciting fight. Teymur will want to keep the fight standing and that suits Vannata just fine. Vannata has the advantage regardless of where the fight goes. He’ll mix up his offense and throw in some takedowns keeping Teymur off balance leading to a UD.
Pick: Vannata by decision
Alistar Overeem (41-15, 1 NC) vs. Mark Hunt (12-11-1) – Heavyweight 265 lbs.
Current Odds: Overeem -140; Hunt +110
MMA veteran Alistair Overeem takes on Mark Hunt in a battle of heavyweights. A win here by either fighter still keeps them a few wins away from a title shot. Regardless of the stakes I always enjoy watching heavyweight fights due to their unpredictability.
Overeem submitted Hunt back in 2008 at Dream 5 in the midst of an eleven fight winning streak. More recently Overeem was on a four fight win streak until he was stopped by Stipe Miocic in his bid to become heavyweight champion at UFC 203. Overeem has been knocked out four times in his last nine fights so I’m curious to see how his suspect chin holds up against the huge power of Hunt.
Mark Hunt dropped a decision to Brock Lesnar at UFC 200 which was later changed to a no-contest by the Nevada State Athletic Commission due to Lesnar failing multiple drug tests. Prior to that fight Hunt was on a two fight winning beating Antonio Silva at UFC 193 and Frank Mir at UFC Fight Night 85.
This fight should play out entirely on the feet. Both fighters have lost a step or two and Overeem can’t take a punch like he used to. I expect Hunt to try and close distance and stalk Overeem down looking to land his devastating right hand. Overeem still moves pretty well at this stage in his career so I see him being able to get in and out without the fear of Hunt chasing him down. Hunt is an excellent counter-puncher so there is the possibility he catches Overeem and puts him to sleep. Ultimately I like Mark Hunt’s power and more importantly, his chin in this one.
Pick: Hunt by TKO
Henrique over Tybura
Bektic over Elkins
Alcantara over Sanders
Spitz over Godbeer
Craig over Pedro
Calvillo over Cooper (moved to main card)
Morales over Soukhamthath
Enjoy the fights!
The Fighting Champion
Blogging about mixed martial arts, sports betting and providing winning sports picks.