Watch MMAjunkie's 'KO of the Month' in virtual reality (as Mauro Ranallo goes bananas)

Filed under: Bellator, Blue Corner, Featured Videos, News, Videos

Dann StuppIf you judge knockouts simply by Bellator broadcaster Mauro Ranallo’s reaction, you know this was a good one.

And thankfully, fight fans can watch it – Aaron Pico (1-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA)’s blistering first-round knockout of featherweight Justin Linn (7-4 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) at Bellator 183 – in virtual reality, thanks to Bellator.

Check it out above. Even without a VR device, you can get a 360-degree look at the powerful one-punch KO and the immediate aftermath, including Ranallo’s priceless reaction as he and Jimmy Smith talk us through the finish from cageside.

The big knockout, which took place Sept. 24 and aired on Spike from SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., was MMAjunkie’s “Knockout of the Month” for September and beat out four other dazzling finalists.

Here’s a better look at the knockout itself (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

It was quite the first pro win for 21-year-old Pico, a standout freestyle wrestler who suffered a crushing 24-second loss via submission to lightweight Zach Freeman in June.

For complete coverage of Bellator 183, check out the MMA Events section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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Filed under: Bellator, Blue Corner, Featured Videos, News, Videos
Source: MMA Junkie

MMAjunkie's 'Knockout of the Month' for September: A prospect shows what he can do

With another action-packed month of MMA in the books, MMAjunkie looks at the best knockouts from September. Here are the five nominees, listed in chronological order, and winner of MMAjunkie’s “Knockout of the Month” award for September.

At the bottom of the post, let us know if we got it right by voting for your choice.

* * * *

The Nominees

Mairbek Taisumov def. Felipe Silva at UFC Fight Night 115

After nearly 17 months away from competition, Mairbek Taisumov (27-5 MMA, 6-1 UFC) returned with an incredible finish, needing just one shot to hand Felipe Silva (8-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) his first loss in their lightweight clash.

A few exchanges from both men showed their skills before Taisumov landed an absolute stunner. With Silva charging forward with a combination, Taisumov slipped a big right and landed one of is own directly on the button, face-planting his opponent in a devastating one-punch finish.

Alex Lohore def. Nathan Jones at BAMMA 31

Alex Lohore (13-1) needed less than a round to destroy Nathan Jones (11-6) and win the BAMMA welterweight championship. After staggering his opponent with some strikes, Lohore’s pressure forced Jones into a sloppy, telegraphed takedown attempt.

That was the last move Jones would make. He was greeted by a perfectly timed knee from Lohore that slumped his limp body against the canvas.

Kamaru Usman def. Sergio Moraes at UFC Fight Night 116

Kamaru Usman (11-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC) scored the biggest win of his burgeoning career, devastating Sergio Moraes (12-3-1 MMA, 6-2-1 UFC) with a crushing blow for a sixth consecutive victory to start his UFC welterweight tenure.

Usman was on point from the start, wobbling Moraes with a low kick and then dropping him briefly with a right hand. Unsurprisingly, Usman refused to follow to the floor, and Moraes crawled back to his feet and looked to brawl. Haymakers followed, but Usman slipped well and scored a beautiful finish with a destructive straight right to the chin. Moraes crashed to the canvas, and Usman landed one hammerfist to an already vanquished foe.

Sabina Mazo def. Linsey Williams at LFA 23

Five months after a vicious head-kick knockout earned Sabina Mazo (4-0) viral backing, she repeated the feat with another crushing kick, this time against Linsey Williams (0-2).

Mazo used another high kick to the dome to score another first-round knockout. This time, it was a finish of Williams, who was left sprawled out on the canvas after Mazo’s right foot whipped up and caught her flush on the chin.

Instagram Photo

Aaron Pico def. Justin Linn via punch at Bellator 183

Want to make people forget about your embarrassing debut? Send your next opponent crashing to the canvas. Aaron Pico (1-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) did just that.

