Believe it or not, there is another fight card this weekend in the world of mixed martial arts. Just like the big fight card that everyone knows about, UFC 223, the latest offering from Bellator MMA on Friday, April 6, also experienced a change to its main event.
The card was originally going to feature rising featherweight James Gallagher, who had to withdraw due to injury. However, a much better main event is taking its place as Benson Henderson agreed to step in to face former UFC and Bellator veteran Roger Huerta, who returns to the promotion for the first time since 2010.
Ed Ruth (4-0) vs. Ion Pascu (17-7) (Welterweight – 170 lbs.)
After competing at middleweight for his first few Bellator fights, the highly-touted Ruth is giving 170 pounds a try. Ruth has been dominant since beginning his pro career in Bellator in 2016 and has won all of his fights by knockout. Pascu is making his Bellator debut after competing extensively on the European regional circuit, and has won three out of his last four fights.
Pascu is a product of SBG Ireland, which is home to both James Gallagher and UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor. Pascu has also finished 13 of his 17 wins, so he will likely represent Ruth’s toughest challenge to date. Coupling that with the fact that this fight is Ruth’s first as a welterweight, I actually think Pascu can use his experience to his advantage and pull off an upset.
Winner: Pascu by unanimous decision
Brian Moore (10-6) vs. Giorgio Belsanti (7-6-1) (Featherweight – 145 lbs.)
Moore is looking to rebound from losing his first two Bellator fights, albeit against very competition in A.J. McKee and Daniel Weichel. But it doesn’t get any easier, as Belsanti won his Bellator debut last year and has won three out of his last four fights overall, with two finishes. I think Bellator 196 will be a good card for European fighters looking to make a statement in their home continent, and Belsanti squeaks out a tough, ground-based contest against Moore, who is equally as adept on the mat.
Winner: Belsanti by split decision
Denise Kielholtz (1-1) vs. Petra Castkova (3-2) (Flyweight – 125 lbs.)
Kielholtz was originally scheduled to face Lena Ovchynnikova, who had to drop out after getting hurt. Kielholtz, who was already a decorated and title-winning kickboxer, has split her first two pro MMA fights – both coincidentally by submission. However, she won her Bellator debut last year with a first-round submission. Castkova has lost two out of her last three fights, and I don’t think she fares much better on short notice against “Miss Dynamite.”
Winner: Kielholtz by TKO
Adam Borics (6-0) vs. Teodor Nikolov (11-1) (Featherweight – 145 lbs.)
The co-main event features another bout that should contested primarily on the ground, as Borics and Nikolov boast 12 submission wins between them. Borics won his Bellator debut last year with a first-round submission. Nikolov is making his Bellator debut in this fight after winning his last five fights, all by finish, with three of those submissions.
If you’re a fan of the ground game in MMA, this card might be for you, as should this fight specifically. I also believe another European fighter making his Bellator debut will start his career in his new promotion with a bang. I think Nikolov takes it.
Winner: Nikolov by submission
Benson Henderson (24-8) vs. Roger Huerta (24-9-1) (Lightweight – 155lbs.)
It’s funny. As recently as roughly a month ago, Henderson and Huerta weren’t even scheduled to be on this card, and Huerta wasn’t even a part of Bellator. But fans in Hungary get a real treat with a main event featuring two of the more recognizable fighters in both recent memory and of all time.
Henderson is still searching for a signature win in Bellator, despite also having competed for a title. Huerta makes his triumphant return to American-based MMA after spending the majority of the last several years competing in other countries. Huerta is 2-3 in his last five fights and may not be the young phenom he once was when he previously competed for both Bellator and the UFC.
I think Henderson takes advantage of what might be his last real shot at being a big-time player in Bellator, and uses his speed and varied skillset to get past Huerta and re-establish himself as a possible title contender.
Winner: Henderson by unanimous decision
Photo Credit: MMA Junkie