For the first time in quite a while, Bellator was set to put on a stacked event. A Light Heavyweight championship fight, a scintillating women’s bout between submission specialists, the return of English sensation Paul Daley, a Welterweight bout between finishers as well as the Bellator MMA debut of Sergei Kahritonov were all on slate for the marquee event.
Well, the women’s bout between unbeaten Talita Nogueira and female legend Maroes Coenen is off, and so is the Daley fight due to ill effects of a bad weight cut. As a result, a prelim fight got moved up to the main card, the card went from five fights down to four. Still, the championship fight is on, so is Kharitonov’s debut and Ward/Awad, all three of which could be fun fights. Without further ado, here are my picks for the main card.
Bellator 163 main card (9/8c, Spike TV)
Sergei Kharitonov (23-5) vs. Javi Ayala (9-5)
The first fight on the main slate features arguably the best Heavyweight not in the UFC in Sergei Kharitonov. The Russian Kickboxer has finished 22 of his 23 victims, 13 via knockout and nine via submission. He’s won his last five fights, all via finish, and his last loss came almost five years ago against Josh Barnett. Clearly, this is a showcase bout for him.
Ayala’s far from bad, but he’s nothing special either. He’s got four knockout and submission wins apiece, he’s 4-2 inside the Bellator cage, and he’s lost two of three. He’s also been finished four times in his five losses, including three times via knockout. Of course, anything can happen in MMA, but I have to go with the Russian here. Prediction: Kharitonov via tko, round 1.
Neiman Gracie (4-0) vs. Rudy Bears (16-14)
Up next is a catchweight bout that was originally a prelim bout, but got moved to the main card after Paul Daley’s fight got cancelled this morning. Gracie is 4-0 with 3 submission wins. Bears is a 37-year-old MMA veteran, with black belts in Kenpo Karate and American Jiu Jitsu. He’s also lost seven of his last ten fights, and has been submitted seven times. I like the guy, but like the opening bout, this is a showcase bout, this time for Gracie. I’ll follow conventional wisdom and pick Gracie. Prediction: Gracie via submission, round 2.
Brennan Ward (13-4) vs. Saad Awad (19-8)
The co-main event of the evening should be a fun matchup between Bellator veterans. Ward has gone the distance just once in his career, and is 9-4 in his Bellator MMA career. Awad is also a finisher, winning 15 of his 19 victories in that fashion. He’s 7-4 with Bellator. I want to pick Awad, but it’s hard to pick against Ward here. Ward has more power, better submissions, and I think he’ll find a way to win this. Prediction: Ward via tko, round 2.
Liam McGeary (11-0) vs. Phil Davis (16-3, 1NC)
In the main event of the evening, Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion Liam McGeary will finally make his return to the cage, against former UFC contender Phil Davis. McGeary has five knockout and submission wins apiece, with eight of his 11 wins coming in the first round. His only decision came against then champion Emmanuel Newton back in February 2015, and this is McGeary’s first fight since September of that year.
As for Davis, the former All-American wrestler is a grinder. He’s got three knockout, five submission and eight decision wins. He went 9-3 with a no contest with the UFC from 2010 to January 2015, and since going to Bellator, has won three straight. He can finish fights, but he is a grinder. He has a very good shot of winning this fight. Still, McGeary has proven his mettle, and that he can pull off victories from anywhere. Somehow, someway, I see him retaining his title tonight. Prediction: McGeary via submission, round 4.