After what feels like an extended hiatus, but has only been a few weeks, Bellator MMA returns with a brand new fight card, including a main event featuring one of its prized free agent signings. The card also takes place from jolly ol’ England and includes multiple fighters who call the United Kingdom home. So which ones among England’s favorite sons will emerge victorious on the Bellator 179 main card?
D.J. Griffin (0-0) vs. Kevin “Baby Slice” Ferguson Jr. (0-1) (Catchweight – 165 lbs.)
If Ferguson’s name sounds familiar to you, it should. He’s the son of the late Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson, who tragically passed away last year. “Baby Slice” decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and embark on a mixed martial arts career, but it got off to a rough start when he lost his pro debut at Bellator 165 last year. Griffin is making his pro debut after going 1-2 as an amateur, including two straight losses. My expectations for this fight aren’t very high, but I think Ferguson is eager to prove himself and will catch a nervous Griffin with a hard punch that will remind fans of his beloved father.
Winner: Ferguson by TKO
Dan Edwards (14-14) vs. Alex Lohore (11-1) (Welterweight – 170 lbs.)
Lohore’s lone pro loss came more than a year ago on the regional circuit, while Edwards has enjoyed back-to-back victories after a particularly demoralizing 6-fight losing streak. Edwards is also making his Bellator debut and has not gone to a decision in his 14 victories. Unfortunately, he also has the same exact number of losses. I’m sure Edwards will have a chip on his shoulder and something to prove to the hometown crowd, but I think Lohore uses his ground skills to smother Edwards and notches another submission win onto his belt.
Winner: Lohore by submission
Cheick Kongo (26-10-2) vs. Augusto Sakai (9-0-1) (Heavyweight – 225 lbs.)
So is Bellator crowning a new heavyweight champion ever actually going to be a thing? I don’t know which will happen first – a new Bellator heavyweight champion or a Bellator flyweight champion. Both have talked about by the organization for some time, but neither seems any closer to becoming a reality. That said, Kongo will likely be one of the top contenders for a heavyweight title, should it come to pass.
Kongo has taken to grinding out tough decision wins for nearly the last three years. He’s 4-1 in that stretch, including four straight wins. All five of those went to a decision as well. His M.O. seems to be the same – get his opponent up against the cage and repeatedly land punches in hopes of getting the win on the scorecards. While it’s boring as hell to watch, you can’t dispute that it’s effective.
Sakai is unbeaten in his Bellator career, and his last two fights for the organization have also gone the distance. So I wouldn’t expect any knockouts similar to what we saw from the heavyweights at UFC 211 last weekend, FYI. I don’t expect this fight to turn out any different from any of Kongo’s recent ones. He will get Sakai up against the cage, use some dirty boxing and grind out yet another decision victory. But who knows? Maybe the lure of a possible heavyweight title shot might convince Kongo to put forth a more exciting effort.
Winner: Kongo by unanimous decision
Liam McGeary (12-1) vs. Linton Vassell (17-5) (Light Heavyweight – 205 lbs.)
McGeary is a man on a mission to regain the Bellator light heavyweight title after he dropped it to Phil Davis last year. McGeary’s struggles against elite wrestlers was evident in that fight, as Davis basically took him down at will. While Vassell has seven submission wins to his credit, he hasn’t actually won a fight by submission since 2014. Vassell’s last two fights, both wins, were by decision. I’m sure Vassell studied McGeary’s fight with Davis closely and saw some opportunities.
But even though McGeary was dominated by the ground by Davis, he is dangerous on the mat in his own right. I think he is supremely motivated to get back in the title picture, and the winner of this fight will receive a title shot against Davis. Vassell is a solid fighter who is definitely capable of pulling off the win. But before his loss to Davis, McGeary looked like one of the next great light heavyweights. I think he reminds us all of that fact in this fight.
Winner: McGeary by submission
Rory MacDonald (18-4) vs. Paul Daley (39-14-2) (Welterweight – 170 lbs.)
MacDonald finally makes his Bellator debut after jumping ship from the UFC early last year, and faces another dangerous striker in Daley. The last time MacDonald faced some with some definite punching power, Robbie Lawler rearranged his face in 2015. MacDonald looks to finally be 100 percent and fully recovered from that experience, and gets to test that right away against Daley.
Daley is 4-1 since joining Bellator in 2015, with three of those wins coming by knockout – including a first-round knockout of Brennan Ward in his last fight. I’m sure MacDonald will make it a point to avoid Daley’s punching power in this fight, so I expect a lot of stick-and-moving and probably not the most exciting fight for fans. But Daley is capable of pushing the pace and putting on pressure, and force a fighter to engage with him. I expect he will do that with MacDonald, but MacDonald is also one of the smartest fighters around. I think he’ll use his feet and range to keep Daley at bay. This fight won’t be the barnburner that some fans are hoping, but it will be a good debut for MacDonald.
Winner: MacDonald by unanimous decision
Photo Credit: MMAFighting.com