Last week marked the first of four straight weekends in which Bellator MMA will host an event. It wasn’t the greatest of cards, but aside from the main event, it did deliver for the most part.
Tomorrow, the promotion will hold an event in Italy, headlined by a Middleweight title rematch between Rafael Carvalho and Melvin Manhoef, which is a bout that needed a rematch after that terrible judges decision. Normally, foreign cards for Bellator are aired on tape delay. This time, however, it will air live on Saturday afternoon.
The card will be followed up with another offering of Bellator Kickboxing, with notable stars such as Georgio Petrosyan, Denise Kielholtz, John Wayne Parr, Enriko Kehl and Kevin Ross all in action. That slate should be fun, and I’m picking all those five to win their bouts.
As for the MMA portion of the card, aside from the main event, the rest of the five-fight slate consists mostly of prospects and fighters who are unknown to the masses. The co-main event is a 130-pound female catchweight but between Anastasia Yankova, a woman that Bellator has put a good amount of effort marketing forward, against newcomer Elina Kalliondou. The other three main card bouts feature Samba Coulibaly against Mihail Nica, Djamil Chan vs. Valeriu Mircea and Giorgio Belsanti against Vando de Almeida. Hopefully, it winds up being a good card. Regardless, here are my predictions for all five main card bouts on deck for tomorrow afternoon.
Bellator 176 Main Card (3/2c, Spike TV)
Giorgio Belsanti (6-6-1) vs. Vando de Almeida (4-2)
The card’s opening bout features the Italian Belsanti against the Portuguese Almeida. Belsanti is primarily a grappler, with four of his wins, as well as four of his losses, coming by way of submission. His record isn’t very pretty, but he’s 4-2 since starting his career with a dreadful 1-4-1 mark. Ten of his 13 bouts have ended early, so he’s definitely a fighter who’s bouts wind up delivering. Meanwhile, Almeida began his career 4-0, but has lost his last two bouts. He’s won twice via knockout, once via decision and once via DQ. This is clearly a bout in which Bellator is trying to get the Italian fans happy with their countryman winning, and I predict that they’ll be able to accomplish that goal with this fight. Prediction: Belsanti via submission, round 2.
Samba Coulibaly (11-4) vs. Mihail Nica (5-0)
Next up is a Welterweight bout between a journeyman on a hot streak, and a prospect. Coulibaly’s taking the bout on short notice for Carrington Banks, and has won nine of his last 10 bouts. He’s won six fights via submission, as well as four via decision, and has only been finished once, back in 2013. Nica is 5-0 with all his wins coming via finish, including four in the first round. This is a tough fight to pick, especially since Coulibaly is great at avoiding being finished, has been on a hot streak, yet is fighting on short notice. I’ll pick Nica, but I’m not as confident as I’d like to be. Prediction: Nica via split decision.
Djamil Chan (12-4) vs. Valeriu Mircea (13-4)
The card’s middle bout features a pair of Lightweight finishers in Djamil Chan and Valeriu Mircea. Chan has finished 10 of his 12 career victims, nine via knockout, and hasn’t been finished since 2012. He began his career with five wins, before getting stopped in two bouts in 2012, and followed up with seven straight wins until losing a decision to Derek Campos last September. With a win, he’d be able to get back on track.
As for Mircea, the Moldovan finisher tends to go on winning streaks after losses. He lost his pro debut, but followed up with three straight wins, all via finish. After that streak ended, he won six straight. And after that streak ended against Cody McKenzie last year, he won four straight before getting submitted by Goiti Yamaguchi in his Bellator debut last December. He’s fought 17 times in the last two-and-a-half years, and has only gone the distance twice. He’s won six times via submission, five times via knockout, and has been submitted three times. This is a tough fight for him, and a part of me thinks Chan should win this one. However, I can’t shake off the feeling that Mircea will somehow prevail, so I’ll go ahead and pick him in this one. Prediction: Mircea via tko, round 3.
Anastasia Yankova (4-0) vs. Elina Kalliondou (5-1)
In the co-main event of the evening, unbeaten Russian submission specialist Anastasia Yankova will take on her toughest challenge yet, when she faces the Greek Calliondou. Yankova, a woman who’s been heavily marketed as far as Bellator is concerned, began her career with three straight submission wins before prevailing in a lackluster split decision against Veta Arteaga in September. Meanwhile, Kalliondou is a Bantamweight who began her career 5-0 before losing her Bellator debut against Sinead Kavanagh in December. She’s won three fights via knockout, and has never been finished.
Honestly, I’m conflicted on this one. Yankova is good, but maybe she’s overhyped. Kalliondou getting put up against the top two female prospects that Bellator has to offer is a bit unfair, and honestly, I’d like to see her pull off the upset. It’s a head vs. heart situation, and I just hope it’s a good fight. Head pick: Yankova via decision. Heart pick: Kalliondou via tko, round 2.
Bellator Middleweight Championship:
(c) Rafael Carvalho (13-1) vs. Melvin Manhoef (30-13-1, 2 NC)
In the main event of the evening, one of the worst championship fights in MMA history will get a chance to rewrite itself, when Rafael Carvalho rematches against the last man he fought, Melvin Manhoef. Carvalho may have won 13 straight bouts including 10 via knockout, but he’s had some bad fights in the past, and the one against Manhoef last May might have been the worst of all. In that bout, Manhoef tried to engage, while Carvalho did next to nothing. And yet, Carvalho got the split decision nod, drawing the ire of many fans. An immediate rematch was scheduled for December, but Carvalho pulled out due to injury, and the rematch will now take place tomorrow.
As for Manhoef, the famed knockout artist is clearly in the twilight of his career. He turns 41 next month, has been active in both MMA and kickboxing for over 20 years now, and any fight could be his last. Of his 37 Kickboxing wins, 27 came via knockout, and of his 30 MMA wins, 28 have come via knockout. As for his 13 losses, 11 of them have come via finish, including four via knockout and seven via submission.
Obviously, this fight will mostly be kept standing. Both men are knockout artists, and neither enjoys taking the fight to the ground. The bout can’t possibly be worse than the first one, although two of Carvalho’s last three bouts were stinkers that went the distance, were standup fights, and were both split decision wins. A lot of factors favor Carvalho, and picking him would be the logical move. However, a shift needs to be made, and the thought of a legend like Manhoef finally holding gold in a major promotion is too appealing to pass up on. Prediction: Manhoef via knockout, round 1 or 2.