As far as fights between “big name” fighters, the latest offering from Bellator MMA is a bit of a headscratcher, to be kind. A rematch between Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson isn’t one that was high on any wish list of MMA fans that I’ve seen. But then again, neither was a third fight between Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie. So, who knows?
Bellator’s latest fight card on Friday, March 31, is pretty top heavy, with only the co-main event also featuring fighters that will be at least somewhat familiar to Bellator fans. But the card is also filled out with unknown fighters eager to make a name for themselves.
Lloyd Carter (10-8) vs. Noad Lahat (10-2) (Featherweight – 145 lbs.)
Lahat began his Bellator career with a bang last year, as he won his debut fight for the organization in his native Israel with a first-round submission. Lahat previously split four fights as a member of the UFC, while Carter lost his lone Bellator appearance in 2014. Lahat looked to have an impressive ground game in his Bellator debut last year, and since Carter also lost his last fight via a submission, I think Lahat adds another notch to his belt with another submission of his own.
Winner: Lahat by submission
Jake Roberts (7-1) vs. Steve Kozola (7-0) (Lightweight – 155 lbs.)
I’m a fan of Roberts, mostly because he has the same name as legendary wrestler Jake “The Snake” Roberts. But Kozola is probably the one you want to keep an eye on, as he has won all seven of his fights via finish, including six straight knockouts. Roberts dropped a decision in his last bout before enjoying a winning streak of his own. These are two young fighters eager to make a statement in a crowded lightweight division, and I think Kozola adds another finish to build on his rapidly-improving resume.
Winner: Kozola by TKO
Sergei Kharitonov (23-6) vs. Chase Gormley (14-5) (Heavyweight – 225 lbs.)
If you haven’t seen footage from Kharitonov’s Bellator debut last year, don’t worry. It won’t take you very long to watch. He was knocked out in 16 seconds by Javy Ayala. It seemed the wear and tear from a MMA career that started in 2000 and stretched across PRIDE, K-1 and Strikeforce seemed to finally catch up with Kharitonov, as he went down hard and fast. Gormley has won two straight split decisions, so Kharitonov might be able to last a little bit longer this time and even perhaps pull out a victory. I’m going with the Russian here, mostly on faith.
Winner: Kharitonov by unanimous decision
Marcos Galvao (18-7-1) vs. Emmanuel Sanchez (14-3) (Featherweight – 145 lbs.)
This fight could be a de facto featherweight title contender bout, as Galvao is a former bantamweight champion who is moving up a weight class. Sanchez is coming off a big upset over Georgi Karakhanyan and is 6-2 overall in his Bellator career. Moving up a weight class might be Galvao’s last chance to be a champion in Bellator, so I expect him to come in with guns blazing. Sanchez tends to fight a more defensive, reactive style and has no problem grinding out a decision. But he really showed me something when he derailed a fighter who had the momentum that Karakhanyan coming into his fight with Sanchez. I think Sanchez is making a title push, and a victory over a former champion in Galvao should firmly entrench him as the no. 1 contender.
Winner: Sanchez by unanimous decision
Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal (20-5) vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (37-11) (Heavyweight – 225 lbs.)
Again, I’m not sure why this fight is happening. Rampage and King Mo faced each other in 2014 and King Mo won an uninspiring unanimous decision, as he used his wrestling and ground game to keep Rampage on the mat. Which is probably the reason why Rampage wants a rematch; he’s made it no secret that he hates facing wrestlers and guys who, y’know, actually know mixed martial arts. At this point in his career, Rampage is basically just a boxer. If you get him to the mat, your chances of winning are pretty good, unless the judges scoring the bout are incompetent.
Hopefully King Mo doesn’t get suckered in with his trash talk against Rampage and try to prove who’s the better striker. Rampage’s best days are clearly behind him, but King Mo was finished by another past-his-prime fighter in Mirko Cro Cop at the last Rizin FF event in December of last year. However, I think King Mo will use what he knows best, and frustrate Rampage en route to another victory over his inexplicable rival.
Winner: Lawal by unanimous decision