No UFC? No problem. That’s because Bellator is taking the stage this weekend. Although there are no title fights taking place on the card, the four-fight main card slate is sure to produce some fireworks. A female pioneer returns to a major promotion, an inspirational tale will meet it’s potential conclusion, a bitter feud will reach its peak, and a story of self redemption is set to occur. Not bad for a fight card on a Friday night.
Alrene Blencowe (6-4) vs. Marloes Coenen (22-6)
The main card opens up with the return of one of my favorite fighters of all time, Marloes Coenen. The female pioneer has been fighting for almost 15 years, and I’ve been a fan of hers for over a decade. He is a submission specialist, prevailing 17 times in that manner. And while she should be in the UFC, she is much more comfortable at 145. The only female fighter who is better than her is Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, and she valiantly fought her on multiple occasions.
Alrene Blancowe is a solid scrapper, but she just can’t compete here. She’s lost three times via submission, and she’s facing arguably the second-best female submission artist in the history of the sport. Big ups to her for trying, but I see her falling easily tonight.
Prediction: Coenen via submission, round 1.
Justin Wren (10-2) vs. Josh Burns (8-8)
Why is this fight taking place on the main card? Well, it’s a Heavyweight slugfest. Aside from that, it gives Bellator the chance to put forth one of the most inspirational, relatively untold stories in MMA today. In late 2009, Wren was a member of The Ultimate Fighter’s Heavyweight season. He lost a split decision to Jon Madsen in the finale, and was cut thereafter. He then won three fights over the first seven months of 2010, before changing his life.
After submitting Josh Robertson in July of that year, Wren decided to go to Africa. There, he witnessed many horrors, and decided to help out the children of that area, via participating in an organization known as “Fight for the Forgotten,” thereby earning the nickname “The Big Pygmy.”
Wren returns now, five years later, to his biggest fight since 2009. He does so in hopes of garnering money for the children in Africa, by aiming to defeat a man who has been down on his luck lately. His opponent, Josh Burns, has lost all five of his career Bellator fights. He lost his first three, returned after winning a pair of regional bouts, but has lost his last two fights, both inside the Bellator cage. He has been submitted four times, and knocked out on just as many occasions. Wren has six knockouts and three submissions, so if he’s not too rusty, he should definitely prevail. Prediction: Wren via tko, round 2.
Saad Awad (18-6) vs. Patricky Freire (13-6)
Up next is the people’s main event of the evening. Awad has been feuding with the Pitbull brothers for a while now, and looks to garner a potential title shot with a win over the “other” Pitbull brother.
While Patricio Pitbull has been dominant throughout his career, to the point that he is now Bellator’s Featherweight champion, Patricky has not been so great. He began with a bang, starting his career with a 9-1 mark, including a pair of knockout finished with Bellator. He then hit a rut, falling short in four of his next five bouts. Granted, the first loss of that stretch was a decision loss to former Lightweight champion Michael Chandler, and soon thereafter, he fought two-time Bellator Lightweight Champion and current UFC title contender Eddie Alvarez. However, the stretch was still a rough one, and it looked as if “Pitbull” would wind up getting cut from the promotion before long.
Since then, Freire has gotten things back in order. He made another tournament run, making it to the last ever Lightweight Tournament Final. There, he lost to Marcin Held, via unanimous decision last September. With a win tonight, he will have four wins in his last five fights, and may get the next shot at current champion “Ill” Will Brooks.
Meanwhile, Awad is a finisher. He has fourteen career finishes, winning seven times via knockout and submission apiece. He is 6-2 in his current stint with Bellator, with his only losses coming against longtime contender David Rickels, and then a decision loss to current champion Will Brooks, both in 2013. He has since won three straight, and is hoping to garner a rubber match against the champ, who he knocked out in February of that year, in just 43 seconds.
Honestly, this fight can go any which way. Both men have a shot at prevailing. However, I simply cannot see Awad losing. He seems to have gotten his mojo back, and is better on the feet, as well as imposing on the ground. Granted, Freire is similar, but I just see Awad being better. It might end early, but I doubt it. Expect a fun, enthralling 15-minute battle. Prediction: Awad via unanimous decision.
Melvin Guillard (32-14-2, 2NC) vs. Brandon Girtz (11-4)
Oh where the (once, potentially) mighty have fallen. Not long ago, Melvin Guillard was a potential title contender within the UFC’s Lightweight division. The phenom participated in the second season of The Ultimate Fighter, and won three of his first four UFC bouts. He suffered a pair of losses in 2007, but followed up with eight wins in his next nine contests. A title shot was imminant for the “Young Assassin.”
And then, it all fell apart for him. He succumbed to a pair of first round rear-naked chokes, kicking off a subpar 2-5 stretch, along with a no contest, which sent him out of the UFC. He won his WSOF debut last July, before losing a split decision to the champion, Justin Gaethje, and eventually talking his way out of the organization.
Now, Guillard finds himself in Bellator, in a fight that he should definitely win. Girtz is a gritty veteran, with a terrific submission game, prevailing seven times in that manner. However, he has been knocked out recently, and has been a mediocre 6-4 since starting his carreer 5-0. This fight could go his way, and I’m rooting for him, but I see Guillard being motivated enough to garner his 22nd career knockout victory. Prediction: Guillard via tko, round 2.