After a weekend of fighting fun in the Big Apple at the Mecca of sports, Madison Square Garden, Bellator 223 goes down in London, England this Saturday evening by Eastern Time Standards.
You can catch the main card on the Bellator App at 5:00 PM EST and the entire lineup of fights on tape delay 4 hours later at 2100.
Before we get into the matchups from London, let’s recap last week’s show from NY.
Unfortunately, we went 1-2 for the night.
The betting started with Darion Caldwell vs Kyoji Horiguchi. The former was the slight favorite even though he lost their first fight in Japan just half a year ago.
I picked Caldwell because he controlled all of the action in the first fight and just got lazy sitting in the butterfly guard of the Japanese superstar and was quickly submitted with a guillotine choke.
With the first fight being held in a ring and this one in a cage, it only favored the former National Champion wrestler.
Caldwell did everything he wanted to in this fight. He took him down at will and controlled him on the ground.
Unfortunately for him, the judges unanimously awarded the decision to Horiguchi.
Okay, but we’ve seen that before and guys still easily get the nod from the judges.
Well, he didn’t even really try to ground and pound his foe while Kyogi took every opportunity possible to hit the former Nittany Lion.
Now, New York is very very green to the MMA game as it was just legalized a couple of years ago. They have definitely had their share of stumbles out of the gate, but I think they got this one right.
This is fighting, not wrestling and competitors should at minimum be looking to do damage or advance position at all times.
Personally, I think every fighter should be out there trying to finish ever fight but I understand there will always be guys to play to the rules.
Okay, rant over.
We lost that one and I thought there was some value in Chael Sonnen at a 3-1 underdog to beat “The Dragon” Lyoto Machida.
Boy, was I off.
Surprising to many, Sonnen was able to close the distance but then couldn’t get the man down.
A little bit of footwork with some telegraphed takedown attempts, and a couple flying knees later, that was a wrap.
A wrap not only for the fight but for Chael Sonnen’s career as well.
“The American Gangster” was never able to fulfill a promise to his late father and win a world title but he need not be ashamed in the slightest.
Chael fought the best fighters of all-time.
Rory Macdonald saved us from taking the proverbial goose egg for the night when he not only out-jabbed Neiman Gracie but bravely took him down repeatedly and landed ground and pounded his way to a unanimous decision win.
A bit winded for a recap but the “fighters should finish” soapbox got me and Chael retiring was a big deal.
On to the present.
There are only 3 fights on this week’s main card from the UK with betting odds provided by BetOnline, but there could be some upsets.
Let’s get to ‘em.
James Gallagher vs Jeremiah Labiano
Okay, this fight will likely be the biggest test for both the underdog Labiano and the favorite Gallagher.
James Gallagher out of Ireland is branding himself after “The Notorious” Conor McGregor.
Can you blame him?
He is not nearly the striker of McGregor’s level but appears to be quite the submission ace.
He patterns his striking game after Mac, so maybe he will have more success in that department in the future.
While he may be a little too big for his britches, I think he has the sauce to take out the Filipino American Labiano.
Jeremiah will have the advantage in experience, but will that be enough?
He has never been submitted…
This isn’t a submission only tournament, though, and Gallagher has solid ground and pound.
Bellator likes to push certain fighters for success just like any organization including the UFC and I definitely believe they want Gallagher to win this one.
It might not be the cleanest victory and the betting line should maybe be a point closer each way but I’ll still take James Gallagher to get it done.
He is rather expensive at nearly 4 to 1 so maybe we can parlay him with one of the other two fights.
Paul Daley vs Erick Silva
This is another one where I feel like the favorite “should” win but (-310) is maybe a bit much.
Paul Daley and Erick Silva are both UFC veterans with plenty of experience.
Both men can strike well, although the Brit Daley is more polished in that particular facet of the game.
Erick Silva left the UFC after losing some fights, albeit to solid competition but then tested positive for steroids.
He is likely back on the juice now and that definitely makes a difference.
Erick also likes to switch to southpaw and that will have him one step closer towards a potential takedown and, for his sake, hopefully, neutralize Daley’s lethal left hook.
