After a pair of lackluster cards abroad over the last month, Bellator MMA returns stateside on Friday, Dec. 1, with a card that features more familiar names to fight fans. There is also a main event title fight to boot, as Bellator continues to grow its burgeoning women’s featherweight division.
David Rickels (18-4) vs. Adam Piccolotti (9-1) (Lightweight – 155 lbs.)
Rickels is a late replacement for Piccolotti, who was originally scheduled to face another tough lightweight in Derek Anderson. Rickels has won two out of his three last fights, with the other bout against Melvin Guillard being ruled a no contest. Piccolotti suffered his first career loss in September when he was choked out in the first round by Goiti Yamauchi. However, Piccolotti’s claim to fame in Bellator is choking Mario Soto so hard in 2015 that blood was captured on camera squirting from Soto’s head.
Rickels has an equal number of knockout and submission victories in his career, but is known primarily as an entertaining striker with some of the more memorable entrances in all of mixed martial arts. But Piccolotti displayed some excellent grappling skills in his previous four victories, and I think he uses that to neutralize Rickels and keep him on the mat.
Winner: Piccolotti by unanimous decision
Chidi Njokuani (17-5) vs. Hisaki Kato (8-2) (Middleweight – 185 lbs.)
This could be an exciting stand-up battle, as Kato has already been involved in some of the most memorable knockouts, in good ways and bad, in his Bellator career. His fights with Melvin Manhoef and Joe Schilling are well known, and he also has a first-round knockout victory over A.J. Matthews. Njokuani has 10 knockouts in his 17 career victories, so the potential for a highlight-worthy knockout in this fight is definitely present.
Njokuani was knocked out himself in the first round by former Bellator welterweight champion Andrey Koreshkov in his last fight. But Njokuani also stood toe-to-toe with dangerous striker Melvin Guillard and had a pair of TKO victories prior to his loss with Koreshkov. So I wouldn’t expect this fight to go the distance, but I do expect Njokuani to catch Kato flush, as both guys like to throw bombs. I think Njokuani throws the more devastating one.
Winner: Njokuani by KO
Chris Honeycutt (10-1) vs. Rafael Lovato Jr. (6-0) (Middleweight – 185 lbs.)
This fight also has “Fight of the Night” potential written all over it. Honeycutt has knocked out his opponent in half of his 10 victories, and four out of Lovato’s six victories have come by submission. So on paper, this looks like the prototypical contrast in styles between two fighters who have dominated their competition so far in Bellator.
Lovato’s advantage is that all of his six victories have come via finish. He has yet to go the distance in his MMA career, and I think that benefits him here. I like Lovato to get Honeycutt to the mat, outwork and lock in another submission win.
Winner: Lovato by submission
Julia Budd (10-2) vs. Arlene Blencowe (10-6) (Featherweight Title – 145 lbs.)
Budd makes her first title defense after an upset knockout victory of the legendary Marloes Coenen earlier this year to become the first Bellator women’s featherweight champion. Now she faces Blencowe in a rematch of their closely-contested bout last year, which Budd won by majority decision. Blencowe rebounded with two victories, including a knockout and a hard-fought split decision over the always-tough Sinead Kavanagh.
I think this will be another tough battle between Budd and Blencowe, and it may even come down to the wire in another close decision. These are two of the toughest women in all of MMA, regardless of weight class, and Budd really proved something when she defeated a fighter the stature of Coenen, who will go down as one of the greatest female fighters of all time.
I think Budd is finally coming into her own as a fighter and is poised to have a prolonged reign as the women’s featherweight champion. Blencowe is tough, and she will make it difficult for Budd. But I think Budd ultimately gets the finish and will once again wait to see who steps up to the plate.
Winner: Budd by TKO
Image Credit: Bellator MMA