BELLATOR 149 PREVIEW, CARD BREAKDOWN, AND PREDICTIONS

Photo Credit: Bellator

There is a feeling to this fight card that is uncomfortable. Heroes past their prime fighting, street fighters headlining, and a ho-hum undercard; Bellator 149 is spectacle without much substance. It’s almost as though Bellator tried its traditional sales tactic: a headliner or two that will draw eyeballs and an undercard that appeals to more nuanced fans. But instead of the promised substantive and skilled fighting, there is only the reality television-like draw. And much like a dinner with all cake and no vegetables, this card leaves the viewer feeling a little ill and very uncomfortable for the evening.

CARD BREAKDOWN AND WHERE TO WATCH

Main Card (Spike) 9EST, 8CST

Openweight Ken Shamrock    vs. Royce Gracie                                          

Heavyweight Kimbo Slice vs. DADA 5000                                      

Featherweight Daniel Pineda vs. Emmanuel Sanchez                                              

Lightweight Melvin Guillard vs. Derek Campos                                          

Light Heavyweight Emanuel Newton vs. Linton Vassell                                         

 

Preliminary Card (Spike.com)

Heavyweight Justin Wren vs. Juan Torres                                        

Bantamweight Davis Sylvester vs. Jeremy Mahon                                       

Welterweight  Charlie Ontiveros vs. James Christopherson                                     

Middleweight Ruben Esparza vs. Clovis Hancock                                       

Featherweight Adrian Yanez vs. Ryan Hollis                                               

Middleweight Isaac Villanueva vs. Richard Knepp                                     

Lightweight Mike Trinh vs. Joe Zamora                                           

Lightweight Jason Langellier vs. Anthony Ivy                                             

Bantamweight Manny Lozoya vs. Jake Norsworthy                                     

Bantamweight Leomana Martinez vs. Casey Jones                                      

Flyweight Chris Soliz vs. Alex Macedo                                            

Flyweight Jonathan Davis vs. Shawn Solis                                      

Lightweight Hunter Scott-Gregg vs. Ricardo Deluque

 

 

MAIN CARD PREDICTIONS

 

Light Heavyweight Emanuel Newton vs. Linton Vassell

Emanuel Newton and Linton Vassell 2 is not a fight to overlook. It’s not quite redemptive of the entire card (both men lost handily at the Bellator Dynamite mashup last September), but the fight should be interesting. Newton and Vassell’s first bout (for the Bellator Light Heavyweight Championship) was an entertaining back-and-forth brawl. Vassell beat down Newton for the first two rounds. He took him to the ground and worked continuously for a submission. But Newton found a second wind in the third round and by the fifth had turned the fight completely around for a win by rear-naked choke. If this fight, albeit far from a title bout, lives up to that history it will be worth watching.

The concern for this matchup comes from the fighters themselves, and the question of how far they’ve fallen since 2014. Emanuel Newton is on a two-fight losing streak, his first slide since 2009. But the way that Phil Davis dismantled him in the Bellator Dynamite card, which followed how the Liam McGeary took the title from him to a tee, demonstrates that Newton may have some serious flaws in his game. He has a tendency to rest in the fight, letting his opponent push him up against the cage and riding out positions on the ground. But with high-level talent, that proclivity has proved his downfall. His redemption here may be that Vassell isn’t Phil Davis and that his unorthodox style can put him in position to end a fight in a flurry. Watch for spinning strikes and his crossover stance. If he smells blood in the water, he will put Vassell through the mat.

Vassell should be favorited in this fight, if for no other reason than he is capable of setting a consistent and pressuring pace in the ring. That and his ground game can be dangerous, but Newton has shown before that he has the ability to overcome Vassell’s skillset. And despite an impressive victory against Sokoudjou last February, Vassell has looked distinctly lackluster. In his fight with King Mo, Vassell showed life in places but was mostly overcome by his opponent. In the very first round, King Mo hit Vassell with a right cross that should have ended the fight. Hopefully Vassell’s skillset has improved and we won’t have to see his iron resiliency.

 

Newton by TKO, 2nd Round.

 

Lightweight Melvin Guillard vs. Derek Campos

Another lackluster bout between men on losing streaks, Melvin Guillard and Derek Campos have the opportunity to prove which one of them is third best to Brandon Girtz (Girtz won a split decision against Guillard at Bellator 141, and Campos lasted exactly 37 seconds against him at Bellator 146).

