All the talk of the MMA world is heavily-focused on UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi.
Bellator 226 features a heavyweight title match, though!
Scott Coker, the promoter of Bellator, made an interesting call putting this card on the same day as such an anticipated UFC.
The UFC event is, of course, taking place in the Middle East in primetime there so the American hardcore fans will be treated to a double dose if they desire.
I’m sure a few significant others and night time football games may suggest otherwise but MMA fans are pretty dedicated.
In the main event, Cheick Kongo challenges Ryan Bader for the heavyweight strap.
Kongo has been on a big run as of late but it’s hard to tell if he’s actually turned the corner towards greatness like the champion due to a low-level of competition.
Bader is a sizeable favorite as he should be but in heavyweight MMA, it only takes one punch.
Well, in the case of Kongo maybe a well-placed knee to the noogies followed by a flurry of right hands.
Preceding the main event is what the hardcore MMA fans are especially concerned about.
This weekend is the first round of the Featherweight Grand Prix Tournament.
Three former featherweight world champions of the promotion will be fighting in this half of the bracket on Saturday night.
Daniel Straus, Pat Curran, and Emmanuel Sanchez are each killers. Two of them, though, may be on their way down the hill.
Kicking off the betting action, literally, will be “The Dream Killer” Gaston Balanos; a young man from Peru who is a protege of Kevin Ross, an American Muay Thai legend.
Balanos is a dangerous with every limb but a sniper with his spinning elbow, in particular.
I actually got the “privilege” one day to do some light sparring with Gaston as he was getting ready for a tall skinny fighter. Kevin Ross used to train and teach where I was in Vegas and Gaston would sometimes tag along when Ross and his girlfriend, Gina Carano, would come home to see family.
Good times, though. He was very cool to me mainly just working on the range.
I have been waiting all week to write this preview. It always takes the UFC betting sites a while to get the Bellator lines out but we have 6 today, so I’m happy.
Gaston Bolanos (-500) vs Daniel Carey (+351)
In one corner, we have Gaston Bolanos, a world-class Muay Thai fighter who splits his camps at the famed striking school CSA Gym and Team Alpha Male.
In the other corner, there’s Daniel “Scary” Carey who trains out of Ft. Smith, Arkansas at…get ready for this-Family Combat Fitness.
It’s not looking good for Daniel so far. He is listed as a Muay Thai stylist. That’s the worst news of all because if he’s not a world class wrestler with elite athleticism, he’s in a world of spit.
Gaston by beheading.
Featherweight Grand Prix
Pedro Carvalho (-410) vs Sam Sicilia (+298)
Sam is another fighter I’m familiar with from seeing him at the gym.
He’s a strong wrestler with a powerful right hand.
He is one of those guys who just hasn’t been able to defeat the top guys.
Good fighter but has never been great. Him and his best friend Michael Chiesa were on The Ultimate Fighter reality show together and then both followed on to the UFC ranks.
Mike was able to hang and is now a potential force at 170.
Sam is short and stocky and is going to have a hard time with longer leaner featherweights.
I love his vigor and tenacity and he’s a live dog in this matchup.
The Brazilian Carvalho trains out of SBG in Ireland alongside Conor McGregor whenever the Dubling-native isn’t punching old men in the face at bars at 2 in the afternoon.
He has that same long, halfKarate half boxing style that spells trouble for a fighter like Sicilia who is shorter and plods plods.
If Sam catches him on the way in, he could go to sleep and there’s also the possibility he takes the Brazilian down.
I’ll take a chance on Sicilia here even though Bellator favorites almost always win.
Possible parlay coming up but I’m not going to include either guy.
Tywan Claxton: (+158) vs Emmanuel Sanchez (-200)
Tywan is the better athlete, the better wrestler, but far less-experienced as an MMA fighter than Sanchez, especially inside the Bellator cage.
Both men have out of this world wingspans at 74 inches for Claxton and 76 for Sanchez. Both are 5’9”!
This is a massive step up for Claxton. Sanchez has caught his wrestling up with his submission game but I don’t know if he can’t catch up to Tywan’s level of athleticism.
This is an exciting fight!
I can’t wait.
I’ll take the underdog here. He trains at a very good gym with the Blackzilians. It’s a 3 round fight. He just needs to stay out Emmanuel’s subs because I think he can get the takedown.
Ryan Bader (-390) vs Cheick Kongo (+285)
Bader is better. It’s as simple as that.
Congo is a long, strong guy who can hurt anyone if he catches them on the end of his punches.
I think Ryan plays this one smart, uses the cage to grind out the Frenchman, and probably takes him down.
The champ retains his belt.
- Pick Odds
- Gaston Bolanos -500
- Ryan Bader -390
Alright guys, this event is probably the best one I can think of in recent Bellator memory.
It really is.
A featherweight grand prix…
Heavyweight title fight…
Muay Thai world champion smashing on some poor soul from Arkansas…
They really made a mistake holding this card the same day as UFC 242!
Enjoy the fights, team!
There are some actual good matchups this time around!