Things didn’t quite go as planned for Pico’s coming out party in June. But they couldn’t have gone any better for his follow up, because Pico manhandled Justin Linn (7-4 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) on the mat before a perfectly placed left hook knocked his opponent out cold.

Instagram Photo

* * * *

The Winner: Aaron Pico

Pico’s second Bellator fight went much better than his first. Not only did he win at Bellator 183, but he picked up a highlight-reel knockout in the opening round.

Pico, who was competing just a few days shy of his 21st birthday at the event, knocked Linn out cold with a picture-perfect left hook at the 3:45 mark of Round 1, giving him the first victory of his MMA career.

After going into his debut fight as arguably the most hyped prospect in the sport’s history, Pico stumbled badly in the form of a 24-second submission loss to Zach Freeman at Bellator NYC in June. Pico kept his head held high after the stunning defeat and bounced back with a much better performance against Linn.

After a brief standup exchange, Pico shot for a takedown on Linn and got it with ease. They stayed on the ground for a short while before Pico stood up and the action returned to the feet, and from there it got really good.

Pico stood toe-to-toe with Linn, eating some hard shots in the process. He waited for his moment to strike with the fight-ending shot, and when it arrived, he planted a mean left hook to the chin of his opponent. Linn went down in a heap, and Pico celebrated the ideal birthday moment.

“I’m really happy right now – really happy,” Pico said in his post-fight interview. “It’s a proud moment to get my first victory, something I’ll always remember on my 21st birthday.”

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Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Bellator 183 salaries: Patricky Freire earns event-best $110,000

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Filed under: Bellator, News

Patricky Freire earned the largest disclosed payday at this past weekend’s Bellator 183 event.

Freire (18-8 MMA, 11-7 BMMA) topped former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson (24-8 MMA, 1-3 BMMA) via split decision. Freire earned $110,000 – $45,000 of which was a win bonus – as his disclosed payday. Henderson picked up $50,000.

MMAjunkie obtained the list of disclosed paydays from the California State Athletic Commission, which oversaw the Sept. 23 event. Bellator 183 took place at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., and the main card aired on Spike following prelims on MMAjunkie.

In the co-main event, Paul Daley (40-15-2 MMA, 6-2 BMMA) topped welterweight rival Lorenz Larkin (18-7 MMA, 0-2 BMMA) with a big left hand. Daley earned a flat payday of $50,000 while Larkin got $40,000.

The total disclosed payout for the event was $513,500.

The full list of Bellator 183 paydays included:

Patricky Freire: $110,000 (includes $45,000 win bonus)
def. Benson Henderson: $50,000

Paul Daley: $50,000 (no win bonus)
def. Lorenz Larkin: $40,000

Roy Nelson: $60,000 (includes $30,000 win bonus)
def. Javy Ayala: $50,000

Aaron Pico: $50,000 (includes $25,000 win bonus)
def. Justin Linn: $4,000

Goiti Yamauchi: $32,000 (includes $16,000 win bonus)
def. Adam Piccolotti: $18,000

Tony Johnson: $3,000 (includes $1,500 win bonus)
def. Mike Ortega: $1,500

Kaytlin Neil: $4,000 (includes $2,000 win bonus)
def. Brooke Mayo: $3,000

Brandon Laroco: $3,000 (includes $1,500 win bonus)
def. Gaston Bolanos: $4,000

Jaimelene Nievera: $3,000 (includes $1,500 win bonus)
def. Corina Herrera: $1,500

Fernando Gonzalez: $12,000 (includes $6,000 win bonus)
def. Alex Lopez: $2,500

Ricardo Vasquez: $2,000 (includes $1,000 win bonus)
def. Justin Tenedora: $1,500

J.J. Okanovich: $4,000 (includes $2,000 win bonus)
def. Luis Jauregui: $1,500

Daniel Gonzalez: $2,000 (includes $1,000 win bonus)
def. Anthony Castrejon: $1,000

Now, the usual disclaimer: The figures do not include deductions for items such as insurance, licenses and taxes. Additionally, the figures do not include money paid by sponsors. They also do not include any other “locker room” or special discretionary bonuses Bellator sometimes pays.

