Bellator is back after an extended break with Bellator 182. The event takes place at the Turning Stone Casino and Resort in Verona, New York. The main event features the return of Andrey Koreshkov. The Russian steps back into the Bellator cage for the first time since losing his welterweight to Jose Lima to take on Chidi Njokuani. The winner of the fight should be next in line to face Lima.
The co-main event should be a good when Brennan Ward faces off with Fernando Gonzalez. The four-fight main card rounds out with AJ McKee taking on Blair Tugman and Veta Arteaga vs. Bruna Ellen.
The prelims will stream live on Bellator.com starting at 5:30 PM CT with Spike TV taking over at 8 PM CT for the main card.
Chidi Njokuani (17-4) vs. Andrey Koreshkov (19-2) – Welterweight 170 lbs.
Current Odds: Koreshkov -300; Njokuani +240
Andrey Koreshkov came into Bellator with a ton of fanfare. He lost his debut fight for the promotion when he got stopped by Ben Askren at Bellator 97. There’s no shame in losing to Askren so Koreshkov was given another opportunity to prove himself. He returned to the Bellator cage at Bellator 112 where he finished Nah-Shon Burrell in forty-one seconds. Koreshkov went on to win his next two fights before being rewarded with a title shot against Jose Lima for Lima’s welterweight championship.
Koreshkov beat Lima by Unanimous Decision in a one-sided affair to capture the welterweight title at Bellator 140. Koreshkov then successfully defended his belt by picking apart Ben Henderson for five rounds leading to a Unanimous Decision. Koreshkov’s second title defense was against the man he took belt from, Jose Lima. It was at Bellator 164 where Koreshkov lost the belt back to Lima. After going up two rounds to zero, Koreshkov appeared to get a little full of himself and paid for it. Lima finished Koreshkov in the third round regaining the Bellator welterweight championship.
In Koreshkov’s nineteen pro victories, ten are by way of knockout to go along with three via submission. Andrey will look to get back into the win column when he steps into the cage against fast-rising, Chidi Njokuani.
Chidi Njokuani will enter his fight against Andrey Koreshkov with a ton confidence. The twenty-eight year old has won his last seven fights. His most recent fight was at Bellator 171 where he beat Melvin Guillard by Unanimous Decision. Njokuani has ten wins by KO/TKO and one by submission in seventeen career victories.
In order for Chidi to win the fight he has to get inside. He has the power to put anybody to sleep and if Koreshkov allows Njokuani to dictate pace while keeping the fight on the feet, I can see this fight going the same way the second Lima fight went. A win against a fighter of Koreshkov’s caliber would be huge for Njokuani and could lead to a title fight against Lima next.
However, I think Koreshkov learned from his last time in the cage. While Koreshkov has a lethal striking attack, I expect him to take the fight to the mat early and often. It’s there Andrey will wear Chidi down leading to a win by decision.
Pick: Koreshkov by Decision
Fernando Gonzalez (26-14) vs. Brennan Ward (15-5) – Catchweight 175 lbs.
Current Odds: Gonzalez -120; Ward -110
Brennan Ward returns to Bellator cage for the first time since suffering a brutal knockout loss at the hands of Paul Daley by Flying Knee at Bellator 170. Ward is now 1-2 over his last three fights. Prior to losing to Daley, Ward finished Saad Awad in the first round at Bellator 163, and before that he was subbed by Evangelista Santos in thirty seconds. The twenty-nine year old, Ward is an exciting fighter. He is also a fighter who will either finish a fight or get finished inside the distance. In his fourteen career wins, nine are by KO/TKO with four by way of submission.
After losing what can only be called a boring fight to Michael Page at Bellator 165, Fernando Gonzalez returned at Bellator 174 where he decisioned Brandon Girtz. The long time MMA veteran will be making the walk for the fortieth time when he squares off against Ward. The thirty-three old has nine wins by knockout to go along with seven via submission in his twenty-six pro wins.
This is a difficult fight to predict, as are most of Brennan Ward’s fights. Ward’s style is to pressure and throw hands. The more experienced Gonzalez knows this and probably won’t get baited into a firefight with Ward. However, that doesn’t mean Ward won’t be able to apply pressure, smother Gonzalez and land a knockout punch.
Pick: Ward by TKO
AJ McKee (8-0) vs. Blair Tugman (9-6) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
Current Odds: McKee -1500; Tugman +800
One of Bellator’s brightest up and coming superstars, AJ McKee, returns to the cage after finishing Dominic Mazzotta with a brutal head kick in the first round at Bellator 178. The Team Bodyshop product is undefeated as a professional fighter and boasts six finishes in his eight pro wins.
Blair Tugman has seen a bit of career resurgence as of late. He is 5-1 in his last six fights with his most recent victory occurring at Bellator 178 where he tapped Tom English. In Tugman’s ten victories, four are by submission with six by decision.
At only twenty-two years of age, Bellator is doing the right thing by bringing McKee along slowly. This should be another finish for the blue-chip prospect.
Pick: McKee by TKO
Veta Arteaga (3-1) vs. Bruna Ellen (3-1) – Flyweight 125 lbs.
Current Odds: Arteaga -185; Ellen +155
Veta Arteaga is 2-1 under the Bellator banner. After dropping a Split Decision to Anastasia Yankova at Bellator 161, Arteaga returned at Bellator 172 where she stopped Brooke Mayo by TKO. The twenty-nine year old has one win by knockout in three pro victories.
Bruna Ellen is 1-1 since coming to Bellator. After losing her debut to Jessica Middleton at Bellator 159, she earned her first victory in the promotion by beating Carmela James by decision at Bellator 171. The twenty-one year old Team Nogueira product has one win via knockout in three pro victories.
This is a tough fight to predict. Both women have their flaws, but I’ll go with Veta Arteaga. She should be 4-0, but was robbed of the decision against Yankova.
Pick: Arteaga by Decision
Prelims Quick Look
Davis over Roswell
Kavanagh over Blencowe
Lahat over Corrales
Schneider over Jackson
Honeycutt over Casey
Karakhanyan over Pineda
Nogueira over Bell
Regal over Xhema
Polcare over Taylor
Rainey over Stevens
Lins over Nemkov
Secor over Sumler
Lopez over Sotack
Ricci over Warne
Enjoy the fights!
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