Bellator 123: Main Card Preview and Predictions
It seems like it's been awhile, but Bellator finally returns Friday with its 123rd card. Live from Connecticut, the bout features a title fight and numerous stars of the company.
Pat Curran and Patricio Freire headline the card with Curran's 145-pound belt on the line. It is a rematch from nearly two years ago, when Curran edged Freire by decision.
This card will be going up directly against UFC Fight Night 50, which could affect the ratings. However, given the title fight, it could attract some UFC fans away from the Fox Sports 1 card.
With that, let's take a look at the four-fight main card, preview the bouts and make some predictions for the night.
Preliminary Card Quick Picks
Here are my quick picks for the Bellator undercard.
135 pounds: Rico DiSciullo def. Marvin Maldonado
135 pounds: Steve Garcia def. Kin Moy
265 pounds: Mike Wessel def. Josh Diekmann
185 pounds: Brennan Ward def. Tamdan McCrory
185 pounds: Perry Filkins def. Dan Cramer
205 pounds: Mike Mucitelli def. Mark Griffin
145 pounds: Philipe Martins def. Pete Rogers Jr.
135 pounds: Brandon Fleming def. Blair Tugman
155 pounds: Andrew Calandrelli def. Lucas Cruz
145 pounds: Matt Bessette def. Scott Cleve
Bobby Lashley vs. Josh Burns
The opening bout on the main card takes place in the heavyweight division, as Bellator and TNA employee Bobby Lashley makes his debut in the company against Josh Burns.
Lashley is a physical brute and a power wrestler who hasn't fought in about 10 months. In that time, he has been wrestling with Bellator's "teammate" on Spike TV in TNA, where he has played an integral role in the main event scene.
There is no secret to Lashley's method, as he uses strikes to close the distance in the attempt to set up a huge power takedown. From top position, he does have underrated submission ability, which has led to five career tapout wins.
As for Burns, he is 0-4 with Bellator and seems like a tuneup fight for Lashley. He is a wrestler who relies on ground-and-pound to notch his victories. However, it will be tough for him to outwrestle the accomplished Lashley.
The big thing in this bout will be cardio, something Lashley isn't exactly known for. If he finishes this quickly or paces himself, he should be fine, as pure skill and athleticism will overtake Burns easily.
Prediction: Lashley def. Burns via TKO
King Mo Lawal vs. Dustin Jacoby
Moving on, we head to the light heavyweight division, as former Strikeforce champion King Mo Lawal takes on late-notice fighter and UFC vet Dustin Jacoby. Jacoby replaces Marcus Sursa and Tom DeBlass, who both bowed out of the contest due to injuries.
Lawal has failed to find consistency in his Bellator career and does not yet have a key win that he can hang his hat on. Though he has won a tournament and a title fight, he has gone 4-3 with the company, losing to now-champ Emanuel Newton twice and rival Rampage Jackson in his most recent bout.
He has relied more on his boxing as of late, though one would argue his wrestling is where he should continue to focus his attention. His top game has led him to victory many times, including bouts against Jacob Noe, Seth Petruzelli and numerous Strikeforce opponents.
Jacoby is a striker who continues his return to MMA after a lengthy stint in pro kickboxing. He is a two-fight UFC veteran who failed to win there, though he has shown to be a valuable fighter in his time outside the company.
He is coming off a win on August 22 in Titan FC, where he leveled Lucas Lopes with a nasty head kick and punches. He will need to stick and move on Lawal, who can not only take him down but also use hand combinations and power to hurt him.
Jacoby has a striker's chance, as seen in Lawal's first loss to Newton via spinning backfist. However, Lawal is just on another level, though he has been inconsistent lately. Expect a heavy dosage of takedowns and ground-and-pound en route to a win for Lawal.
Prediction: Lawal def. Jacoby via decision
Cheick Kongo vs. Lavar Johnson
Next up are the heavyweights, as UFC veterans Cheick Kongo and Lavar Johnson battle with major title implications hanging in the balance.
Kongo is a former Bellator tournament winner and title challenger who has been a wrecking machine with the company. Despite a hiccup against Vitaly Minakov for the title, Kongo has destroyed Eric Smith, Peter Graham and Mark Godbeer in his other three bouts.
His muay thai is still his bread and butter, though takedowns and the clinch game could aid him in this bout. Staying out of Johnson's wheelhouse is essential if he doesn't want to get clipped with one of his meat hooks.
Johnson is also a striker, though he is more of a puncher than Kongo, who uses knees and kicks as well. Johnson is immensely powerful, possessing the ability to put anybody to sleep with one strike.
He needs to be wary of Kongo's takedowns, which are vastly underrated. If Kongo puts him on his back, he will face a barrage of heavy punches that could inflict damage.
Johnson has been too inconsistent at the high levels of fighting. He is 1-2 in Bellator, including losses to Vinicius Queiroz and Blagoi Ivanov. Kongo will close the distance and make Johnson uncomfortable for three rounds.
Prediction: Kongo def. Johnson via decision
Pat Curran vs. Patricio Freire
In the main event, the featherweight title is on the line, as two-time champion Pat Curran rematches Patricio Freire in what could be one of the best fights of the weekend.
Curran is coming off a late-stoppage win over Daniel Straus in a bout where he not only won the rubber match against Straus but took back his title. He was potentially down on the scorecards but pulled out the win in impressive fashion.
Curran is well-rounded with good boxing, effective wrestling and underrated grappling ability. He has been a force in Bellator since 2010, where he has gone 10-2.
Freire has been on the warpath since his failed title bid against Curran back in January of 2013. He has been knocking guys out left and right, including Strikeforce vet Justin Wilcox, UFC vet Diego Nunes and prospect Jared Downing.
This fight will go a lot like the first fight, though Freire will be more aggressive. His aggression may lead to more opportunities for takedowns, though, as Curran edges out another thriller.
Prediction: Curran def. Freire via decision