Bellator’s 200th card is taking place tomorrow, and what better way to celebrate in the States than to watch it on…tape delay? That’s right, Bellator’s 200th event will take place overseas and fans in the US won’t get to watch it until hours after it’s over. It’s a shame, but oh well. As for the card itself, it’s pretty good. The main card isn’t as stacked as it was before the main event shakeup, but it’s still a good slate, and the prelims are arguable the best ever for a Bellator card.
On the prelims, Russian star Anatoly Tokov (25-3) will take on Vladimir Filipovic (10-2) in a fight that could easily headline a lot of M1 or ACB cards, unbeaten finisher Amir Albazi will look to go to 11-0, and a bevy of prospects with terrific records will get to fight on the card as well. However, let’s focus on the main card. The original headliner was supposed to be a Heavyweight grand prix alternate bout between Kickboxing and MMA legend Mirko Cro Cop and Roy Nelson, but the fight got scrapped after Cro Cop severely injured his knee.
As a result, the new main event will be the fight that should’ve headlined in the first place; a Middleweight title bout between Rafael Carvalho and former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi in what should be a scintillating affair. The new co-main event between Michael Page and David Rickels isn’t great for a supposedly special card as this one was supposed to be, but it should be a fun bout. Also, former Light Heavyweight champion Phil Davis will take on Linton Vassell, and a pair of unbeaten prospects will highlight the first two bouts on the main card. It’s a solid slate, overall, and here are my predictions for all five bouts.
Bellator 200 main card (9/8c via tape delay, Paramount Network, formerly known as Spike TV)
Anastasia Yankova (5-0) vs. Kate Jackson (9-3-1)
Opening up the main card is a Women’s Flyweight bout that could essentially be a title eliminator. Jackson was a TUF 23 semifinalist who ultimately lost to eventual tournament winner Tatiana Suarez, and has proven time and time again how tough she is. She’s finished six of her nine wins, hasn’t faced a bad fighter since 2012 and has the skills to be a perennial contender for Bellator. Yankova is a solid fighter with an unbeaten record and a good ground game, but I’m not sold on her. This is her first fight in a year, and her last opponent was the only one to have more than two fights to her credit. In all, all five of Yankova’s opponents to date have less combined victories than Jackson does. Bellator’s played the slow game with her, and now it’s time to see if she can pass this test. She might, but I’m picking Jackson. Yankova can take her down and grind her way to a win or submission, but I just think Jackson is too experienced and battle-tested to lose this one. Prediction: Jackson via decision or late tko.
Aaron Chalmers (3-0) vs. Ash Griffiths (4-6)
Let’s not beat around the bush. This fight is solely one that was made to keep Chalmers unbeaten record intact in a fun fight, and wouldn’t be on the main card if Cro Cop’s injury hadn’t derailed the main event.. Griffiths has lost four straight fights, has been finished in all six of his losses and has never gone the distance. He’s the epitome of a regional level fighter who has met his ceiling already.
Meanwhile, Chalmers is a former cast member of “Geordie Shore,” a UK spinoff of Jersey Shore. That’s where he made his name, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that he’s not a solid fighter. Sure he’s only fought cans so far, and Griffiths is by far the best fighter he’ll be facing to date, but a 3-0 record with three knockouts is nothing to sneeze at. I have no idea if he’ll ever beat anyone of note, but for now, he’s someone worth keeping an eye on. A loss here would be disastrous for him, but I don’t see him losing to Griffiths. It’s possible, but I’m not going to predict an upset for a fight as cherry-picked as this one. Prediction: Chalmers via tko, round 2.
Phil Davis (18-4, 1 NC) vs. Linton Vassell (19-6, 1 NC)
The featured bout of the evening, a pair of grapplers will duke it out in what might be a Light Heavyweight title eliminator. Champion Ryan Bader is currently participating in the Heavyweight grand prix, but once that’s over, it’s entirely possible that he’ll be facing the winner of this fight in due time. Davis’ only losses have come against Bader, former UFC Light Heavyweight champion Rashad Evans in 2012, and former two-time UFC Light Heavyweight title challenger Anthony Johnson. He’s never been finished, has a good gas tank is a very good fighter. The problem is, quite simply, that he’s become a decision machine that isn’t fun to watch. He’s one of the best collegiate wrestlers in Penn State history, but his MMA fights haven’t been fun to watch in a long time. Vassell is a good grappler who’s gone 7-3 in Bellator and has a much better finishing rate than Davis, but I don’t see him winning. Davis has a great chin, better grappling and won’t lose unless he gets hurt or suffers his first finish loss. I’d love to see an upset, but Davis should take this one. Prediction: Davis via decision.
David Rickels (19-4, 2 NC) vs. Michael Page (12-0)
In the new co-main event of the evening, unbeaten prospect Michael Page will take on Bellator mainstay David Rickels. I’d strongly consider favoring Rickels, if this wasn’t his first fight at Welterweight. He’s always been a Lightweight, and a damn good one at that. He’s been with Bellator for over seven years, and has amassed a 13-4 record with a pair of no contests within the promotion. He’s always fun to watch, can finish fights via knockout and submission, and has fun walkouts as well. The man is simply fun! Page is a highly accomplished kickboxer who has gone 8-0 in Bellator and has finished 10 of his 12 pro bouts. He eked out a decision against Fernando Gonzalez in his last fight, but that was back in 2016. He hasn’t fought in a year and a half, and it’s fair to wonder how rusty he might be. I’ll still pick him, but Rickels may pose trouble for him despite his size disadvantage. Prediction: Page via tko, round 2.
Bellator Heavyweight championship: (c) Rafael Carvalho (15-1) vs. Gegard Mousasi (43-6-2)
In the main event of the evening, Middleweight champion Raphael Carvalho will partake in his most publicized bout to date, when he takes on former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champion and former UFC Middleweight contender Gegard Mousasi. Carvalho’s been openly critical of fighters from the UFC getting major opportunities after they jumped ship to Bellator, and wants to make a statement here. He’s quietly won every bout since dropping his pro debut in 2011, and while he’s best remembered for an ugly fight against the always exciting Melvin Manhoef in 2016, he’s actually a pretty entertaining fighter. Aside from that fight and another split decision against Joe Schilling, 12 of Carvalho’s other 13 bouts have all ended via knockout. He’s very good on the feet, has a decent ground game and definitely deserves more respect.
All that being said, I’m not picking against Gegard Mousasi. A pro for 15 years now, Mousasi has fought 51 times in his career already. He’s finished 35 of those fights, winning 23 times via knockout and 12 times via submission. He’s never had a losing streak, is great both on the feet and on the ground, has a terrific chin, a low key terrific personality and could make for an awesome champion for Bellator. Truth be told, he should still be in the UFC. He went 9-3 in the UFC from 2013 to April 2017, but the UFC didn’t pay him what he wanted so he bolted. His Bellator debut against Alexander Shlemenko wasn’t a great outing, but I’ll credit jitters for that. Mousasi is still elite, and I think he’ll show that in this fight. Carvalho is tough, but I see Mousasi ending him at some point in the latter rounds. Prediction: Mousasi via tko, round 4.