The Complete Guide to Bellator 142: Dynamite
Although he has been at Bellator's helm for more than a year, Bellator 142: Dynamite marks the true encapsulation of Scott Coker's run as the organization's head. After several months of placeholder shows following the blowout spectacle of Ken Shamrock vs. Kimbo Slice and the attendant spike in ratings, Bellator returns with another big-time event that's sure to spark curiosity and interest from MMA fans.
The event will feature both a ring and a cage, and a few Glory kickboxing bouts in addition to the heartier fare of a four-man, one-night light heavyweight tournament under MMA rules that features King Mo Lawal, Emanuel Newton, Linton Vassell and longtime UFC competitor Phil Davis.
In addition, former Strikeforce lightweight champion Josh Thomson, fresh off a stint in the UFC, makes his promotional debut against Mike Bronzoulis. A 205-pound title fight between the venerable Tito Ortiz and rising champion Liam McGeary caps off the event.
Dynamite could turn out to be a fantastic, oddball treat with an incredible mixture of action in two different combat sports, or it could be an unwieldy mess with plodding fights between faded stars. The most likely scenario is a mixture of both, with light heavyweight kickboxers Saulo Cavalari and Zack Mwekassa dropping bombs, Paul Daley knocking an unfortunate challenger's head off and reasonably entertaining MMA bouts.
This over-the-top event, along with the Shamrock-Kimbo card earlier this year, is the embodiment of Coker's vision for the new-look Bellator. It offers a fundamentally different product than the UFC, and in the crowded landscape at the peak of mixed martial arts, that's just fine.
Like most of Bellator's shows, the preliminary card is not exactly stacked with must-see matchups. Most of the talent is cheap and local, brought in more for their ability to help sell tickets than future potential or inherent talent. With that said, a few intriguing matchups are worthy of the viewer's time.
Anvar Boynazarov (79-20) vs. Serhiy Adamchuk (29-5)
This was originally scheduled to be a featherweight title bout between the Ukraine's Adamchuk and champion Gabriel Varga, but the titleholder was forced to withdraw with an injury. Adamchuk debuted in Glory with a massive upset of Marat Grigorian on 24 hours' notice in June, while Boynazarov defeated Giga Chikadze in August.
This should be a fun fight between a Dutch-style range striker in Adamchuk and more of a muay thai stylist in Boynazarov. Adamchuk is a talented southpaw with excellent footwork, good ringcraft and a high-output arsenal of punch-kick combinations. He has a special fondness for the left straight-right hook combination and does an excellent job of finding angles to kick his opponent's rear leg—a rare skill.
Boynazarov, a native of Uzbekistan, has a great deal of muay thai experience. He works at a slower pace than Adamchuk but packs a bit more power in his punches and kicks. The Uzbek doesn't integrate them as well, however, and often seems to be in either punching or kicking mode.
This fight comes down to output and ringcraft, and Adamchuk should have the edge in both categories. The Ukrainian throws better combinations at a higher pace, and his command of angles and the space of the ring should give Boynazarov fits as the fight progresses. The pick is Adamchuk by decision.
Light Heavyweight Tournament Alternate Bout
Roy Boughton (12-5) vs. Francis Carmont (23-10)
Longtime UFC middleweight Carmont looks to be settling in nicely at light heavyweight, where the massive Frenchman doesn't seem to be giving up any size despite moving up a division. He draws journeyman Roy Boughton in the 205-pound tournament's alternate bout, with the winner poised to play spoiler if one of the competitors can't continue.
Despite Carmont's kickboxing background, most of his game revolves around a stifling clinch game, wrestling and top-control grappling. He throws a piercing jab and hard left kick at range, but he throws little volume and relies on his takedown chains and top game to win fights.
Boughton is a well-rounded veteran with some skill everywhere, but he is neither a great athlete nor particularly dangerous against high-level opposition. He throws a nice inside low kick and jabs well at range, which he uses to cover his preferred single-leg takedown. His top game is excellent with a nice mixture of ground strikes, passes and submissions.
The Frenchman should be a substantial favorite. He is more physical, faster and more polished in each of his skill sets. Carmont takes an easy decision here.
Light Heavyweight Tournament Semifinal: Emanuel Newton vs. Phil Davis
Light Heavyweight Tournament Semifinal
Emanuel Newton (25-8-1) vs. Phil Davis (13-3, 1 NC)
Phil Davis was one of the first big signings of the Scott Coker era, and he has a lot to prove against promotional staple Emanuel Newton. Newton, a unique character, came up short in his last outing against champion Liam McGeary.
