At 9pm Eastern time, the Bellator MMA organization is set to go live on paramount network and will play host to the second of four first-round Heavyweight Tournament contests. The first bout of the Grand-Prix tournament witnessed the ever-popular Chael Sonnen defeat Quinton “Rampage” Jackson via 3 round Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28), late last month. Before the aforementioned Heavyweight fight will take place though, the live portion of the show will feature 4 preceding bouts that look to set the tone for the main-event.
Tywan “Speedy” Claxton vs Jose Antonio Perez
To commence the main-card of Bellator 194, Tywan “Speedy” Claxton will look to build off his thrilling flying-knee knockout victory in his professional and Bellator MMA debut last November (watch here). Across from him, Jose Antonio Perez will look to rebound from a lackluster pro-debut of his own when he lost a lopsided decision to fellow Bellator competitor, Kevin Carrier. Though there is little professional-footage to evaluate either man upon, it should be noted that Claxon finished half of his amateur bouts by knockout and holds Division-1 wrestling credentials. Oppositely, Perez constantly struggled on the amateur scene as well, going only 1-3 before turning pro with 0 finishes to his name. In short, Scott Coker and the fellow Bellator execs clearly have high hopes for Claxton and are using Perez to give “Speedy” more fight experience. Expect Claxton to justify being the largest favourite on this fight-card and dominate Jose Antonio Perez on route to improving his professional to 2-0.
Prediction: Tywan “Speedy” Claxton Def. Jose Antonio Perez via TKO (punches) in Round 2
Heather “The Heat” Hardy vs Ana “The Hurricane” Julaton
After failing to host a tournament or title-fight in a women’s MMA division since 2010, the year of 2017 finally re-awarded females with legitimate opportunities within the Bellator organization. Of these new openings for women, Heather Hardy and Ana Julaton will have the chance to take place in a two-fight series that has yet to be seen on the professional fighting circuit. In detail, the MMA bout between these two women that will take place this evening will be followed-up with a boxing match between the pair at a future date this year; since both women are active boxers. On the boxing scene, Hardy does yield the better record of the two, going unbeaten with a record of 20-0 since turning pro in 2012.
Since transitioning to MMA last year, Hardy has had mixed results, going 1-1 as a Mixed Martial Artist. Congruent to Hardy, Julaton’s career as a MMA fighter has not garnered nearly the success as her time in the squared-circle; amassing a 2-3 MMA record thus far. In terms of MMA experience, Julaton defiantly has an edge over Hardy as this will be her sixth bout in a major organization. Unfortunately for the woman known as “Hurricane” however, this will likely be the end of her advantagescome fight-time as Hardy does the more dangerous hands of the two. Additionally, the combined record of the two women Julaton has defeated in her MMA career as of now is 5-14, whereas the women who have defeated her have gone 9-5 as professionals. Considering Hardy’s credentials, she would likely be placed in the latter half of those two categories if she had a full-MMA career and thus will be a tough-out for Julaton. In a fight where both fighters key to victory will be incorporating their boxing skills into an MMA fight, “The Heat” should be able to find her timing and land more consistently throughout the fight.
Prediction: Heather “The Heat” Hardy Def. Ana “The Hurricane” Julaton via SD (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Liam McGeary vs Vadim Nemkov
The middle-match of the main-card will be a Light-Heavyweight contest between Russian prospect, Vadim Nemkov and former Bellator LHW Champion, Liam McGeary. With only 1 decision victory between the two-men in 20 victories, this fight is unquestionably the most likely candidate for a finish on the main-card. Beginning with the Russian, Nemkov is currently on a 3-fight winning streak, finishing each of his opponents via way of first-round KO/TKO in the process. Though Nemkov is yet to beat any of the top-contenders at 205 in Bellator, he does hold a knockout over UFC veteran Goran Reljic and trains under the same tutelage of MMA legend, Fedor Emelianenko. Additionally, his striking has looked extremely sharp in his victories and he physically looks in better shape then his British counterpart. Turning to the former champion, McGeary began his MMA career with 10 straight victories putting up some of the better submissions in the history of the organization in the process h Since earning his first Bellator title on his 10-fight tear however, McGeary has gone a lackluster 1-2 and was nearly finished in his lone victory as well. When comparing the two men, each man has respectable power, however, Nemkov likely has more likelihood on hurting McGeary with one shot. Furthermore, McGeary has abysmal takedown-defense and thus, the Russian should have the advantage in the wrestling department as well. For McGeary, losing out in these two aspects of MMA is nothing new, as the Brit has constantly been able to use his long-limbs and 6’6 frame to finish smaller opponents in spite of a poor ability to avoid takedowns or strikes to the head. This time around, McGearys’ inability to slip punches will likely be his downfall as the prospect, Nemkov should be able to pull out this one out.