In other words, the above figures are simply base salaries reported to the commission and do not reflect entire compensation packages for the event.

For complete coverage of Bellator 183, check out the MMA Events section of the night.

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Filed under: Bellator, News
Source: MMA Junkie

Bellator 183 post-event facts: Patricky Freire, Goiti Yamauchi produce record work

Bellator put on another solid event Saturday with Bellator 183, which took place at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., with a Spike-televised main card following prelims streamed on MMAjunkie

In the main event, Patricky Freire (18-8 MMA, 11-7 BMMA) continued to put a damper on Benson Henderson’s (24-8 MMA, 1-3 BMMA) Bellator stint with a competitive split-decision victory over the former UFC and WEC lightweight champion.

A number of other notable names competed on the promotion’s 14th fight card of the year. For more on the numbers to come out of Bellator 183, check below for 25 post-event facts.

* * * *

General

Debuting fighters went 1-1 at the event.

Betting favorites went 2-3 on the main card.

Betting favorites fell to to 9-4 (with one even odds) in Bellator main events this year.

Total fight time for the five-bout main card was 44:44.

* * * *

Main card

Freire improved to 4-3 in Bellator main events.

Freire’s 11 victories in Bellator lightweight competition are tied with Michael Chandler for most in divisional history.

Henderson suffered consecutive losses for the first time in his Bellator career. He’s 3-5 in his past eight fights overall.

Henderson fell to 1-2 since he returned to the lightweight division in August 2016.

Henderson has suffered all three of his Bellator losses by decision.

Henderson fell to 0-3 in decision under the Bellator banner after going 9-1 on the scorecards during his UFC career.

Paul Daley (40-15-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) has alternated wins and losses over his past five Bellator appearances.

Daley has earned 32 of his 40 career victories by stoppage.

Daley has earned all 32 career stoppage victories as a result of strikes. That includes five of his six Bellator wins.

Lorenz Larkin (18-7 MMA, 0-2 UFC) fell to 4-3 since he dropped to the welterweight division in January 2015.

Larkin fell to 5-5 in his past 10 fights.

Larkin has suffered both of his career stoppage losses by knockout.

Javy Ayala (10-6 MMA, 5-3 BMMA) suffered his first decision loss since Nov. 15, 2012 – a span of 1,773 days (nearly five years) and 10 fights.

Aaron Pico (1-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) was successful in his featherweight debut.

Pico earned a victory on his 21st birthday.

Justin Linn’s (7-4 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) three-fight losing skid is the longest of his career. He hasn’t earned a victory since September 2014.

Linn suffered the first knockout loss of his career.

Goiti Yamauchi (22-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC) improved to 3-0 since he moved up to the Bellator lightweight division in October 2016.

Yamauchi has earned 19 of his 22 career victories by stoppage. That includes eight of his nine Bellator wins.

Yamauchi has earned all three of his Bellator lightweight victories by stoppage.

Yamauchi’s six submission victories in Bellator competition are tied with Marcin Held and Alexandre Bezerra for most in company history.

Adam Piccolotti (9-1 MMA, 5-1 BMMA) has his nine-fight winning streak snapped for the first defeat of his career.

For complete coverage of Bellator 183, check out the MMA Events section of the site.

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Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News
Source: MMA Junkie

Aaron Pico's emphatic Bellator 183 KO just what he needed after that awful debut

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Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News, Videos

SAN JOSE, Calif. – After surviving one of the most embarrassing nights of his life, Aaron Pico is actually kind of glad that it happened.

When Pico walked into Madison Square Garden on June 24, he wasn’t just another fighter making his Bellator debut. Along with a stellar amateur wrestling track record, paired with a Golden Gloves boxing title, Pico carried the weight of some serious hype into his first professional MMA bout.