Former Penn State wrestling great Davis had an up-and-down run in the UFC and never quite developed into the elite fighter many thought he would become. He looks to get back on track after a bad fight against Ryan Bader.
While Davis has perhaps failed to live up to his potential, he's still an elite light heavyweight. His wrestling credentials are off the charts, and Davis utilizes some of the trickiest and most effective takedown chains in the sport.
If he can get in on his opponent's hips, he'll eventually end up on top. That relentless takedown game blends seamlessly into Davis' stifling mixture of top control and wrestling control positions such as the ride and even the cradle, which is rarely seen in MMA.
He is far less dangerous on the feet. Gifted with neither great speed nor serious power, Davis spends a great deal of time circling at range and flicking half-hearted jabs and kicks. He doesn't throw enough to win fights on volume, and he doesn't hit hard enough to be a real threat. This emphasis on movement at range often leaves him too far away to use his chain wrestling, since his shot isn't particularly explosive.
Newton is a fun and unpredictable fighter with a diverse game. He rarely throws punches with his left hand but makes up for it with a bewildering variety of side, front and round kicks that he uses to set up spinning back kicks and backfists. The left kick to overhand right is a particular favorite, and he packs enough power and deception to be dangerous.
A strong single-leg takedown and generally excellent defensive wrestling add another dimension to Newton's game. From top position, he is pathologically aggressive and determined to ignore his opponent's submission attempts, which regularly gets him into trouble from which he is lucky to escape. Newton's game is competent everywhere and shockingly savvy in spots.
Davis -350, Newton +250
This is a sneaky-tough matchup for Bellator's big new signing, and Newton has played the spoiler before. The former champion's combination of strong defensive wrestling and offbeat striking are difficult to overcome, but Davis should be able to chain his takedowns together for top control and do enough at range to take this one. The pick is Davis by tight decision.
Light Heavyweight Tournament Semifinal: King Mo Lawal vs. Linton Vassell
Light Heavyweight Tournament Semifinal
King Mo Lawal (15-4, 1 NC) vs. Linton Vassell (15-4, 1 NC)
Bellator staples Lawal and Vassell meet in the lesser of the two light heavyweight semifinals. This will be Lawal's 11th fight under the Bellator banner, and he is currently riding a three-fight winning streak with the most recent victory being a split decision over the venerable Cheick Kongo. Vassell dropped a fifth-round submission loss to Emanuel Newton last October but rebounded by knocking out Sokoudjou in February.
Vassell is an enormous light heavyweight, clocking in at 6'4", but he is plodding and not particularly athletic. His game revolves around that size, with a steady diet of flicking jabs and kicks at range that make use of his height. The meat of his approach lies in the clinch and wrestling phases, however. He is a skilled grinder with stifling control against the fence, and he chains a variety of singles, doubles and trips.
The Brit is at his best on the mat. He is difficult to shake off from top position, passes nicely and mixes hard ground strikes with submission attempts to open up positional advancements. The goal of his ground game is to force his opponent to turn his back, and Vassell excels at finding his way to the rear-naked choke.
Like fellow tournament competitor Phil Davis, Lawal has never really lived up to his seemingly limitless potential. After a brief period during which the former wrestler seemed to think he was a professional striker, Lawal has returned to his wrestling roots, and the results have been outstanding.
His shot remains exceptionally explosive despite his advancing years. He chains his various techniques—singles, doubles, trips and ankle picks—beautifully and still finishes with great authority and skill.
As Lawal's wrestling has returned to the forefront, his striking has become more effective as well. He was always best when mixing his level changes and feints with his powerful hands, and that remains true today. King Mo likes to leap in with powerful left hooks and right hands, relying on his explosiveness and sense of distance to land. This limits his output and leaves him open to counters, but it is potent nonetheless.
Lawal -405, Vassell +285
This matchup drastically favors Lawal. He is much faster, much more powerful and a far better wrestler, and he should easily stuff Vassell's shots en route to finishing takedowns of his own. Lawal should land a big shot at some point, either on the feet or on the ground. The pick is Lawal by knockout.
Glory Middleweight Bout: Paul Daley vs. Fernando Gonzalez
Paul Daley (20-3) vs. Fernando Gonzalez (23-13)
The venerable Paul Daley returns to kickboxing competition after a pair of MMA fights under the Bellator banner and draws fellow Bellator welterweight Gonzalez, who also has some muay thai experience. Daley has been on a good run as a kickboxer with six wins in 2014 and 2015, five of them inside the distance. He even knocked out Alexander Stetsurenko, who went three hard rounds with Glory champion Nieky Holzken earlier this year.