Melvin Guillard was once the darling and presumptive title runner for the Lightweight division in the UFC. A quick run to 3-7 (including losses to Joe Lauzon, Jim Miller, Jamie Varner, and Donald Cerrone) and Guillard is a second-tier fighter in Bellator. It could be a stylistic issue. The game continues to evolve, the technique leaping forward every six months (or so it seems). And the “Young Assassin” at 33 still seems to fight the same fight he did when he was a contender. And that in and of itself is a problem. Guillard has skills, but doesn’t have finishing power. Twenty-three of his thirty-two wins have come by decision. And wherein a win is a win, judges have been known to be fickle in their decision-making. Guillard last two losses have both come by split, but if he can develop a killer instinct, his ability to win may skyrocket. For now, we have to assume that he will fall to another decision.

Derek Campos, “The Stallion”, is a veteran of Bellator. But nonetheless finds himself on a similar skid to Guillard. Having fought many of Bellator’s very best Lightweights, Campos has shown his ability to win. With good hands and solid jiu jitsu, Campos has seemed to lack the ability to put it all together in the cage. “The Stallion” has fallen three of his last four fights. And could, like Guillard, be suffering from bettering opponents and a stagnant training program. The best example is, again, Brandon Girtz. Campos and Girtz faced off in June of 2013 and Campos performed extremely well, pulling off a unanimous decision victory. Roughly two years later (a large chunk of time in the fighting game, and a period where even a modicum of complacency or injury can decay a fighter’s chances) Girtz and Campos faced off a second time. And Girtz put Campos face first into the mat in less than a minute.

The victor of this bout will be the once-promising fighter who has been the most developed since their last showing. Both men have an abundance of talent, but if they both present the same game plan and techniques as always, this fight will be a judge’s coin toss.

 

Campos by submission, 3rd round.

 

Featherweight Daniel Pineda vs. Emmanuel Sanchez   

             

Daniel Pineda, Emmanuel Sanchez may be the best matchup on this card. Both men push the pace and hunt for submissions (with the edge going to Pineda in that particular regard). And moreover, both men come in riding win streaks. A desperately nice quality in a card full of tumbling fighters.

Daniel Pineda is an interesting case, given his run in the UFC and subsequent release. Pineda began his career in Legacy FC, fighting to a title and two defenses. He also has one of the most spectacular knockouts in Legacy FC history with his spinning backfist KO of Gilbert Jimenez. Following that explosive and much-talked about victory, the UFC reached out and signed him. What followed was an up and down seven fight run that left him cut and back in Legacy. But where his talent was weighed at the highest level and found wanting, there were wins in the same that showed promise and creativity. His first round submission win over Pat Schilling was beautiful. The same can be said of his kimura over Justin Lawrence. But having again left the promotion that seems to be his sweet spot for victory, how will Pineda perform against another uptick in competition? History shows him at 3-7.

Emmanuel Sanchez is exciting. His age (25) places him firmly in “prospect” as does his record (12-2). And while he’s 4-1 in Bellator, and should start to be in discussion for title runs, Sanchez suffers from the inability to finish. Most of his fights are easily categorized as “back and forth”, wherein he gives as good as he gets. But, as with any prospect, there comes a time when out and out victories are necessary to catapult upward. Decision wins may pad the record, but they won’t fill seats. And with his last two victories coming from split decisions, the time is now for proving that he can finish.

Pineda by submission, 2nd round.

 

Openweight Ken Shamrock vs. Royce Gracie And Heavyweight       Kimbo Slice vs. DADA 5000

These fights don’t truly require previews, as looking at stylistic matchups, training, and records won’t come into play. This is Bellator putting on a show and should be considered as such.

Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie have nothing to prove. Royce’s sub-minute submission of Ken was what got me into MMA. I truly thought some master from the jungles of Brazil had descended into the fighting world to show the secrets we’d all hoped were real: dim maks and hyperbolic feats of strength and speed. And instead, the Gracie family gave us something far greater in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. And Ken, while maybe forever remembered as the Ares-like god figure who was defeated by the small man in the gi, was a titan of the sport even beyond that pinnacle fight. Both men have contributed years and highlight reels to MMA, teaching and spearheading the sport from small ballrooms to the MGM Grand. But this fight shouldn’t happen. Ken is 52, Royce 49. They are men beyond the age of getting into a ring and fighting to finish. And that’s perfectly fine! They are the pillars that the UFC and MMA were built upon, and should always be respected and praised as such. And that praise and respect should extend to not wanting to watch your heroes beat up on each other.

Kimbo Slice, Dada 5000 should have been relegated to where it belongs: YouTube, or liveleak depending on how the fight goes. Kimbo has seen a fair amount of competition (in his UFC fights and in the Ultimate Fighter), but his skills didn’t translate well into the cage. And pretending Dada 5000 is a cage fighter is foolhardy. Make no mistake: both men can brawl. In a bar or a club, if these two started swinging, it would be one hell of a spectacle. But this is a mixed martial arts fight between two tough-as-nails street brawlers in cage with a ref and judges.

Royce by rear naked choke, second round. Kimbo by slugfest in the first.

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