Looking back at Erick’s loss to Yancy Madeiros and it was a left hook that stopped him but he was standing orthodox at the time. The fight was competitive and Erick probably would have won a decision before it ended in the third round.
I think it will behoove the Brazilian to stay southpaw opposite the deadly Daley.
Erick’s last 4 wins have come by way of submission but I really don’t know if I can trust him to even attempt the takedown in this one. He really loves to strike and it’ll most likely spell the end for the Brazilian.
I did, however, uncover this snippet from a recent interview.
“The current Erick and the Erick from the beginning of my career are totally different fighters. Today, I have a better perception of myself and I see some of the flaws that the old me had before. Old Erick was a more explosive athlete who stepped in there without fear and that failure cost me which led to defeats. On the other hand, today’s Erick is a more experienced athlete who can come up with a strategy for the fight that can lead to victory.”
Well, he says he’s changed man and I think he has the skill set to defeat Daley.
I’m going to go with my gut on this one, guys.
Gegard Mousasi vs Rafael Lovato Jr
Wow, another expensive favorite!
Gegard, in my opinion, is one of the top ten pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
I’m still not sure how or why the UFC let him go.
He had only won his final 5 consecutive fights for the organization including convincingly avenging a loss to the exciting Uriah Hall and finishing 4 of those contests.
What more could he have done?
Let’s be honest.
He isn’t Conor McGregor on the mic but who is?
He finishes fights and Dana White is always preaching that, as he should.
That’s the past, though, and Mousasi appears to be fighting better than ever.
He has a very solid frame and chin, good wrestling, and even better Judo.
It is his mind, though, that I believe is his most lethal weapon.
Who knew, right?
A movie over two decades old would feature a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu exchange in the final scene with the big boss, Mr. Gary Busey.
And by the Braveheart himself, too?!
Seriously, though, Mousasi is as cool and calculated a fighter as we have ever seen compete in the cage.
He has reeled off 8 straight wins and I believe it is going to take someone with stellar takedown defense and elite speed to defeat him as really his only weakness is that he is a bit slow of hand and foot.
His opponent, Rafael Lovato Jr, isn’t really that guy.
While he is rather new to the MMA circuit, he isn’t really new to earth.
The Oklahoman of Brazilian heritage is 35 years old.
Most of his combat sport work has been done on the BJJ and grappling circuit as he holds far too many international medals and titles to mention.
He is a 4th-degree black belt under Saulo Ribeiro.
Rafael, pronounced “Hafael” is scary scary good on the ground.
In over 50 fights, though, he opponent Mousasi has only two submission losses and they came nearly a decade apart in 2006 and again by another world champion “Jacare” Souza in 2014.
Will Lovato Jr be able to get this fight to the ground?
That is the biggest question here.
I believe Gegard has the defense to stop him, especially with his Judo background.
Gegard mainly likes to box, though, and Lovato’s has some very quick high kicks.
I don’t care how much of a punch you can take, shin to chin is a different story.
Look, Rafael has nothing to lose here.
And neither do you.
Unless you want to risk 100 bucks just to cash a Jackson, I say take the dog.
Mousasi’s best game is top control with ground and pound and he may be smart enough to stay away from that against a world class grappler.
That leaves a slow boxer vs a kickboxer who has zero pressure on him.
At 3 to 1 too?
I’ll take it.
3 massive favorites?
What to do?
If you parlay all three favorites, you barely get even money.
While I don’t think that’s the worst idea ever, each dog has ways of winning.
Even the Gallagher Labiano fight could go the other way.
Filipinos are always fighting with extraordinary heart, will, and tenacity and looking back at some of Labiano’s wins and losses, I didn’t see any difference.
Erick Silva has shown a weak chin but he says he’s matured and maybe he is finally coming into his own as the all-around top five fighters we heard about when he got into the UFC.
I think it all happened a bit too fast for the young man and he believed his own hype which, if your job is being a prize fighter, it’s extremely hard not to do.
As for the main event, hey, Mous should win this but I don’t think he’s worth the price.
Let these dogs ride this weekend and enjoy the show.