As in MMA, Daley's kickboxing game revolves around the dynamite in his fists. He remains an exceptionally powerful puncher with one of the best left hooks in combat sports, and even against technically superior opposition that remains a game-changer. Daley is not hard to hit and is limited with a few kicks, a decent stance-switching game and leaping punching combinations, but he doesn't need much more to be effective and dangerous.
There is little kickboxing film on Gonzalez available, but he appears to be a competent if not outstanding fighter. Blitzing punching combinations and a powerful left hand from the southpaw stance are his specialties, but he does not work at a quick pace, isn't a great athlete and is fairly hittable.
Daley -505, Gonzalez +335
This looks like a showcase fight for Daley. His biggest weaknesses are volume and a limited technical arsenal, and there is no reason to think Gonzalez can exploit them. While the American is durable, Daley's power is otherworldly. The pick is Daley by knockout in the second round.
Lightweights: Josh Thomson vs. Mike Bronzoulis
Josh Thomson (20-8, 1 NC) vs. Mike Bronzoulis (18-8-1)
Former Strikeforce fighter Josh Thomson returns to action only two months after suffering a lopsided defeat at the hands of contender Tony Ferguson to complete his underwhelming four-fight run in the UFC. He draws a softball in his return to Scott Coker's loving arms, taking on journeyman Mike Bronzoulis in a fight intended to rebuild some of the venerable Thomson's reputation.
Despite his advancing age (36) and long tenure in the sport, Thomson has yet to really decline, and he remains well-rounded and athletic. On the other hand, it's been a long time since we've seen new wrinkles or technical developments in his game.
At range, he showcases excellent footwork and movement, switches stances constantly and fires off a steady diet of kicks and punching combinations. He works at a relatively slow pace, however, and isn't a particularly powerful striker.
The rest of Thomson's game is crisp and competent. He is not an elite defensive wrestler but generally does a good job of stuffing his opponents' shots. Thomson has a nice arsenal of takedowns, with sneaky judo-style trips on the feet and more standard singles and doubles. On the mat, he is at his best in scrambles, with a great move to the back and solid top control.
Bronzoulis, a longtime welterweight, is enormous for the division. He's plodding and slow, however, with little craft in his striking game. He kicks well, alternating front and round kicks, but he tends to rush in with his punches and leaves his chin exposed to counters.
Grinding in the clinch and working from top position are the real strengths of Bronzoulis' game, but he is not an ace wrestler and struggles to defend takedowns. He has a terrible habit of giving up his back in scrambles and is not terribly polished in general.
Thomson -900, Bronzoulis +500
This is a showcase fight for Thomson. He is a vastly better striker, athlete, wrestler and grappler. The veteran should tune up Bronzoulis on the feet, take him down at will and eventually get to his back in a scramble. The pick is Thomson by submission in the first round.
Glory Light Heavyweight Championship: Saulo Cavalari vs. Zack Mwekassa
Glory Light Heavyweight Championship
Saulo Cavalari (29-3) vs. Zack Mwekassa (13-2)
Two of Glory's most entertaining light heavyweights meet in a rematch of an excellent fight from last November. Cavalari is the promotion's champion and a rising talent, while Mwekassa made his name with a brutal knockout of former UFC and K-1 competitor Pat Barry last year.
Mwekassa is a puncher blessed with extraordinary power in his hands and a fair bit of craft in his game. A former boxer, he works his way forward aggressively behind a consistent and punishing jab that he alternates between the head and body. This opens up his favored power punch, the left hook, by forcing his opponent to pull his hands in front of his face.
The native of the Congo is a dedicated body puncher, and he places his shots organically around and under his opponent's guard. Mwekassa makes up for his lack of height (6'0") with aggression and consistent shift punching, where he switches stances as he moves forward to cover additional distance. He has little in the way of a kicking game, however, and is too hittable for comfort.
Brazil's Cavalari is more of a standard kickboxer, though a diverse and talented one. He keeps a great base and stays balanced as he throws, which allows him to string together long and potent combinations. Punches and kicks come together in clean, seamless sequences with little telegraphing and no wasted energy, which allows him to throw a great volume of strikes.
The Brazilian's footwork and movement are likewise crisp and technical. He is difficult to pin against the ropes, and conversely he excels at cutting off his opponent's movements. Power is not Cavalari's strongest suit, but he is durable and perfectly willing to exchange in the pocket to dissuade his opponent from pressuring him.
