On the heels of an entertaining Bellator 144 card last month, Scott Coker’s bunch returns this Friday, Nov. 6, with another installment – this time with a catchy subtitle: Vengeance.
The term “vengeance” typically implies one party seeking retribution on another, and a few fights on the Bellator main card seem to fit that description. Daniel Straus hopes the third time is the charm as he faces Patricio “Pitbull” Freire for Bellator’s featherweight title. David Rickels wants to avenge his previous loss to Michael Chandler, as does Bobby Lashley with James Thompson.
Also, the lightweight title is on the line as Will Brooks faces Marcin Held, who’s riding a 6-fight win streak. Vengeance has the potential to be another exciting Bellator card as it continues to establish itself as a mixed martial arts draw under Coker’s watch.
Emmanuel Sanchez (11-2) vs. Justin Lawrence (8-2) (Featherweight – 145 lbs.)
Lawrence has already had a somewhat decorated career for a guy with just 10 fights. He competed on season 15 of “The Ultimate Fighter” and has taken on fighters like Michael Chiesa, Daniel Pineda and Max Holloway. Sanchez is coming off a split-decision victory in his previous fight, but doesn’t appear to have faced quite the same level of competition as Lawrence, save for a unanimous decision loss to Pat Curran earlier this year.
Lawrence couldn’t emerge from the UFC’s crowded lighter weight classes, but some seasoning on the regional MMA circuit and an impressive Bellator debut, coupled with his impressive skill set, could portend good things for him in Bellator. I think he scores a definitive victory here and moves on to bigger fish in the featherweight division.
Prediction: Lawrence by second-round submission
James Thompson (20-14) vs. Bobby Lashley (13-2) (Heavyweight – 225 lbs.)
I’m going to be honest. The only memory I have of James Thompson is watching his cauliflower ear get smashed on a slow-motion replay by Kimbo Slice as I watched that old Elite XC card at a club in Washington, D.C. Thompson and Lashley squared off once before in the Super Fight League (remember that? I know I do!), where Thompson emerged victorious.
Lashley is 39, so he doesn’t have many years left in the fight game. Given the razor-thin talent pool in Bellator’s heavyweight division and Scott Coker’s never-ending desire to put on big and splashy fights, I’d say Lashley fighting for Bellator’s heavyweight title (quick, name Bellator’s current heavyweight champion) comes sooner rather than later. I think “The Boss” (as Lashley is known in pro wrestling circles) will make his Bellator boss’ job easier by grounding and pounding Thompson to a dominant victory.
Prediction: Lashley by first-round TKO
David Rickels (16-3) vs. Michael Chandler (13-3) (Lightweight – 155 lbs.)
I interviewed Rickels recently for his fight against Chandler (shameless plug) and he swears up and down that he’s a better fighter than the one who suffered a first-round knockout loss to Chandler in 2013. Rickels shouldn’t lack in motivation for this fight, between his previous loss to Chandler and the result of his last fight, a no-contest against John Alessio after an illegal knee.
Rickels is one of Bellator’s more colorful personalities and always strives to put on an entertaining performance. I believe he will do just that against Chandler, who is one of the more talented lightweight fighters in the world that still doesn’t seem to get the recognition he deserves. He engaged in some classic battles with Eddie Alvarez and took current lightweight champion Will Brooks to the limit.
An improved Rickels and Chandler can tear the house down, but Chandler will use his ground game to frustrate Rickels and come out on top.
Prediction: Chandler by unanimous decision
Will Brooks (16-1) vs. Marcin Held (21-3) (Lightweight Title – 155 lbs.)
Speaking of fighters who don’t get credit, Brooks still relatively flies under the radar at lightweight. Which is strange, considering he’s the reigning Bellator lightweight champion and he put on back-to-back terrific performances against Chandler. He now faces the soft-spoken but dangerous Polish fighter Held.
Held is a submission specialist, with more than half of his 21 victories coming in that fashion. Brooks specialty is the stand-up game, so this fight presents a great mix of styles. Can Held … hold Brooks down? Can Brooks avoid getting trapped in a dangerous submission and see if Held can stand and trade strikes?
Usually when there’s a classic striker vs. wrestler/ground fighter matchup, I lean toward the striker. It’s easier for a striker to keep his opponent at bay by using his hands and keeping the distance. Which I think is what will happen here. Brooks will show excellent takedown defense and rebuff any chance by Held to take this fight to the ground. Eventually, Brooks’ strikes will overwhelm Held and end what will be a valiant effort.
Prediction: Brooks by third-round TKO
Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (24-2) vs. Daniel Straus (23-6) (Featherweight Title – 145 lbs.)
This should be the last chapter in a trilogy that’s been dominated by Freire. He defeated Straus by unanimous decision in 2011 and again by submission earlier this year. But Straus’ submission victory of against Henry Corrales in June got him another shot at his rival.
Straus and Freire are both punishing fighters, so expect this to be a brutal, violent affair. Straus will probably look to grind out Freire and soften him up for a big knockout, but Freire is just too fast, too skilled and too dangerous. Straus will come close to putting Freire away, but I like to Freire to catch him with a late shot that will show why Freire is one of the best featherweights in the world.
Prediction: Freire by fourth-round TKO