BELLATOR 150 PREVIEW, CARD BREAKDOWN, AND PREDICTIONS

 

Photo Credit: Bellator

While a sudden illness rebranded this card Kongo vs. Queiroz, there is a lot here for MMA fans (especially given its proximity to the monstrosity that was 149). Cheick Kong and Vinicius Queiroz will battle out for heavyweight contender, David Rickels will provide the blood sport portion of the card with Bobby Cooper, and Gaston Reyno and Chuka Willis will show off the future of the Featherweight division. Intriguing stylistic matchups between Kendall Grove/Francisco France and Lena Ovchynnikova/Rebecca Ruth will round out the main card. Strap in.

CARD BREAKDOWN AND WHERE TO WATCH

Main Card (Spike) 9EST, 8CST

Heavyweight Cheick Kongo vs. Vinicius Queiroz                                       

Lightweight David Rickels vs. Bobby Cooper                                              

Middleweight Kendall Grove vs. Francisco France                                      

Women's Flyweight Lena Ovchynnikova vs. Rebecca Ruth                                    

Featherweight Gaston Reyno vs. Chuka Willis                                

 

Preliminary Card (Spike.com)

Middleweight Gregory Babene vs. Trey Houston                                         

Heavyweight Daniel Gallemore vs. Frederick Brown                                              

Middleweight Chris Harris vs. Julian Marquez                                             

Lightweight Marcio Navarro vs. Henry Lindsay                                          

Featherweight Thai Clark vs. Deron Carlis                                       

Welterweight Manny Meraz vs. Andre Fialho                                              

Lightweight Jason Witt vs. Jonathan Gary    

 

 

 

MAIN CARD PREDICTIONS

 

Featherweight Gaston Reyno vs. Chuka Willis

This fight between Gaston Reyno (5-0) and Chuka Willis (6-2) is an important revamping for the featherweight division in Bellator. Starved for talent both men represent the new guard.

Gaston Reyno will be in only his second fight in the promotion on Friday night, but already has the workings of an important Bellator prospect. While his level of competition hasn’t quite been up to any world-beaters, Reyno is undefeated and young (only 29). And while there is a fog over his upside because of two early no-contests, Reyno remains exciting because none of his opponents have survived a single round. His last fight, in October of 2015, against Yohance Flager ended in a rear naked choke in the very first round. If this man is half the hype around him, he’s dangerous.

Chuka Willis is another up-and-comer in the division, but at 6-2 has shown a flaw or two. While he’s riding a two fight win streak, Willis hasn’t showed the striking ability that Reyno brings to the table. If there was any doubt, go back and watch the Willis/ Dawodu fight again. The technical striking from Dawodu was well-executed that day, but Willis looked like his game had nothing to combat the vicious knees of Hakeem. Willis would do well to have upped his cardio (again looking at the Dawodu fight) and to take Reyno down and look for the submission.

 

Reyno by TKO in the 2nd round.

 

Women's Flyweight Lena Ovchynnikova vs. Rebecca Ruth      

Lena Ovchynnikova (10-3) and Rebecca Ruth (5-1) is one of the more interesting fights to come from the women’s divisions of Bellator in a long while. Both fighters have the ability to win this fight, and handily, but there are some questions marks lingering in the wings.

Lena Ovchynnikova could be a huge star in the Bellator women’s Flyweight division, but she’s been frustrated on a few occasions by the hampering of MMA. Lena has world champion kickboxing and muay thai ability, and I mean that literally. She won the 2015 Boxxtomoi Muay Thai Women’s Championship. And while that may be her main asset, she’s also dangerous on the ground (taking eight of her ten MMA wins by submission). But the cohesion between the arts sometimes leaves Lena wanting. Three of her last five fights have seen her losing, and many of her MMA wins are against lower quality opponents overseas.

Rebecca Ruth is most likely the better MMA fighter, having only lost to a talented Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger, but Ovchynnikova may prove a bad stylistic matchup. All of her wins have come via technical knockout. Which is undoubtedly impressive. But how will she fair in standup against a world champion? And at thirty-seven, does she have the athletic lifecycle to diversify her game? Friday night will tell, as either an impressive feather in her cap or as a painful clinic on high level muay-thai.

 

Ovchynnikova by TKO, 3rd round.

