Bellator fans, the night is finally here! After loads of waiting and anticipation, Bellator’s New York debut is finally taking place tonight.
The card will be in three sections: the online prelims, the Spike TV Bellator 180 portion (which I’ll be previewing right now,) and the PPV portion that I’ll be previewing later.
The PPV is the major one, but the “Bellator 180” portion isn’t bad either. It’s not as loaded by any means, but it’s still solid for what it is. The headliner is the Bellator Light Heavyweight Championship featuring a pair of former consistently ranked UFC veterans, while the co-main event pits submission specialist Neiman Gracie against Dave Marfone. Also, one of Bellator’s top young prospects, James Gallagher, takes on veteran Chinzo Machida, and former unbeaten boxing champion Heather Hardy makes her MMA debut against Alice Yauger.
It should be an interesting offering, and here are my predictions for the entire four-fight slate.
Bellator 180 (8/7c, Spike TV)
Heather Hardy (MMA debut) vs. Alice Yauger (4-5)
Opening up the card is a women’s bout that’s interesting to say the least. Heather Hardy is a former boxer who went 20-0 (16 decisions) with a no contest in her career, but is 35-years-old and hasn’t even had an amateur MMA bout to her credit. Yauger isn’t very good either, holding a 4-5 record with seven of those nine fights going the distance. Hardy will do her best to keep it on the feet, and piece Yauger apart. Yauger’s best chance is to try to take Hardy down and keep her there. If Yauger can do that, she’s got a great shot at winning. However, I believe Hardy will pick Yauger apart with her boxing, en route to a decision or late tko win. Prediction: Hardy via decision or late tko.
James Gallagher (6-0) vs. Chinzo Machida (5-2)
Of the four bouts on the Spike TV card, this one might be the most fascinating one. Machida is the elder statesman, and older brother of former UFC Light Heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida. He made his pro debut in May 2005 and his second bout was in 2006, but Machida took four years off afterwards, before taking a three-year hiatus after returning in 2010. After fighting twice in six months in 2013 into 2014, Machida then took two years off before debuting for Bellator last August, and following up with a fight in January of this year. With tonight’s fight, the 40-year-old Machida will be fighting three times within a calendar year for the first time ever. He’s won four straight bouts dating back to 2013, has won four of his five victories via knockout, and will be the veteran by far in this matchup.
On the other side is James Gallagher. Literally half the age of Machida, Gallagher is an unbeaten submission specialist with five wins in that fashion, including four in the first round. He’s won all three of his Bellator bouts, and is understandably a big favorite here. He’s 20 years younger, and should win. And yet, I’m rooting for Machida. Gallagher should win, but I’m rooting for the upset. Head pick: Gallagher via submission, round 1. Heart pick: Machida via tko, round 2.
Neiman Gracie (5-0) vs. Dave Marfone (5-2)
Up next is a Middleweight bout between Neiman Gracie and Dave Marfone. Gracie is unbeaten with four submission wins, while Marfone is 5-2 with four first round finishes, including three knockouts. He’s never been submitted, so if he can avoid getting subbed here, a knockout win is a definite possibility. I’m picking Gracie to win how he usually does, but a Marfone knockout shouldn’t shock anyone. Prediction: Gracie via submission, round 2.
Bellator Light Heavyweight Championship: (C) Phil Davis (17-3, 1 NC) vs. Ryan Bader (22-5)
In the main event of the evening (for this card,) former UFC stalwarts Phil Davis and Ryan Bader will rematch two and a half years since their first meeting. A pair of great wrestlers, Bader and Davis both had winning records in the UFC during their time with the promotion-Bader for eight years, and Davis for five years. Neither challenged for the title, but both were consistently ranked. Davis went 8-3 with a no contest in the UFC, while Bader went 15-5.
Davis is Their first fight was a non-entertaining affair that ended with Bader winning a split decision. This time, I’m not sure we’ll see much different things happening. Both have finishing ability (Davis has eight finishes, Bader has 12,) but both are wrestlers who seem to go the distance almost every fight. They’ll most likely cancel each other out just like last time, and this could wind up being a lackluster affair yet again. I hope that doesn’t happen and we get a shocking finish instead, but I’m resigned to the idea that we’ll get a lackluster affair. Prediction: Davis via decision.