Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News, Videos
Saturday’s Bellator NYC card has a little bit of everything.
In the main event, there’s a grudge match seven years in the making. The co-main event features the return of an MMA legend making his Bellator debut. Before that, three champions will put their titles on the line.
And ff that’s not enough, one of the hottest prospects in the promotion looks to extend his unbeaten streak, and a blue-chip signing makes his professional MMA debut.
The bout at the top of the card, Chael Sonnen vs. Wanderlei Silva was first set to take place at UFC 175 in July 2014, but a failed drug test from Sonnen and an evaded drug test from Silva canceled that bout. Now, almost three years later, they settle their differences in Bellator.
In the co-main event, Fedor Emelianenko fights in America for the first time in nearly six years, facing Matt Mitrione.
Bellator NYC takes place at Madison Square Garden and airs on pay-per-view following the Bellator 180 card on Spike and early prelims streaming on MMAjunkie.
Here are 10 reasons to watch Bellator’s first New York event.
1. It’s personal
You often hear how fighters shouldn’t become emotionally invested in a fight. You would think Silva, who is competing in his 50th professional bout, would have received that memo at least once. Yet, here we are, with Silva bringing an emotional mindset into his light heavyweight fight against Sonnen.
“For sure I’m going to hurt him, a lot,” Silva told MMAjunkie Radio. “I want to feel his blood on the ground.”
The long-simmering rivalry between Silva (35-12-1 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) and Sonnen (28-15-1 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) seems to be more personal for Silva. Sure, Sonnen has played his part in the rivalry, but Sonnen’s role has mostly come across as premeditated, designed to elicit a response he can take advantage of.
Now we’re left to wonder if Silva will lose focus and be full of rage or if his hatred will have him completely dialed in. The answer could decide the winner of this fight.
2. This one? Not so personal
One fighter who won’t be emotional is Emelianenko. Throughout his career he’s been the standard-bearer for the bored MMA fighter countenance. Yes, Gegard Mousasi and Gunnar Nelson have picked up the mantle, but Emelianenko will always be the master.
What we don’t know is if Mitrione (11-5 MMA, 2-0 BMMA), who is No. 13 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie heavyweight rankings, will share that same detached air. If he doesn’t, if the idea of adding Emelianenko (36-4 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) to his list of victories leads him to over-commit in his quest for the finish, Mitrione could find himself looking up at the ceiling of Madison Square Garden.
As an aside, don’t be surprised if the winner is fighting for the vacant Bellator heavyweight title next.
3. We’re talking power
After a 2-4 run at middleweight in the UFC, Lorenz Larkin dropped to welterweight where he went 4-1, recording three TKOs, including a first-round stoppage of Neil Magny in his most recent bout. Despite his success, the UFC didn’t make much of an effort to retain Larkin’s services when he hit free agency, so he opted to sign with Bellator.
That decision proved to be a wise one. The No. 7 ranked Larkin is fighting for gold in his Bellator debut, meeting welterweight champion, No. 13 Douglas Lima.
Like Larkin (18-5 MMA, 0-0 BMMA), Lima (28-6 MMA, 10-2 BMMA) packs a lot of power. Lima holds the record for most knockouts in Bellator history with eight, seven of those as a welterweight, including his third-round knockout of Andrey Koreshkov in November, which earned him the 170-pound title for the second time.
4. A matter of experience
After seven professional fights, Brent Primus takes a big step up in competition, facing lightweight champion Michael Chandler. It’s fair to wonder if Primus is ready to mix it up with someone as experienced as Chandler.
Before this bout, the biggest name Primus faced was Derek Anderson, who Primus defeated in 2015 via split decision. The No. 11-ranked Chandler, on the other hand, has been fighting the best in Bellator for a long while.
The inclination here is to look at Primus’ (7-0 MMA, 5-0 BMMA) experience level and his inactivity – no fights in 2017 and only one per year from 2014-2016 – and think he’s overmatched, but is he? Chandler (16-3 MMA, 13-3 BMMA) has been in some wars over the years, and at some point those fights take their toll. With this being Chandler’s 20th pro fight after a long wrestling career, that’s a concern.
5. First step toward greatness?
In November 2014, Bellator signed then 18-year-old Aaron Pico to a “long-term” deal. At that time, Pico was hopeful he would make the 2016 U.S. Olympic wrestling team. He fell short of his goal, losing a best of three (via criteria) to the eventual fifth-place finisher, Frank Molinaro.