In just 24 seconds, however, Zach Freeman crushed those expectations to a pulp with a fight-ending guillotine choke.

Less than three months later, at Saturday’s Bellator 183, Pico got his shot at redemption. And not only did he make the most of it, he did so in awe-inspiring fashion with a savage first-round knockout of Justin Linn.

The feeling as he stood in front of reporters this time certainly was quite different than after his Bellator NYC debut. But count on the focused Pico to put a positive spin on what could have been a soul-crushing experience to many others.

“I felt so good. Training went so good, everything went well (before Bellator 180),” Pico said after his main-card featherweight bout, which aired on Spike from SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. “But the biggest thing for me is, I was going everywhere. And I didn’t have that team where I was at.

“So, to be honest with you, I think it was – it might sound kind of funny, but I’m glad that happened to me. Because I wouldn’t be with Antonio McKee at the BodyShop with all those guys. I wouldn’t be there probably”

Pico was quite familiar with McKee, who’d helped with his wrestling weight cuts since he was 5 years old. So when the trainer called right after the debut fiasco, the Pico jumped at the opportunity.

“A lot of people like to kick you when you’re down, especially after Madison Square Garden,” Pico said. “I got a lot of stuff, people ‘You suck,’ this or that. First one to call me and want to help me was Antonio.

“So I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to go with Antonio.’ Those guys at the BodyShop: A.J. McKee (Antonio’s son), Joey Davis, Baby Slice. I clicked well with them.”

It certainly showed on Saturday, when Pico (1-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) was able to stay cool and eat some shots en route to a thunderous win over the much more experienced Linn (7-4 MMA, 0-1 BMMA).

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The composure Pico says he felt in the lead-up to the match showed in the brief moments of the scrap in which he felt Linn’s shots. All the hard work, Pico said, had already been done. So it all came down to staying confident in his training and weapons.

“I always knew my hands are powerful,” Pico said. “I’m not being cocky, but there’s a lot. I spar with the best boxers in the world. I go with the best guys in the world at Team Body Shop with A.J. McKee and all, so I’m confident in my ability.

“The biggest thing this whole camp was just to relax. And, once I relaxed, my skills were going to show.”

The result of trusting the hands that Pico always knew carried some serious knockout capabilities? The perfect outcome.

“I wanted the knockout, absolutely,” Pico said.

As relieved as he is with the win, which also served as one seriously cool gift for his 21st birthday, Pico knows he’s still a “puppy” in MMA. That’s why he wants to keep on racking up cage time – and the Bellator card set for The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., on Jan. 20 seems like as good a place to start as any.

“I’d love to fight in Los Angeles, so that’d be really cool,” Pico said. “(But) I’m healthy. It was relatively quick. So, whenever they need me, I want to fight.”

Acknowledging there’s still plenty of room for growth doesn’t keep Pico from chasing the higher goals that not even that particularly rough day at the office managed to shake.

“June 24th, Madison Square Garden, was one of the most embarrassing days of my life,” Pico said. “It took me a while to just soak it all in. I couldn’t believe it actually happened. But I said, you know what? Excuse my language – I said, ‘(expletive) this, I’m coming back. I’m coming back.’

“I woke up every day, and I was just on a mission with Antonio McKee. ‘I will show them, I will come back.’ And I still have that chip on my shoulder. I will be world champion. I would be 0-5 and still trying to be world champion. I will be world champion, or I will die trying. That’s my mindset.”

To hear more from Pico, check out the video above.

And for complete coverage of Bellator 183, check out the MMA Events section of the site.

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Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News, Videos
Source: MMA Junkie

Fight Tracks: The walkout songs of Bellator 183, with an always-welcome nod to 'The Karate Kid'

While it takes intense training, world-class skills and maybe even a bit of luck to register a Bellator win, picking the right song to accompany you to the cage is a key talent, as well.

See what the fighters of Saturday’s Bellator 183 event in San Jose, Calif., went with as their backing tracks.

