Twitter Mailbag: Why are we talking about McGregor-Diaz III like it's a done deal? There's a reason

In this week’s Twitter Mailbag, are we really all-in for McGregor-Diaz III, or are we just desperate for a big fight to look forward to? Also, what happens if GSP becomes UFC middleweight champ? And is it better for fighters to be deep thinkers or non-thinkers?

All that and more in this week’s Twitter Mailbag. To ask a question of your own, tweet to @BenFowlkesMMA.

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Want to know how easily manipulated the MMA media news cycle is these days, now that there’s not much going on and very little of immediate interest to discuss? All it takes is for Conor McGregor’s longtime coach John Kavanagh to throw a coin in the wishing well with a date and location attached, and suddenly we’re all talking about this Nate Diaz fight in March like it’s practically a done deal.

It’s not. That’s just fantasy matchmaking, and Kavanagh’s the first to admit that he has almost no power to make it happen. But we’re desperate. What else are we supposed to get excited about, interim title fights and the UFC’s debut in Gdansk, Poland? It’s tough out there, and we’ll take any port in a storm.

Yes I do, barely, but does it even matter? The sole reason to do this fight again (instead of, say, an actual UFC lightweight title fight against an actual lightweight contender, of which there are several) would because it would likely make a bunch of money. That’s the hope, anyway. And that hope is based on the pay-per-view numbers from the first two fights, which combined to give the UFC a monster financial year in 2016.

As you may have noticed, 2017 is not shaping up to be quite as monstrous on PPV. The new UFC owners paid a fortune for this thing, and now there’s debt to be paid but precious few superstars to bring in the kind of money that might help pay it. In times like these, no one in the position to make decisions at the UFC cares about the scorecards in McGregor-Diaz II.

Brother, if we can convince the MMA gods to accept Paige VanZant vs. Jessica Eye in return for keeping their malicious mitts off Francis Ngannou vs. Alistair Overeem, let’s just say we’ll have made one excellent trade.

That said, I have to favor Ngannou in this fight. He’s a big, young, athletic guy who hits hard and with plenty of confidence. Overeem has looked a little chinny in recent years, and when people get in his face and stay there he sometimes struggles. I don’t see him taking Ngannou down and beating him there. If he can’t keep Ngannou at kicking range, trouble abounds for “The Reem.”

Then again, these are heavyweights we’re talking about here. I’d sooner bet on a literal coin flip.

Chaos. Mass hysteria. Dogs and cats living together. You know, the usual.

First of all, I think it’s unlikely that Georges St-Pierre beats Michael Bisping. He’s just been out of action so long, and his style isn’t well-suited to beating a bigger man with good cardio and high work rate, who also happens to be a pretty sound defensive wrestler.

But GSP is still GSP, and Bisping is an aging middleweight with plenty of miles on the odometer, so it’s not unthinkable for St-Pierre to become the new UFC middleweight champ.

What happens then, you ask? One thing I don’t see St-Pierre doing is turning right around and defending his belt against Robert Whittaker. I think it’s more likely he looks around for another money fight (maybe against someone whose name rhymes with Bonor McEgger…) outside the division. Maybe he even decides that he’s proven what he had to prove and made the money he came back to make, so he returns to the solace of retirement.

Where would that leave the middleweight division? More or less where it is now, with everyone feeling pretty certain that “Bobby Knuckles” is the man to beat.

You’re asking the wrong question. It’s not a matter of smart vs. dumb, in part because there’s all different kinds of smart, just like there’s all different kinds of dumb. The real mental difference between fighters, according to my observations, is thoughtful vs. not thoughtful.

What I mean by that is, some fighters are very self-aware and introspective and honest with themselves. Others are very not. And while one hates to generalize, yeah, there does seem to be a difference in success rate, and it often favors the less thoughtful fighters – up to a point.

Take somebody like Uriah Hall, for instance. He’s been open about his struggles to get out of his own head at times, which is a problem that most of us would have if our jobs were entirely dependent on one brief physical performance every few months. An introspective person could drive themselves crazy in this business.

