Bellator is making the most of its time overseas.
Last week the promotion visited 3Arena in Dublin, Ireland, for Bellator 187. On Thursday, the Bellator cage touches down at Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv, Israel, for Bellator 188, which airs Friday via tape-delay on Spike.
In the main event, Noad Lahat fights in his home country for the second time under the Bellator banner against Jeremiah Labiano in a featherweight contest.
In the co-headliner, Haim Gozali also fights in Israel for the second time with the promotion. Like Lahat, he won his first Bellator fight in his home country via first-round submission. Gozali faces Arsen Faitovich, who is 20 years his junior in a welterweight bout.
Also on the card is middleweight title hopeful John Salter, who puts his four-fight Bellator winning streak on the line against Jason Radcliffe.
Here are five reasons to watch Bellator 188.
1. Bringing it back home
After a 2-2 run with the UFC, Lahat signed with Bellator. In his promotional debut, which took place in Israel in late 2016, Lahat steamrolled Scott Cleve. He won the bout via first-round tapout. The Israeli-born Lahat followed that victory with a technical submission win over Lloyd Carter. With those two wins it looked like Lahat was prepared to step up and face the sharks who patrol the top of Bellator’s featherweight division.
At Bellator 182 Lahat faced former two-division King of the Cage champion Henry Corrales. Lahat, a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, could not overcome the striking of Corrales and lost a unanimous decision.
At Bellator 188, Lahat (11-3 MMA, 2-1 BMMA) heads back to Israel where he faces Labiano (11-5 MMA, 2-1 BMMA) in the headlining bout.
Labiano was set to face rising star James Gallagher in the main event of Bellator 187, but the Irish fighter suffered a knee injury before that contest, and the promotion shifted Labiano to this card.
Labiano, who is also a BJJ black belt, won the Conquer FC featherweight title in June. Lahat doesn’t have as much hype behind him as Gallagher, but if the American fighter can get a win here, he’ll be in position to move up in competition in his next outing.
2. A long, storied career
Gozali ‘s MMA career has been long but not very active. He made his pro debut in 1998 against a young Carlos Newton. He lost that bout to the future UFC champion by first-round submission. Over the next six years, Gozali went 5-0. He won each of those matchups by first-round stoppage. After more than two years away from the sport he faced Ronaldo Souza on a Jungle Fights card. Like the Newton fight, that “Jacare” bout ended with Gozali on the wrong end of a first-round submission.
After the loss to Souza, Gozali took almost six years off from MMA. He returned in 2012 and has gone 2-2 since then. His most recent bout was a decision loss to Ryan Couture at Bellator 180. That fight was the first time Gozali left the first round in his career.
The 44-year-old Gozali is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Renzo Gracie. As a BJJ player he was the first Israeli athlete to compete in an ADCC event, doing so in 2005. He also promotes Bellator fights in Israel.
Gozali meets Faitovich in this welterweight bout. The 24-year-old Ukrainian makes his Bellator debut on this card. Like Gozali (7-4 MMA, 1-1 BMMA), Faitovich (4-1 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) likes to work fast. His four wins have come by stoppage, while his only loss is a first-round knockout defeat.
3. In need of an impressive win
Before his Bellator 181 fight against Kendall Grove, Salter told MMAjunkie he wanted to have the Bellator middleweight title around his waist before 2018. That’s not going to happen since current champ Rafael Carvalho will defend that title in December at Bellator 190 against Alessio Sakara.
An additional roadblock was placed in Salter’s path when Gegard Mousasi joined the promotion’s 185-pound division and defeated former champ Alexander Shlemenko in October. Before the fight, Mousasi told MMAjunkie that Bellator promised him the winner of the Carvalho vs. Sakara fight with a win in that contest.
The black cloud over Salter’s head reappeared in the lead-up to Bellator 188. He was originally booked to face the 25-2 Anatoly Tokov on this card, but an injury put Tokov out of commission. Salter (14-3 MMA, 4-0 BMMA) now faces Jason Radcliffe, (12-4 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) who is on a two-fight losing skid.
Salter has been impressive during his run with Bellator. Four fights into it, he has racked up four stoppage victories, including a first-round submission win over former middleweight champion Brandon Halsey.
If Salter wants to stay in the mix for a title shot in the coming months, he needs to add a fifth stoppage victory.
4. Give it another go
If you’ve been following Bellator Kickboxing, the name Denise Kielholtz should be familiar. The 28-year-old Dutch fighter is 4-1 with the kickboxing promotion and 47-3 overall. She’s also the current Bellator Kickboxing flyweight champion.
Kielholtz tries her hand at MMA for the second time at Bellator 188. Her first MMA bout did not go well. She lost that 2015 contest via first-round submission at Torarica Summer Fights 1.
Kielholtz, who holds a kickboxing win over current Glory super bantamweight champion Tiffany van Soest, has heavy hands and is very effective when she throws counter combinations. Kielholtz (0-1 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) will need to rely on that speed in this flyweight bout against Jessica Middleton (2-2 MMA, 2-2 BMMA), who holds significant advantages in both height and reach.
Middleton began her MMA career with two wins, but she’s dropped her two most recent fights. All four of her bouts have come under the Bellator banner.
5. It’s been a busy year
Kirill Medvedovsky’s first run with Bellator lasted two fights. He lost both those contests by first-round stoppage. To be fair, the promotion didn’t give the young Israeli fighter easy matchups. In his first Bellator fight he faced former WSOF featherweight champ Georgi Karakhanyan in a 150-pound catchweight bout. Medvedovsky then faced Gallagher.
Since those losses, the 24-year-old has gone 4-1. Three of Medvedovsky’s victories came via first-round stoppage. His fourth win was a second-round technical submission.
The most eye-opening thing about that run is all seven of those fights have taken place since last November.
For his return to Bellator, Medvedovsky (11-5 MMA, 0-2 BMMA) gets an opponent who is more in line with his experience level. Luiz Victor Rocha, who trains with Pitbull Brothers, is 3-1. Rocha (3-1 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) has two wins by decision and one TKO.
This bout should be a good opportunity for Medvedovsky to show that he can fight on the big stage while also providing an introduction to the 28-year-old Rocha, who makes his Bellator debut on this card.
For more on Bellator 188, check out the MMA Rumors section of the
Filed under: Bellator, News
Source: MMA Junkie