* * * *

Patricky Freire def. Benson Henderson via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)

Patricky Freire: “Bate Pesadao” by Pegador Luo

Benson Henderson: “Awesome God” by R-Swift

Paul Daley def. Lorenz Larkin via knockout (punches) – Round 2, 2:40

Paul Daley: “Wins And Losses” by Meek Mill

Lorenz Larkin: “This Is Now” by Hatebreed

Roy Nelson def. Javy Ayala via unanimous decision (30-26, 29-28, 29-28)

Roy Nelson: “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen

Javy Ayala: “Congratulations” by Post Malone feat. Quavo

Aaron Pico def. Justin Linn via knockout (punch) – Round 1, 3:45

Aaron Pico: “Nuthin’ But a G’ Thang” by Dr. Dre

Justin Linn: “Puritania” by Dimmu Borgir

Goiti Yamauchi def Adam Piccolotti via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 3:19

Goiti Yamauchi: “You’re The Best Around” by Joe Esposito

Adam Piccolotti: “Can’t Be Touched” by Roy Jones Jr.

For complete coverage of Bellator 183, check out the MMA Events section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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Filed under: Bellator, Blue Corner, News
Source: MMA Junkie

Bellator 183 video highlights: Freire edges Henderson, Daley and Pico deliver big

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Filed under: Bellator, Featured Videos, News, Videos

Saturday’s Bellator 183 event was heavy on talent, and the card delivered on entertainment value.

Bellator 183 took place at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. The main card aired on Spike following prelims on MMAjunkie.

In the night’s main event, Patricky Freire (18-8 MMA, 11-7 BMMA) handed former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson (24-8 MMA, 1-3 BMMA) his second straight split-decision loss.

In the night’s co-feature, hard-hitting Paul Daley (40-15-2 MMA, 6-2 BMMA) ended his rivalry with Lorenz Larkin (18-7 MMA, 0-2 BMMA) in impressive fashion, catching the fellow striker with a big left hand. However, it was top prospect Aaron Pico (1-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) who may have delivered the most memorable moment of the night, scoring a crushing knockout of Justin Linn (7-4 MMA, 0-1 BMMA).

Check out the video above to see highlights of all the action.

For complete coverage of Bellator 183, check out the MMA Events section of the night.

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Filed under: Bellator, Featured Videos, News, Videos
Source: MMA Junkie

What debut? Aaron Pico just hit the reset button on an again-promising career

Want to make people forget about your embarrassing debut? Send your next opponent crashing to the canvas.

Things didn’t quite go as planned for Aaron Pico’s coming out party at Bellator 180. But they couldn’t have gone any better for his follow up at Bellator 183.

Fighting at featherweight, Pico (1-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) manhandled Justin Linn on the mat before a perfectly placed left hook knocked Linn  (7-4 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) out cold at the 3:45 mark of the first round.

Check it out.

Even more encouraging, Pico didn’t get ahead of himself, telling Bellator commentator Jimmy Smith he would stay in his lane and do it his way before calling out the big names.

In three days, Pico turns 21. But his birthday celebration is coming early. And after an incredible return to the cage, it seems there will be plenty more of Pico to watch in the future.

For complete coverage of Bellator 183, check out the MMA Events section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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Filed under: Blue Corner, Featured Videos, News
Source: MMA Junkie

Bellator 183 results: Aaron Pico destroys Justin Linn with 1-punch knockout

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Filed under: Bellator, News

Aaron Pico’s second Bellator fight went much better than his first. Not only did he win at Bellator 183, but he picked up a highlight-reel knockout in the opening round.

Pico (1-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA), who was competing on his 21st birthday at the event, knocked Justin Linn (7-4 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) out cold with a picture-perfect left hook at the 3:45 mark of Round 1, giving him the first victory of his MMA career.

The featherweight aired on Spike as part of the Bellator 183 main card, which took place Saturday at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. Prelims streamed on MMAjunkie.