Pico (0-0 MMA, 0-0 BMMA), now 20, makes his professional MMA debut in New York, where he faces Zach Freeman at featherweight in the first fight on the pay-per-view. Freeman (8-2 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) has been fighting professionally since 2011. His last bout was a five-round unanimous decision loss to Thiago Moises for the RFA lightweight title in September.
Back in 2015, Bellator president Scott Coker told MMAjunkie that during one of their conversations Pico said “I want to be the greatest combat fighter that ever lived.” He takes his first step toward that goal in NYC.
6. This time will be different
The first fight between Phil Davis and Ryan Bader took place in the UFC in January 2015. At the time, both were ranked No. 6 and No. 8 in the division, respectively. Bader won by split decision. A few months later, Davis signed with Bellator, where he is currently the light heavyweight champion, defeating Liam McGeary for that title in November. While Davis (17-3 MMA, 4-0 BMMA) was running up a 4-0 record in Bellator, Bader (22-5 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) went 3-1 in the UFC, fighting out his contract before he, too, jumped to Bellator in March.
While no one was clamoring for a rematch after their first meeting, the two headline the Bellator 180 Spike-televised card. Bader, now ranked No. 4 in the division, told MMAjunkie that fans should expect a different fight when he faces No. 3 Davis.
“I feel like I’ve grown tremendously in my stand-up, my ground game and everywhere, really,” Bader said. “My mental game is just so far beyond where I was then also. I think that’s going to carry some weight in this new fight. I think I’ve progressed more than he has.”
7. Your attention, please
Three fights into his Bellator run, unbeaten 20-year-old James Gallagher has captured the attention of fans and fighters.
In February, Pico promised Gallagher a “red, white and blue ass whipping.” More recently, unbeaten rising star A.J. McKee referred to Gallagher as “a joke,” a “little Irish schmuck” and said he would “whoop his ass in his hometown,” after Gallagher called out McKee following his February submission win over Kirill Medvedovsky.
Before Gallagher (6-0 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) gets booked against Pico or McKee, he has to get past fellow featherweight Chinzo Machida (5-2 MMA, 2-0 BMMA), the 40-year-old brother of former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida. Chinzo is also unbeaten in Bellator, with two knockouts, most recently stopping Jamar Ocampo in January.
8. A familiar name
The Gracie name is a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because fight fans will always be intrigued when a Gracie competes. It’s a curse because fans can put unfair expectations on Gracie fighters.
Neiman Gracie has lived up to his famous last name during his MMA career. Gracie is unbeaten with four submission wins in five fights. A very patient competitor when looking to secure a tap, Gracie can also quickly transition to a secondary submission option if the opportunity presents itself, something he displayed in his last fight, a first-round submission victory over Rudy Bears.
Gracie (5-0 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) faces Dave Marfone (5-2 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) in a welterweight bout. Marfone is coming off a TKO loss to Stephen Regman at CFFC 63 in February.
9. Giving this MMA thing a go
Keri Anne Taylor-Melendez was supposed to face Sadee Monserrate Williams on the Spike-televised portion of this event, but an injury scrapped that contest. And while that’s a bummer, it opened the door for Heather Hardy’s flyweight bout vs. Alice Yauger to be moved to Spike.
Hardy (0-0 MMA, 0-0 BMMA), a New York-based boxer who trains out of the famed Gleason’s Gym, is unbeaten in 20 boxing contests. She makes her MMA debut against Yauger (4-5 MMA, 0-1 BMMA), who is coming off a decision loss to Jessica Middleton at Bellator 171.
Hardy was set to debut with Invicta in January, but that fight fell through. Hardy subsequently became a free agent, signing with Bellator. Hardy plans on competing in both boxing and MMA.
10. You know the voices
Bellator made some moves on the commentating front ahead of this event. Earlier this month, the promotion announced it had signed former longtime UFC play-by-play announcer Mike Goldberg, along with Mauro Ranallo, when Sean Grande departed his play-by-play duties.
Goldberg and Ranallo will both work the New York event. Ranallo will work play-by-play for the pay-per-view card alongside color commentator Jimmy Smith, with Goldberg anchoring the desk. For the Spike-televised portion of the card, as well as the live-streamed prelims, it will be Goldberg on play-by-play with Smith; Ranallo will serve as host on the desk.
For more on Bellator NYC and Bellator 180, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.
Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News, Videos
Source: MMA Junkie