Bellator has a new leader and direction. Fans will get a chance to see a little of it on Friday when the first post-Bjorn Rebney show takes place at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Former Strikeforce head man Scott Coker is in now in charge of the brand, and he has big plans.
He told Steven Marrocco of MMA Junkie that the promotion will move to monthly events next year, and there is a buzz and excitement surrounding the once troubled company.
Anthony Mazzuca @Mazzuca87
Absolutely love the new direction we are heading in. It starts this Friday @SpikeTV #Bellator123 http://t.co/bAT05IIqG69/4/2014, 6:06:29 PM
Coincidentally, Bellator 123 happens on the same day the UFC will be in The Constitution State.
UFC Fight Night 50 will be held in Mashantucket, so the promotions will battle head-to-head for the attention of local MMA fans.
That might sound like an easy win for the UFC, but this Bellator card is no joke. Aside from a potentially awesome rematch and featherweight title bout between Pat Curran and "The Pitbull" Patricio Freire, the card will also feature Cheick Kongo, "King Mo" Muhammed Lawal and Bobby Lashley.
It'll be one of the most star-studded cards the company has produced. Here's a look at the scheduled fights, my predictions and viewing information. Just below the table is a closer look at the four biggest main card bouts.
|Bellator 123 Fight Card, Predictions and Viewing Info|
|Spike Preliminaries||Friday, September 5 at 8 p.m. ET|
|Perry Filkins vs. Dan Cramer||Middleweight||Cramer by TKO|
|Tamdan McCrory vs. Brennan Ward||Middleweight||McCrory by KO|
|Mike Wessel vs. Josh Diekmann||Heavyweight||Diekmann by KO|
|Steve Garcia vs. Kin Noy||Bantamweight||Garcia by decisionission|
|Marvin Maldonado vs. Rico Disciullo||Bantamweight||Disciullo by submission|
|Spike Main Card||Weight Class||Prediction|
|Bobby Lashley vs. Josh Burns||Heavyweight||Lashley by TKO|
|Muhammed Lawal vs. Dustin Jacoby||Light Heavyweight||Lawal by TKO|
|Cheick Kongo vs. Lavar Johnson||Heavyweight||Kongo by TKO|
|Pat Curran vs. Patricio "Pitbull" Freire||Featherweight||Curran by decision|
|Card per Bellator, picks by Brian Mazique|
Need a second, third, fourth and even fifth opinion? Check out what MMA Junkie's staff said about the top four fights on the card.
Bellator 123 staff picks: Three unanimous nods, but dissension in main event http://t.co/OeP4gxcvl4 via @MMAjunkie9/4/2014, 6:08:42 PM
Cheick Kongo Will Outsmart Lavar Johnson
Both Cheick Kongo and Lavar Johnson are big, strong veterans of the UFC, and both men have one-punch KO power.
While this could be a knock-down, drag-out affair, Kongo has traded in his mindless slugging nature for a more calculated approach of late. The 39-year-old can still drop bombs, but he takes his time more in recognition of his limited gas tank.
The MMA Corner @TheMMACorner
Bellator 123”s Cheick Kongo: “I’m Not Done” http://t.co/fpfNpB6b7J @Kongo4real @BellatorMMA #Bellator123 #MMA9/2/2014, 6:00:34 PM
That's something we've never seen Johnson do.
In almost every fight Johnson has lost, his lack of stamina has been the culprit. When stamina hasn't gotten the best of him, his vulnerability to submissions has been his downfall.
Kongo isn't a submissions specialist, but it wouldn't be all that surprising to see him drop Johnson with a strike and lock in a basic submission like a rear-naked choke to finish off an already gassed opponent. That's merely a hunch, but the definitive prediction is a first-round TKO for Kongo.
Bobby Lashley's Wrestling Skills Will Lead to Ground-and-Pound Win
Josh Burns is Bobby Lashley's opponent, and quite honestly, he isn't much of a threat. Burns has lost four of his last five fights, and he's extremely one-dimensional. He throws haymakers that he hopes find a home on his opponent's face.
He'll repeat this occurrence for about 90 seconds before he gets tired. Burns is likely being placed with Lashley to help the bigger name gain some momentum.
That's unfortunate, but it should make for an exciting finish for Lashley.
The 38-year-old powerhouse should have no problem controlling Burns on the ground and pounding him out before the bell to end the first round.
King Mo Will Dominate Jacoby with his Wrestling and Strength
King Mo will beat former UFC and Glory fighter Dustin Jacoby to get back in the win column. Having lost two of his last three, including a disputed grudge match with Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in May, Lawal needs a win in a big way.
Jacoby does present a tough challenge because he's four inches taller than Lawal, and he possesses a strong kickboxing background. It's clear from his comments to John Joe O'Regan of Sherdog that he plans to utilize those skills against Lawal.
After doing kickboxing and then watching all these MMA fights I have noticed that the leg kicks are wide open in MMA. That’s something I sort of already knew but never really felt it and saw it the way that I do now. The leg kicks are wide open and that set up the head kick in my last fight. I hit him with seven or eight hard low kicks, then faked a low kick and came up top with the head kick.
It would seem that a veteran like Lawal would be prepared for a heavy leg attack from Jacoby. Look for Lawal to counter the leg strikes with takedowns. Many forget that Lawal was a highly decorated collegiate wrestler. He'll need to dust off those skills to take Jacoby out of his comfort zone.
Expect another ground-and-pound finish in this one.
Pat Curran Will Go 2-0 Against The Pitbull
The last time Curran and Freire met, the former emerged with a disputed split-decision victory. This time, Curran will leave less doubt. Initially, it seemed as if Curran was a little surprised by Pitbull's explosiveness in the first fight.
The champion was caught off guard by Freire's ability to close the four-inch height gap. In the second round, Curran established his jab and Freire never really solved the length issue in the final three rounds. In the rematch, we should expect more of the same.
Ever the cerebral fighter, Curran will simply pick up where the left off and control the mad dashes from Freire. The fight will still be competitive, but Curran will win an undisputed unanimous decision on more effective striking.
Follow Brian Mazique, aka FranchisePlay, the Sports Video Game Journalist.