If you’ve paid any attention to mixed martial arts since the summer, you would know that the UFC basically owned the calendar from August until this month. Almost every weekend boasted a UFC card, and it was exhausting to try and keep up, frankly. Well, now it’s Bellator MMA’s turn.
Although the landmark UFC 205 card is on Saturday, Nov. 12, Bellator 163 on Friday, Nov. 4, begins nearly a month-and-a-half of consecutive fight cards that boast multiple title bouts. It starts with a light heavyweight title fight that’s more than a year in the making.
Marloes Coenen (23-7) vs. Talita Nogueira (6-0) (Women’s Featherweight – 145 lbs.)
Coenen, a pioneer of women’s MMA, looks to rebound from a shocking first-round submission loss to Alexis Dufresne earlier this year. Coenen is a submission specialist herself, with basically two-thirds of her 23 victories coming in that fashion. Which is what makes her loss to Dufresne all the more surprising. The undefeated Nogueira has four submission victories of her own, including three in a row.
I would expect this fight to go to the ground early, so fans can probably expect a grappling clinic from two of the very best in the world. Nogueira won the 2011 World Jiu-Jitsu Championship, so I don’t expect Coenen to take her lightly like she may have done with Dufresne. But I like Coenen’s veteran savvy to be the advantage in Nogueira’s Bellator debut. I think Coenen will just be too tall an order.
Winner: Coenen by submission
Sergei Kharitonov (23-5) vs. Javy Ayala (9-5) (Heavyweight – 225 lbs.)
Another fighter will make his Bellator debut, as Kharitonov officially begins competing for the organization after fighting some of the very best heavyweights all over the world, including Josh Barnett, Andrei Arlovski, Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum. Only one of Kharitonov’s 23 overall victories have come by decision, so I wouldn’t expect this fight to go the distance.
Ayala is coming off a first-round knockout victory of his own, but he hasn’t experienced the level of competition that Kharitonov has. I think that makes the difference, and I expect Kharitonov to have a short night.
Winner: Kharitonov by TKO
Derek Anderson (14-2) vs. Paul Daley (38-14-2) (Welterweight – 170 lbs.)
Speaking of knockouts, there’s a good chance you might see one in this fight as well. Anyone who’s familiar with Paul Daley knows that he loves to go for the finish. Unfortunately, it seems a career of slugfests is starting to catch up with him, as he was defeated in rather decisive fashion by Douglas Lima earlier this year.
It’s possible that Daley is starting to feel the effects of his 50-plus fight career, while Anderson moves up to 170 pounds after defeating two of the more well-known names in Bellator’s lightweight division in Saad Awad and Patricky “Pitbull” Freire. I think Anderson’s career trajectory is pointing upward, while Daley’s might be starting to point south. “Semtex” has entertained us for many years, but I think his best days are behind him.
Winner: Anderson by unanimous decision
Saad Awad (19-8) vs. Brennan Ward (14-4) (Welterweight – 170 lbs.)
This is also a fight that features a competitor seeking redemption, as Ward’s hype train was derailed rather emphatically by Evangelista Santos earlier this year. Before that, Ward was seen as being the next of Bellator’s young stars. Awad was in line for a possible lightweight title shot himself before losing two of three. Hopefully Ward spent some time on his submission defense, as 7 of Awad’s 19 victories have come via that fashion.
Ward is still the more athletic and flashy fighter, a train that has served his contemporary Michael “Venom” Page well. Awad is a tough, methodical fighter, and I think this fight will be the rare one where style triumphs over substance and Ward gets back on track.
Winner: Ward by unanimous decision
Liam McGeary (11-0) vs. Phil Davis (16-3) (Light Heavyweight Title – 205 lbs.)
The build-up for this fight began at Bellator’s first Dynamite card last year, when Davis won a one-night light heavyweight tournament to become the no. 1 contender. However, “Mr. Wonderful” also had to defeat Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal earlier this year to keep that spot. He did that just that, and now we get a title fight featuring two of the best fighters in MMA that almost no one talks about.
Davis has looked reborn since jumping ship to Bellator from the UFC last year. But the undefeated McGeary has split 10 of his 11 victories between knockouts and submissions, so he is equally capable of finishing a fight in either fashion. These guys are basically mirror images of each other – though McGeary may have an edge in the stand-up while Davis may be the better wrestler. I expect both guys to go all out and put on one of the better performances of the year.
I also expect this fight to result in a razor-close decision that will likely lead to a rematch. McGeary will keep his belt this time, but I’m confident we will see these two lock horns again sooner rather than later. You do not want to miss this fight.
Winner: McGeary by split decision
Image Credit: MMA Junkie