After going into his debut fight as arguably the most hyped prospect in the sport’s history, Pico stumbled badly in the form of a 24-second submission loss to Zach Freeman at Bellator NYC in June. Pico kept his head held high after the stunning defeat and bounced back with a much better performance against Linn.

After a brief standup exchange, Pico shot for a takedown on Linn and got it with ease. They stayed on the ground for a short while before Pico stood up and the action returned to the feet, and from there it got really good.

Pico stood toe-to-toe with Linn, eating some hard shots in the process. He waited for his moment to strike with the fight-ending shot, and when it arrived, he planted a mean left hook to the chin of his opponent. Linn went down in a heap, and Pico celebrated the ideal birthday moment.

“I’m really happy right now – really happy,” Pico said in his post-fight interview. “It’s a proud moment to get my first victory, something I’ll always remember on my 21st birthday.”

Up-to-the-minute Bellator 183 results include:

  • Aaron Pico def. Justin Linn via knockout (punch) – Round 1, 3:45
  • Goiti Yamauchi def. Adam Piccolotti via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 3:19
  • Tony Johnson def. Mike Ortega via knockout (punch) – Round 2, 1:49
  • Kaytlin Neil def. Brooke Mayo via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
  • Brandon Laroco def. Gaston Bolanos via technical submission (triangle choke) – Round 2, 2:16
  • Jaimelene Nievera def. Corina Herrera via unanimous decision (30-26, 29-28, 29-27)
  • Fernando Gonzalez def. Alex Lopez via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
  • Ricardo Vasquez def. Justin Tenedora via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 1, 2:39
  • J.J. Okanovich def. Luis Jauregui via submission (armbar) – Round 1, 0:42
  • Daniel Gonzalez def. Anthony Castrejon via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 4:03

For complete coverage of Bellator 183, check out the MMA Events section of the site.

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Filed under: Bellator, News
Source: MMA Junkie

5 reasons to watch Bellator 183, a Saturday card with high-stakes matchups

Bellator returns to SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., for Saturday’s Bellator 183 fight card, and the event features some very familiar names.

The main event competitors, Benson Henderson and Patricky Freire have had different experiences at “The Shark Tank” as of late. Henderson dropped his most recent fight there, a split decision to then-lightweight champion Michael Chandler. As for Freie, he knocked out former Strikeforce lightweight champion Josh Thomson in his most recent bout at the arena.

In the co-main event, one of Bellator’s big – in both a figurative and literal sense – signings makes his debut. In that fight, Roy Nelson meets Javy Ayala.

The three other fights on the main card – Paul Daley vs. Lorenz Larkin, Adam Piccolotti vs. Goiti Yamauchi, and Aaron Pico vs. Justin Linn – might not be receiving the same amount of attention as the headlining bouts, but these three matchups have high stakes of their own.

Bellator 183 airs on Spike following prelims on MMAjunkie.

Here are five reasons to watch the event.

1. Post-surgery ‘Bendo’

It turns out Henderson wasn’t fighting at 100 percent during his first three Bellator bouts. In April, Henderson, who is currently No. 12 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA lightweight rankings, told MMAjunkie he’d seriously damaged his knee before his promotional debut, a unanimous decision loss to then-welterweight champion Andrey Koreshkov.

In December, after his decision loss to Chandler, Henderson went under the knife. Henderson said the surgery repaired a torn “ACL, MCL, two meniscus and a bunch of loose cartilage.”

If the surgery did its trick, expect Henderson (24-7 MMA, 1-2 BMMA) to use his speed and motion to work from the outside to pick apart Freire (17-8 MMA, 10-7 BMMA) with powerful kicks. If Henderson’s knee is not up to par and he’s not able to move as well as he did in the past, Freire’s chances of catching Henderson with his powerful hands increase exponentially.

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It’s unlikely that the winner of this fight will earn an immediate shot at the lightweight title. Bellator President Scott Coker told MMAjunkie in June he was leaning more toward a rematch between champion Brent Primus and Chandler.