But then you have other fighters who rarely seem to struggle with doubt, as if their success is somehow preordained. They are confident almost to the point of being delusional. They don’t even think about all the negative “what if” questions, and it’s not because they’re intentionally avoiding them. Those possibilities just don’t occur to them, because they can only think one way about this stuff.

Greg Jackson likes to say that fighters have to be optimists. You can see his point, because if you get too honest with yourself about this sport and all the ways it can go, you probably wouldn’t ever set foot in the cage.

The problem is, those who manage to stay out of their own heads often have trouble being honest with themselves when they need to be. They can’t or won’t perform necessary risk-versus-reward calculations. They just go. Even when they should stop.

We’re not quite there yet, but such a test might soon be a reality. (You can read more about that here.)  If and when that does happen, it could change how we think about violent sports, but I suspect it will have a much greater impact on football than on MMA.

Think about it: Football is an extracurricular activity in America. It’s a game. We grow up playing it in school, as kids, which feeds our fandom as adults. If we become so collectively horrified at the consequences of it that we stop supporting it as this vast American institution, it can’t help but harm the future of the sport and leagues like the NFL.

Fighting, on the other hand? It doesn’t have so far to fall. It’s always been looked at as this brutal fringe of sports culture. You can still put kids in helmets and shoulder pads, but if you throw them in a cage to punch each other you’re likely to be branded a madman.

Most parents already don’t want their kids to take up full-contact mixed martial arts fighting. They don’t view it as an after-school activity. You don’t get a college scholarship that way; you break bones and lose teeth.

If people find out that tackle football is inherently bad for brain health, they might rethink a giant piece of American culture. If they find out the same about fighting, they might just see it as confirmation of what they already suspected.

But if he retires, how is Nick Diaz going to rematch both Anderson Silva and Takanori Gomi in the same night of some insane Rizin FF tournament on New Year’s Eve 2019? Dammit, man. You’ve got to think this stuff through.

I doubt it, because what do Benson Henderson’s and Lorenz Larkin’s losses really tell us? What, that Bellator fighters aren’t pushovers? Seems like that should be obvious to pro fighters who are capable of looking past the brand name and recognizing skill when they see it.

Also, if your main consideration is finding the easiest fights possible, that’s not a great argument for sticking with the UFC, where the talent pool is deeper in just about every division. Free agency is about money, and sometimes also respect and freedom. You don’t make it far enough to be in that conversation if you’re only interested in easy fights.

Henderson is definitely a good fighter, but at this point he’s pretty set in his ways. When he’s getting beat up, you’ll see him pull off (or at least attempt) some fun stuff. When he thinks he’s winning, however, he gets a lot more risk-averse.

The result is that, when it’s close, he tends to feel like he’s already winning. He fights like he doesn’t want to screw around and lose, rather than fighting like he wants to make absolutely certain that he wins.

If there’s any good news, is that at this point he has more to gain than lose by going out there and taking some risks. It’s just a question of whether can really just his approach this far into his career.

First of all, thank you for illustrating what a bad idea the expanded Twitter character count is. I think we can all look at the terrifying example you have provided and conclude that this is not a world we want to live in. So, um, good work?

Second, Rashad Evans is far from the first fighter to ever feel this way. It’s the dilemma of the former champion in decline. He doesn’t want to quit on a loss, but a win would only convince him that he can still do it.

And sure, there are light heavyweights he could beat. There’s probably easier prey at the bottom of that division than there is at middleweight. But is that really what would make this easier for him, just hunting around for a warm body he could beat, for the sole purpose of having a W next to his name at the very end of his career? I suspect that it wouldn’t give him the peace he’s looking for, but I don’t expect that to stop him now.

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMAjunkie.

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Lorenz Larkin congratulates Paul Daley for Bellator 183 KO, but wants rematch

Lorenz Larkin is not throwing himself a pity party after his knockout loss to Paul Daley at Bellator 183 this past Saturday, but he does want a second chance.

Larkin (18-7 MMA, 0-2 BMMA), who made no secret of his disdain for Daley (40-15-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) ahead of their welterweight bout at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., encountered another setback early in his Bellator run when he succumbed to a second-round knockout loss at the hands of “Semtex.”