Prediction: Vadim Nemkov Def. Liam McGeary Via KO in Round 2.
Prediction: Vadim Nemkov Def. Liam McGeary Via KO in Round 2.
Patricky “Pitbull” Freire vs Derek “The Stallion” Campos
In the first of two consecutive rematches on the card, Patricky “Pitbull” Freire will look for his second victory over his long-time foe, Derek “The Stallion” Campos. In their first meeting in 2014, Campos started out the fight very strong, pushing the pace, controlling the angles on the feet, and landing in combination frequently on “Pitbull”. However, like recent Patricky “Pitbull” fights, Freire seemingly took the first round off to find his range; a strategy which soon paid off as Freire quickly ended the fight in the second frame. Since that time, Freire and Campos each have 5 wins, however, Freire can ultimately be considered the more successful of the two, beating two-former UFC/Strikeforce champions and participating in a Bellator title-fight since his first interaction with Campos.
In terms of what to expect in the rematch between these two lightweights, I do expect Campos to apply a similar strategy that he used in their first fight. Since he was successful before being dropped in 2014, Campos will likely come out with confidence knowing he can back up “Pitbull” consistently and will load up on his combinations in hopes of hurting Freire early. Freire is expected to allow Campos to come out aggressive in hopes of finding his openings once again, but “Pitbull” should be weary that this game-plan often leaves him needing a finish to come out victorious. In conclusion, Freire does struggle most against active fighters who constantly move forward, as was also seen in his fights against Derek Anderson and Michael Chandler. As a result, Campos should be able to utilize his striking and wrestling in unison and outpoint the younger of the two “Pitbull” brothers as long as he can avoid the big counter shot of Freire.
Prediction: Derek “The Stallion” Campos Def. Patricky “Pitubll Freire via UD (29-28, 30-27, 29-28)
Roy “Big Country” Nelson vs Matt “Meathead” Mitrione (Heavyweight Grand-Prix Round 1)
Over 5 years ago, Roy “Big Country” Nelson knocked out Matt Mitrione in the first round at the UFC’s Ultimate Fighter 16 finale. Now, the two men will rematch in the main event of Bellator’s 194 fight card; which also happens to be a Heavyweight Grand-Prix fight. Upon the announcement of the tournament, Mitrione and Nelson were both considered the top choices the finals of the tournament, however, a surprising decision by Bellators’ matchmakers has the men squaring off with one another in the first-round of the bracket. Upon leaving the UFC in 2016 following a devastating eye-injury in a loss to Travis Browne, Matt Mitrione was one of the first fighters to move over to Bellator who was willing to not only financially compete with UFC contract offers, but also allows fighters to freely gather their own sponsorship money. Though the transition to Bellator has been rough for some, “Meathead” has done well in his new organization, going 3-0; with 3 knockouts since the move. Like his counterpart, Roy “Big Country” Nelson was also a long-time member of the UFC’s Heavyweight division, but has since moved on.
After putting up a dismal 3-7 record over his last 10 UFC fights, Nelson did put on a strong showing in his Bellator debut victory over Jay Ayala in September of 2017; but still has only 2 knockouts over his last 11 fights to show for it. Overall, Mitrione is faster, has better footwork, is a far superior athlete, has a better resume as of late, and is far more improved than Nelson since their last fight, but still one thing brings up major cause for concern from Mitrione; his inability to keep his hands up. For example, in his 3 Bellator fights, Mitrione was nearly finished in 2 of them by opponents with less knockouts than Nelson currently has to his name. Though Mitrione’ athleticism and cardio does help him recover quickly, Nelson does tend to finish his opponents when he has them hurt. Additionally, Nelson also poses threat in the grappling department; being recognized as an extremely suffocating BJJ blackbelt. In the end, Mitrione does have legitimate athletic credentials and can beat Nelson if he is relentless on the feet and peppers “Big Country” with kicks and combinations, but, “Meathead” does tend to live up to his nickname come fight time. That being said, Mitriones’ striking defense and clinch grappling are the least improved aspects of his game since his first-matchup with Nelson. Because of this, Nelson is still the better MMA fighter and should either be able to capitalize on Mitrione’s poor hand placement and finish him at some point in the fight or will be able grind out a victory along the fence/on the ground over “Meathead”.
Prediction: Roy Nelson Def. Matt Mitrione via KO (Round 1)