Freire defeated Josh Thomson by knockout in his most recent fight.

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2. Big signing

After nearly eight years with the UFC, Nelson signed a free-agent deal with Bellator in May. Nelson, who never got a shot at UFC gold, left the promotion with a losing record. Despite that, the vet, with his iron chin and one-punch knockout power, was always one of the more popular UFC heavyweight fighters.

Bellator has been loading up at heavyweight lately. The division now features Matt Mitrione, Cheick Kongo, Sergei Kharitonov, Bobby Lashley, Fedor Emelianenko and Frank Mir. While none of these fighters is a young man, they all do make for an interesting lineup. This is especially true since they’re all jockeying for a shot at a title that has been vacant for more than a year.

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Nelson (22-14 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) begins his pursuit of Bellator gold against Ayala (10-5 MMA, 5-2 BMMA). Ayala enters this fight coming off a stunning one-punch knockout win over Kharitonov at Bellator 163.

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3. Bad blood

Daley and Larkin both have the same goal: to get a crack at welterweight gold. Larkin (18-6 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) lost a unanimous decision to current champion Douglas Lima in his most recent fight, while Daley (39-15-2 MMA, 5-2 BMMA) dropped a decision to Lima in a 2016 title-eliminator.

While a shot at the belt is the longterm goal for these two, the short-term goal is a return to the win column. Like the No. 8 ranked Larkin, Daley enters this fight coming off a second-round submission loss to Rory MacDonald.

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This matchup promises a return to form for Daley and Larkin. Daley has never been a ground fighter; MacDonald exploited that deficiency. Larkin had never participated in a five-round fight before his bout with Lima. That fact might have affected Larkin’s game plan and effectiveness in that bout.

This fight is a three-round affair. Fans should expect these two strikers, who don’t seem to like each other in the least, to get after it early. Between them, Larkin and Daley have 40 knockout victories and just two true knockout losses.

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4. Knocking on the door

Piccolotti passed his first big test inside the Bellator cage when he earned a unanimous-decision win over the more experienced Brandon Girtz in November. At Bellator 183, Piccolotti (9-0 MMA, 5-0 BMMA) faces another opponent with more experience, 23-fight veteran Yamauchi (21-3 MMA, 7-2 BMMA).

Piccolotti, best known for his ground game, showed improved striking in the Girtz fight. Piccolotti used his height and reach advantages to work from the outside, touching Girtz with a good mix of kicks and punches. That striking should come in handy against Yamauchi, who is very dangerous off his back after winning 17 contests via submission. Yamauchi has won his two most recent fights by first-round tap-out.

These two lightweight prospects are inching toward the top of the division. A win in this matchup is likely to earn the victor a shot at a top-five opponent.

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5. Give it a second try

Bellator has handled most of their recent blue-chip signings with kid gloves. The promotion has matched unproven fighters such as Ed Ruth, Tyrell Fortune, Jarod Trice and Joey Davis against opponents equally unproven opponents. For some reason, the promotion didn’t do that with Pico, its most hyped prospect.

In his first pro fight, Pico matched up against 8-2 Zach Freeman. Just 24 seconds into that bout, Pico tapped to a guillotine choke from the former RFA lightweight title challenger.

Pico (0-1 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) drops to featherweight at Bellator 183 to face another much more experienced opponent in Linn (7-3 MMA, 0-0 BMMA). Linn, who turned pro in 2010, enters this fight with losses to former UFC fighter Cody Gibson and current UFC combatant Matthew Lopez in past two outings. Linn has not fought since his April 2016 loss to Gibson.

Pico’s calamitous loss to Freeman puts even more pressure on him for his second fight. If he loses, Pico can expect to hear murmurs and whispers of “he’s a bust” from unforgiving MMA fans. Pico needs to bounce back in a big way against Linn.

For more on Bellator 183, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: Bellator, News
Source: MMA Junkie