When two strikers the caliber of Larkin and Daley opt to trade blows, it’s a roll of the dice over who could go down first. At Bellator 183 it was Larkin, and while disappointing to lose a fight to someone he dislikes so much, “The Monsoon” is taking it in stride (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

Hey you win some and lose some and in this sport you can be on top of the world one minute and feel like a piece of shit the next but hey thats the fight game hat’s off to Daley hopefully you will let me run it back in the future

Regardless of Larkin’s positive attitude, it’s obvious his Bellator run has been less than ideal so far. After falling short of the welterweight title against Douglas Lima in his debut at Bellator NYC in June, Larkin came back for the bout with Daley, which did not go his way, either.

The outcome marked just the second time in Larkin’s career that he’s been stopped with strikes. And while he knows it’s unlikely for the immediate future, he hopes for the chance to eventually redeem himself in a rematch with Daley.

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

Bellator 183 winner Paul Daley made peace with Lorenz Larkin following KO

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SAN JOSE, Calif. – Paul Daley on Saturday proved he’s still one of the best welterweights in the world when he demolished Lorenz Larkin for a second-round knockout in the Bellator 183 co-main event.

After losing a lopsided fight to Rory MacDonald earlier this year, Daley (40-15-2 MMA, 6-2 BMMA) bounced back with a stellar performance against former Bellator title challenger Larkin (18-8 MMA, 0-2 BMMA), finishing the fight with yet another highlight knockout for his lengthy sizzle-reel.

Daley’s victory, which co-headlined the Spike-televised card at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., following prelims streamed on MMAjunkie, was easily the most significant of his Bellator career, but it certainly wasn’t surprising to him.

“People, they just underestimate the power so much,” Daley told MMAjunkie after his win. “I don’t understand why. I’ve got 40 wins and 35 knockouts. Why would you want to stand and trade with me? It’s ridiculous. But I got the win. I’m happy, and I’m looking on to the future now, getting into title contention, big names, big fights and more money.

“Every time I get a knockout I feel fantastic. Winning definitely beats losing. The last time I lost against Rory MacDonald, so, it’s fantastic. Lorenz, he was just in my changing room, he’s genuinely a nice guy. He said I got under his skin a bit, and he just wasn’t used to the whole trash-talking thing. He’s a top name. He’s beaten former UFC champions. He’s beaten some top guys. For me, it’s a massive, massive win.”

Daley’s patented left hook was certainly the most significant contributor to his win, but apparently the mental warfare prior to the contest was meaningful, as well. The Brit talked a big game ahead of Bellator 183, as he normally does before his fights, and Larkin was admittedly irked by it.

That tension spilled over to the ceremonial weigh-ins a day prior to the event, when Larkin decided to push Daley and engage in a scuffle during the staredown. Daley said the weigh-in antics somewhat got to him, but apparently not as much as Larkin, who “Semtex” had a peace-making moment with backstage after the fight.

“He came back to the changing rooms, and we spoke a little bit,” Daley revealed. “He’s a cool guy. I don’t know why everyone gets so wound up. They know what (expletive) I’m going to do; I do it every time. I talk a bit of (expletive). I wind them up at the press conference or whatever. He just bit.”

Daley’s win kept his position as one of the top 170-pound contenders in Bellator. At 34, he has said he only has a few years of fighting left, and he wants to use that time participating in the biggest fights possible.

A matchup that’s been brewing with great fan interest is against his countryman Michael Page (12-0 MMA, 8-0 BMMA). There appears to be a genuine disdain between the two competitors, and Daley said it’s just a matter of time until they share the cage, even if he doesn’t see “MVP” as being on his level.

“‘MVP’s’ been talking, but with this win, I think I’ve leapt over that kind of fight,” Daley said. “But I’m open to the fight, because it’s a big fight. I’m just looking for the money and waiting for the title shot. Standup fighters like ‘MVP,’ they can’t beat me. They don’t understand I just have to touch them once, and then it’s lights out. So, it’s whatever. Whatever happens.”