 

Middleweight Kendall Grove vs. Francisco France             

             

Another fascinating stylistic matchup, Kendall Grove (22-15) and Francisco France (13-3-1) are both world class grapplers. If this goes to the mat, the jiu jitsu technique will be worth the (admittedly free) price of viewing.

Kendall Grove won TUF Season 3 and has since been the most consistent inconsistent fighter in MMA. Grove can always be counted on to float around the .500-win percentage, but a long streak of wins for the once promising fighter seems ever illusive. And that inconsistency stemmed from a predominantly one-side style. Grove is hellacious on the ground but soft in the standup. This may have changed in his Bellator 143 matchup against Joey Beltran (Grove finished him in three rounds via punches), but France will be the true indicator of improvement. Furthermore, while his win over Beltran was plenty impressive, Grove sit at 3-2 in Bellator and the .500 man may again flounder.

France presents a conundrum when picking the winner of this fight. On the one hand, his jiu jitsu and ability to finish are damn impressive. Of his thirteen wins, twelve have come by sub. But Kendall Grove’s major flaw is his standup. With a black belt (pedigree) and only three submission losses in thirty-eight fights (history) Grove is notoriously hard to finish on the mat. Were France’s expertise in striking, he would be heavily favored. But playing to the strengths of Grove may prove dangerous. A winning strategy may be to bang and land a few dizzying shots before shooting and working the sub, but only time will tell.

France by decision, 3rd round.

 

Lightweight David Rickels vs. Bobby Cooper

While most of the card maintains a competition level matchmaking façade, David Rickels (16-4) and Bobby Cooper (12-5) is bloody pandering.

David Rickels is a Bellator crowd favorite. He enters the ring like a maniac and fights much the same. Furthermore, his losses have been as explosive as his wins. There’s very little not to like about “Caveman”. And being that this card will Kansas City and Rickels is from Derby, Kansas, he will undoubtedly be a crowd favorite. And while his style is wild and, oftentimes, woefully reckless, Bobby Cooper shouldn’t provide much of a challenge.

People aren’t talking much about Bobby Cooper and, unfortunately, they may be following the old axiom of “if you have nothing nice to say, be silent”. Bobby Cooper is two and two in his last four fights, and his only big win was a close decision at Bellator 139 against Pablo Villaseca. But, for this fight, we can consider Cooper the man who pulled the short straw against the hometown favorite.

Rickels in a blaze of cheering, 1st round.

 

Heavyweight Cheick Kongo vs. Vinicius Queiroz 

A replacement for the sick headliners Marcos Galvao and Eduardo Dantas, Cheick Kongo (23-10-2) and Vinicius Queiroz (8-3) could sure up a shaky heavyweight division.

Cheick Kongo is in line for a title shot, behind his only loss since early 2014 Muhammed Lawal. After departing the UFC on his shield against Roy Nelson, Kongo has gone 5-2, losing only to King Mo and current champ on sabbatical Vitaly Minakov. Kongo is a long fighter at 6’4” but has the explosiveness to put fighters down, see: Kongo vs. Pat Barry. Smothering in his technique, he utilizes his long reach as a setup. But wherein his age, 40, may demonstrate a decline or at least a precipitous drop in his training regimen, Kongo looks fit. And if his rear-naked choke on Lavar Johnson is any indication, his game continues to improve.

Vinicius Queiroz is in a unique position for this fight: he is younger by a good margin (eight years at a spry 32) but less active. Having only four fights since 2010, Queiroz may come out sluggish from ring rust. But watching the film of his former fights, he is dangerous in all aspects of the game and desperately wants a finish. Back in 2013, Queiroz squared up with Lavar Johnson (the unfortunate victim of Kongo’s choke) and hit him with a bomb in the very first round. And his most recent fight, in September of 2015, Queiroz took Ewerton Teixeira to the mat and made him look like an amateur. That fight took two rounds before the arm-triangle forced a tap, but Queiroz was working and exciting the entire fight.

While King Mo may have the immediate claim to Vitaly Minakov’s belt, should the Russian ever show back up in the Bellator cage, this fight would provide a concrete number two contender. Should Minakov continue to be unavailable, the winner of this fight would make a great matchup for Lawal.

 

Queiroz by submission, 2nd round.

 

 

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