Cavalari -300, Mwekassa +220
Cavalari is and should be the favorite, especially since he was almost certainly winning their first meeting even before the high kick that floored Mwekassa in the third round. With that said, Mwekassa has a real shot at putting a big punch on the somewhat hittable Cavalari. Still, the more likely scenario involves Cavalari repeatedly punishing Mwekassa's legs and body with kicks, keeping his distance and taking the fight on points. The pick is Cavalari by decision.
Light Heavyweight Tournament Final
While we obviously don't know the outcomes of the two semifinal matches or whether the winner of Carmont vs. Boughton will be called upon to step up to the main tournament, we can run through the possibilities and the most probable outcomes. Here they are, in descending order of likelihood:
Davis vs. Lawal
Lawal and Davis are the betting favorites to reach the tournament finals. While he would likely enter the fight as an underdog, I'd favor Lawal here. His takedown defense has always been great, and his tendency to circle at distance and then leap in and out of range would make it hard for Davis to get in on his hips to chain-wrestle. Moreover, Lawal is by far the more powerful puncher, and Davis doesn't have much of an advantage in output. The pick is Lawal by slow-paced decision.
Newton vs. Lawal
These two have already fought twice, with Newton scoring a shocking spinning backfist KO in their first meeting and then taking a clear decision in the second. There's no reason to think a third fight would be any different, with Newton stuffing Lawal's takedowns and outpointing his lower-volume opponent at range. The pick is Newton by decision.
Davis vs. Vassell
If Lawal is a bad matchup for Vassell, Davis is even worse. Vassell makes his living in grimy, scramble-filled fights, and that's where Davis is at his best. In fact, Davis is one of the sport's best in those spaces, and there's no way Vassell could compete with him there. The pick is Davis by submission in the first round.
Newton vs. Vassell
Call this one the nightmare scenario for Bellator, a rematch of a competitive light heavyweight title fight from last October. Newton eventually came out on top, tapping Vassell in the fifth round with a rear-naked choke, and he would probably win a rematch as well. The pick is Newton by decision.
Light Heavyweight Championship: Tito Ortiz vs. Liam McGeary
Light Heavyweight Championship
Tito Ortiz (18-11-1) vs. Liam McGeary (10-0)
Old school meets new school as former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz challenges Bellator titleholder Liam McGeary. The Englishman has cut a swath through his competition, finishing his first nine fights and only going to a decision against the ridiculously durable Emanuel Newton in his last outing. Ortiz has had a renaissance since moving to Bellator, choking out Alexander Shlemenko and then taking an ugly decision from Stephan Bonnar last November.
Although he's undoubtedly lost a step or three, Ortiz is mostly the same fighter he's always been. Wrestling and top control are the basis of his game, and he chains together a solid mixture of singles, doubles and ankle picks.
He is more inclined to work clinch control against the fence these days, which makes sense as his takedowns have become less effective over time. When he gets on top, he can still drop bombs inside the guard, and he has enough submission skill on top to be a threat.
The rest of Ortiz's game still leaves much to be desired. He is a competent kickboxer but nothing more, and his physical decline shows up more clearly on the feet than anywhere else. Never blessed with particularly quick hands or feet, he plods and telegraphs almost everything, and he is quite hittable.
McGeary stands an enormous 6'6", and his game revolves around his height and length in every phase of the fight. He is a competent striker who works behind a rangy jab and flicking front and round kicks, and he picks his spots to sit down on crisp punching combinations that pack real power. He is at his best moving forward aggressively, where his punches cover his clinch entries.
The clinch is likely McGeary's best phase. His height gives him incredible leverage that he uses to control his opponent and yank him off balance—directly into the path of a vicious series of knees.
While he can hit a few trips, wrestling is McGeary's weakest skill set, and he is not difficult to take down. He makes up for that deficiency with a venomous guard that chains triangles, armbars, kimuras and Americanas with sweeps, and while he can be controlled, it is a dangerous proposition to grapple with him.
McGeary -600, Ortiz +450
If Ortiz is ever going to win a Bellator title, this would be the matchup that suits him best. He will probably be able to take McGeary down, and the former UFC champion has always had excellent submission defense and striking from the top. Still, over five rounds it is exceedingly likely that the more dynamic McGeary will land a big counter as Ortiz comes in or manage to snag a submission. The pick is McGeary by knockout in the third round.
Note: All betting odds are via OddsShark.com.