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

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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Source: MMA Junkie

Twitter reacts to Paul Daley's wild knockout of Lorenz Larkin at Bellator 183

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Filed under: Bellator, News

Paul Daley claimed he wasn’t worried about anything Lorenz Larkin offered in their fight, and ultimately he backed up his words with a victory in Saturday’s Bellator 183 co-main event.

Daley (40-15-2 MMA, 6-2 BMMA) talked a big game prior to his welterweight encounter with Larkin (18-7 MMA, 0-2 BMMA). It paid off, because “Semtex” earned a second-round knockout victory in the Spike-televised co-headliner at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., to put himself back in the mix of 170-pound contenders.

Check out the top Twitter reactions to Daley’s victory over Larkin at Bellator 183.

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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

Bellator 183 results: Paul Daley lays out Lorenz Larkin

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An inventive combination served as the last word in Paul Daley’s rivalry with Lorenz Larkin.

Daley (40-15-2 MMA, 6-2 BMMA) got Larkin (18-7 MMA, 0-2 BMMA) to duck on a spinning backfist and then nailed him with a pair of left hands to earn a TKO at the 2:40 mark of the second frame.

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

Afterward, Daley called out another rival, striking sensation Michael “Venom” Page.

“A little young boy called ‘MVP’ that’s been talking,” Daley said. “Get that little punk in here with me. He’s getting knocked out, as well.”

Like that bad blood, Daley and Larkin came into the fight looking to settle a score after trading barbs in the press. They nearly got into it at Friday’s ceremonial weigh-ins.

But Daley’s finish came after a tough opening round. As he tried to keep distance with kicks, Larkin made his mark by sneaking in punches as the British striker retreated.

A slip from Daley put Larkin on top late in the frame, and he closed out the round after shrugging off a rare submission attempt from his rival.

When Daley tried to get revenge early in the second, he found himself stuffed against the cage. Larkin then easily stuffed a rare takedown attempt from Daley and appeared to be setting up for something big.

But instead, he found himself the victim of a Daley combination that added another clip to the highlight reel.

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

  • Paul Daley def. Lorenz Larkin via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 2:40
  • Roy Nelson def. Jay Ayala via unanimous decision (30-26, 29-28, 29-28)
  • 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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Chaos erupts between Lorenz Larkin, Paul Daley at Bellator 183 weigh-ins

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SAN JOSE, Calif. – Lorenz Larkin has made no secret about his disdain for Paul Daley in the lead-up to their welterweight clash at Bellator 183 on Saturday. Today’s ceremonial weigh-ins for the event provided the clearest example.

In their first and last face-to-face meeting ahead of the event, which takes place at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., and airs on Spike following prelims on MMAjunkie, Larkin got heated and pushed Daley after “Semtex” got in his face.

Daley (39-15-2 MMA, 5-2 BMMA), who is no stranger to being involved with antics outside the cage, replied in kind, going after Larkin (18-6 MMA, 0-1 BMMA). The fighters continued to pursue each other, but fortunately there was enough Bellator staff present on stage that the situation was diffused before getting completely out of hand.

The beef going into the fight is relatively one-sided, with Larkin claiming he dislikes Daley so much that simply talking about him takes “months off my life.”

Daley, however, laughs off the whole thing.

“The fact it’s getting so heated up is just comical,” he told MMAjunkie. “But I hope he brings that same intensity into the ring.”

Watch the complete weigh-in video above or below to hear what was said on stage.

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

Instagram Photo

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Source: MMA Junkie

Bellator 183's Paul Daley: Only Nick Diaz and Douglas Lima were men of their word

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SAN JOSE, Calif. – A lot of fighters talk a big game, but Paul Daley said only Nick Diaz and Douglas Lima walked the walk after talking the talk.

Big-show vet Daley (39-15-2 MMA, 5-2 BMMA) meets former UFC fighter and recent Bellator arrival Lorenz Larkin (18-6 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) on Saturday at Bellator 183.

The welterweight fight, which airs on Spike from SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., has already created some fireworks. They’ve been out of the cage, though, as Larkin has spoken openly and often about his disdain for Daley’s perceived insincere trash-talk.

But Daley?

“The fact it’s getting so heated up is just comical,” he told MMAjunkie. “But I hope he brings that same intensity into the ring.”

