Want some high-level MMA this weekend. Well, there’s no UFC, WSOF, ONE, or AXS card scheduled for this weekend. There is, however, a stacked Bellator card tonight. Headlined by a scintillating Middleweight title fight that’s sure to be entertaining, along with a co-main pitting the former Bellator and WSOF Featherweight champions, a pair of Heavyweight bouts and the return of one of the most decorated and respected female fighters in MMA history, this is one of the best Bellator cards, on paper, in recent memory. Hopefully, it lives up to expectations.
Alexis Dufresne (5-2) vs. Marloes Coenen (23-6)
The first fight on the main card features one of the most decorated women in MMA history. Coenen has faced a who’s who of women in her near 16-year career, and the pioneer was supposed to take on Julia Budd for the Inaugural Bellator Women’s Featherweight championship. Alas, Budd got hurt, and former UFC fighter Alexis Dufresne stepped up.
Dufresne is tough, and wants to prove that her disastrous UFC tenure was not the highlight of her career. However, Coenen is an expert at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and I see her coming away with her 18th career win in that fashion. Prediction: Coenen via submission, round 2.
Joey Beltran (17-12) vs. Chase Gormley (12-5)
Up next us a Heavyweight matchup that, well, shouldn’t be on the main card. The fact that initially Coenen/Budd, and then a solid Lightweight contest between Dave Jansen and Marcin Held got relegated to the prelims and not this one is a joke.
I get it. Beltran is a known name, and it’s a Heavyweight matchup, so maybe Bellator thinks people will want to watch it sadly, Gormley is more of a decision machine than anything, and Beltran hasn’t won back-to-back fights since 2010. He’s 5-9 with a no contest since then, which is why he’s not in the UFC anymore. Oh, and he’s a cheat to boot. I’ll pick him to win though, and hopefully, it’s not a terrible fight. Prediction: Beltran via tko, round 2.
Dan Charles (10-3) vs. Augusto Sakai (9-0)
Up next is another Heavyweight contest. While neither name is well-known, unlike the previous fight, it’s actually worthy of a main card slot. Charles is 3-1 in his last four, has six knockouts and two submission wins, and a solid chin to boot. However, Sakai is an unbeaten prospect with seven knockouts, a solid gas tank, and hopes of being a champion soon. If he wins tonight, he may get the chance before long. I think he’ll take it. Prediction: Sakai via tko, round 2.
Pat Curran (21-7) vs. Georgi Karakhanyan (24-5-1)
Normally, former champions from opposing promotions don’t get the chance to fight each other in their primes, especially in this day and age. That’s what makes the co-main event of the evening so fascinating.
Just a few years ago, Karakhanyan was running shop as the WSOF Featherweight champ, having won all three of his fights for the promotion. He’d gone 2-2 with Bellator a few years earlier, but the veteran couldn’t establish a niche there. Surely, he’d found his home now? Well, Rick Glenn shocked many when he dominated the submission specialist, winning the belt via doctor stoppage at the end of round 2 on that fateful June 2014 night. Karakhanyan, who’s nine fight winning streak was shattered, then asked for his realease, got it, and went back to Bellator. He’s 1-1 in his second stint with the promotion, submitting high-level wrestler Bubba Jenkins, before losing a decision to Daniel Weichel.
Now, Karakhanyan takes on the former Featherweight champion, one who dominated Bellator’s division for years. Going 9-1 to kick off his Bellator run, Curran dominated his opponents, tending to win via brutal finish. However, he then lost three of four fights, starting with a decision loss to current champion Daniel Straus via decision in late 2013. He got a rematch in early 2014, overcoming defeat and pulling off an improbable submission in the final 14 seconds to get his belt back. He then lost it to Patricio Pitbull, before losing a split decision against Daniel Weichel. He defeated Emmanuel Sanchez in his last fight by fighting safe, and it’s interesting to see whether he’ll fight with a killer instinct tonight, against a legit submission specialist.
Both men are great on the ground, and have some pop in their fists. But, Karakhanyan is definitely the better grappler. I think it’ll go the distance, in what may or may not be a great fight. May the better fighter ultimately win. Prediction: Curran via decision.
Bellator Middleweight Championship: (C) Rafael Carvalho (12-1) vs. Melvin Manhoef (30-12-1, 2NC)
For those complaining about Michael Bisping getting a lifetime achievement award when he got the short-notice title shot against Luke Rockhold in the UFC, I suggest looking at this booking. Manhoef is a kickboxing legend, with the ultimate kill or be killed mentality. He’s won 28 MMA fights and 37 Kickboxing fights via knockout, and still packs a punch. That’s why he got the shot.
Meanwhile, Carvalho might be the best Middleweight outside of the UFC not named Alexander Shlemenko or Mamed Khalidov. He hasn’t lost since his pro debut in 2011, and has 10 knockouts to his credit. Sure, he’s a stand-up fighter, meaning Manhoef has a shot here. But, I think Carvalho takes it. It’d be awesome to see a legend like Manhoef garner a notable belt in this day and age, but I don’t see it happening. Heart pick: Manhoef. Head and gut pick: Carvalho via tko, round 3.