If you yearn for the glory days of mixed martial arts – when there were no time limits, virtually no rules and you saw such sights as a man fight wearing literally one boxing glove and two men who could have been sumo wrestlers engaged in slap fights, then Bellator 149 on Friday, Feb. 19, is right up your alley.
Nostalgia will reign supreme on this card, as the co-main and main event feature styles and fighters that will remind you of the bad days, the all-or-nothing days of MMA. This is the latest “big top” offering from Bellator and its president, Scott Coker, as he continues to build the company’s brand. But don’t worry, modern or “educated” MMA fans; this Friday’s card also offers fights to wet your palette.
Melvin Guillard (32-15) vs. Derek Campos (15-6) (Lightweight – 155 lbs.)
This could and probably should be Guillard’s last hurrah as a MMA fighter. While only being one year older than myself, he already has roughly the same number of fights under his belt as Ken Shamrock, who’s been fighting since 1993. Guillard has only won twice since 2013, with his last victory coming in 2014.
His signing was much ballyhooed by Bellator, but his debut against Brandon Girtz was a huge disappointment. Guillard continued to show any lack of a ground game, which has haunted him most of his career. Luckily, his opponent in this fight, Campos has lost three of four – albeit to some of the toughest fighters in Bellator, like Girtz, Michael Chandler and Patricky “Pitbull” Freire.
However, I just think there’s too much mileage under Guillard’s hood. At one point he had the look of a future champion, but personal issues and a relentless pace in fighting has probably done him in. The younger Campos should be able to take Guillard down early and often and grind out a decision, and possibly the end of Guillard’s career.
Winner: Campos by unanimous decision
Daniel Pineda (21-11) vs. Emmanuel Sanchez (12-2) (Featherweight – 145 lbs.)
Pineda could find him in the thick of a crowded Bellator featherweight division were he to emerge victorious here. Pineda is riding a three-fight winning streak from one of the bigger regional promotions out there, Legacy FC. All three of those victories came by submission, including a first-round submission victory over longtime veteran Leonard Garcia.
Sanchez has won three of four, all by decision. However, he also has an affinity for submissions, so I expect he and Pineda to put on a ground clinic here. I think Pineda’s dominant run in Legacy and experience on the big stage in the UFC will carry over here and put him on the short list of featherweight title contenders.
Winner: Pineda by submission
Linton Vassell (15-5) vs. Emanuel Newton (25-9-1) (Light Heavyweight – 205 lbs.)
Both of these guys were part of a light heavyweight tournament on Bellator’s last “big top” card last year, Dynamite. Vassell came up short against Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal, while Newton was submitted in the first round by eventual tournament winner Phil Davis. However, Newton previously held the light heavyweight title for nearly a year-and-a-half before losing the belt to current champion Liam McGeary.
Newton and Vassell have faced each other before – a submission victory by Newton in his last successful title defense in 2014. Vassell hadn’t lost in five years before losing two of three to Newton and Lawal, with only two of those wins going to a decision. I think the seemingly more athletic Vassell gets back on track against a tough fighter in Newton. Let’s just hope Newton doesn’t have sex right before the fight like he did against Davis, allegedly.
Winner: Vassell by unanimous decision
Kimbo Slice (5-2) vs. Dada 5000 (2-0) (Heavyweight – 225 lbs.)
This is the first fight on Bellator 149 that will give fans a taste of nostalgia. This fight will remind fans of the old slugfests in the pre-Zuffa UFC days, and maybe even a little bit of Pride memories to boot. Kimbo knocked out Ken Shamrock in his last fight and this fight against Dada 5000 is apparently the culmination of a longtime personal beef between the two.
Apparently, Dada assumed the mantle of “King of the Backyard Brawl” after Kimbo decided to give MMA a shot. Dada hasn’t officially fought a MMA fight since 2011, and those were in smaller local promotions in Florida. Kimbo has already been on the big stage, including the UFC. If this fight goes longer than a round, I’ll be shocked. I think Kimbo shows Dada 5000 that an imitation never stands up to an original.
Winner: Kimbo by knockout
Ken Shamrock (28-16-2) vs. Royce Gracie (14-2-3) (Catchweight)
This grudge match between two of the pioneers of MMA has been a longtime coming, at least in Shamrock’s view. He’s been itching for a rematch with Gracie since their last meeting in 1995 – which was ruled a draw after 36 minutes (another example of MMA’s good ol’ days). Gracie submitted Shamrock in their very first meeting in 1993.
Gracie hasn’t competed since 2007, while Shamrock has won exactly two fights in the last 12 years. So needless to say, I don’t expect this to be a very compelling fight. Gracie’s bread and butter is Brazilian jiu-jitsu, so expect a lot of “lay and pray” here, frankly. However, Shamrock may have shown he still has a little bit left in the tank in his last fight against Kimbo Slice. Although Kimbo somehow miraculously escaped, Shamrock had him locked in a rear-naked choke for a good long while.
It’s possible that Gracie still has some tricks up his sleeve to get the best of his old rival one more time. But I like Shamrock to finally exorcise his Gracie family demons in a slow, plodding affair.
Winner: Shamrock by split decision