After all, Daley, a 33-year-old vet with 29 knockouts in 39 career wins, has faced many opponents who promised to stand and bag with the British slugger – only look to look for a reprieve once they got rattled.

There have been a few exceptions, Daley said.

“I think there are two people in my career … who felt the heat and stayed on their feet and not attempted to clinch or go for a takedown, and that’s Douglas Lima and Nick Diaz,” he said. “That’s the only two guys in over 53 fights.”

Lima picked up a unanimous-decision win over Daley in July 2016, and Diaz scored a TKO win over Daly at a 2011 Strikeforce event. They’re not Daley’s only career losses, but he said those two past opponents really stand out.

“Those are the only two guys I’ve hit and stayed up, and they haven’t tried to take me down or play a different game, and they kept coming after it,” Daley said. “I just hope Lorenz does too.”

Check out the full interview as Daley breaks down the matchup, talks about his potential retirement, what he wants his legacy to be, and whether a fight with rival Michael Page ever happens.

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

Filed under: Bellator, News, Videos
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

Despite mixed results, high hopes for ex-UFC fighters in Bellator

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(This story appears in today’s print edition of USA TODAY.)

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Former UFC and WEC lightweight champion Benson Henderson once was considered the best 155-pound MMA fighter on the planet.

Now, four years after his time on the throne, and three fights into his run at Bellator MMA, Henderson is staring at a 1-2 record in his new promotional home.

“I feel like Bellator definitely deserves a couple of great performances,” Henderson told MMAjunkie on Thursday. “I haven’t given Bellator great performances, and I feel like they deserve me giving them a few great performances.”

There have been extenuating circumstances, to be sure. Competing in all three contests with a torn ACL – since surgically repaired – certainly couldn’t have helped. And facing then-welterweight champ Andrey Koreshkov and then-lightweight champ Michael Chandler, both of whom reside in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA rankings in their respective divisions, ensured Henderson didn’t have an easy run after departing the UFC.

On Saturday, Henderson (24-7 MMA, 1-2 BMMA) has an opportunity to right the ship when he takes on Brazilian knockout artist Patricky Freire (17-8, 10-7) in the main event of Bellator 183, which airs on Spike (9 p.m. ET) from SAP Center in San Jose, Calif.

For Henderson, who will turn 34 in November, the result could prove telling in terms of what he still has to offer the sport nearly 11 years into his professional career. But the former UFC standout’s performance also could hold significance as either a beaming example or cautionary tale of what happens to fighters who leave MMA’s top promotion seeking greener pastures in the only company that currently can claim to be a competitive threat.

“Bellator is not a victory lap,” Bellator broadcast analyst Jimmy Smith said. “Can Benson Henderson … stay in the danger zone long enough to win a fight against a guy who, with one shot, can put him away? That’s the question.”

Henderson is not alone in his struggles to adjust to life in the Bellator cage. Prized welterweight free agent Lorenz Larkin (18-6, 0-1) debuted for the promotion in June and suffered a lackluster decision loss to current champ Diego Lima. “The Monsoon” fights at Bellator 183, as well, against veteran British slugger Paul Daley (39-15-2, 5-2).

Fan favorite heavyweight Roy Nelson (22-14, 0-0), who fought 19 times under the UFC banner, will make his promotional debut at Bellator 183, as well, and will try to avoid a similar stumble in his first appearance.

“It’s just been exciting,” Nelson said of the buildup. “Like when you wake up for a new job, even though it’s the same old job, but you’re just like, ‘This is a new job,’ and you want to put your best foot forward? You’re just excited, and I’m just excited to get back in there.”

The trio of recent UFC fighters are part of a growing list of octagon veterans now gracing the Bellator roster. There’s no question the UFC remains the dominant brand in the space, but Bellator President Scott Coker, who once presided over a Strikeforce promotion that employed fighters such as Daniel Cormier, Cris Cyborg, Robbie Lawler, Luke Rockhold and Tyron Woodley before they were UFC champions, believes his current company is primed for continued growth.

“It’s not about the league – it’s about the athlete,” Coker said.

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

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