For just the second time in the organization’s history, Bellator will be putting on a Pay-Per-View event. As has become the company’s MO recently, they will be attempting to put past-their-prime stars in matches intriguing enough to garner an audience willing to pay for them.
At the top of that list is the long-brewing grudge match between Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva. The two were scheduled to face each other on three separate occasions back in 2014, but scheduling and injuries forced the bout to be moved twice while Silva’s infamous skipped medicals caused the third cancellation.
Since then, the two men have competed a grand total of once, combined. Following a couple years under suspension for a failed drug test, Sonnen returned to Bellator earlier this year, and lost to Tito Ortiz by submission. Silva was scheduled to face Mirko CroCop in a RIZIN event late last year, but an injury forced him out of that bout, meaning his last appearance in any contest was his defeat of Brian Stann back in March 2013.
The other headlining bout is also a rebooking. Fedor Emelianenko was slated to headline Bellator 172 against Matt Mitrione earlier this year, but Mitrione pulled out the day of the fight with kidney stones. Emelianenko has won his last five bouts following the disastrous run to end his Strikeforce tenure and a brief retirement. Meanwhile, Mitrione has picked up a pair of wins since making the transition from the UFC to Bellator.
The PPV portion of “Bellator NYC” also features a pair of title fights in two of the organization’s featured divisions.
Welterweight champion Douglas Lima is starting to see several challengers trickle in from the UFC, in addition to those who were already on the Bellator roster. His first in the line of new challengers will be Lorenz Larkin, who receives a title shot in his first Bellator outing. Larkin was on quite the run to close out his UFC tenure, picking up wins in four of his five bouts since dropping to welterweight.
Lightweight champion Michael Chandler was the one top lightweight left behind when Eddie Alvarez and Will Brooks left for the UFC. He’s worked his way through all the remaining challengers Bellator has to offer, and even defended his belt against former UFC champion Benson Henderson. Now it seems the next generation of Bellator challengers has emerged, and Brent Primus will be the first to work his way up to a title shot. The 7-0 lightweight stormed through the first five fights of his career, but he has only managed split decisions in his last two, leading some to question whether he’s ready for this challenge.
Finally, on an interesting card, perhaps the most buzz will be surrounding the MMA debut of prodigy Aaron Pico. The 20-year-old is one of the most interesting prospects to ever enter MMA at such a young age. Bellator is wasting no time testing him out either. His opponent will be Zach Freeman, owner of an 8-2 record, and a former RFA title challenger. If Pico can get through Freeman, he could end up on the fast track to title contention and stardom in MMA.
There’s also the matter of the Spike TV prelims for this card, which start at 8 p.m. (the PPV begins at 10 p.m.), and feature a Bellator light heavyweight title bout between Phil Davis and Ryan Bader. Irish prospect James Gallagher will also be showcased opposite Chinzo Machida.
MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting odds for Saturday night’s Bellator NYC today at 5Dimes Sportsbook. As always, you can check out the odds here first…
Brad’s Analysis: Given their layoffs, age, and respective history (or alleged history) of PED use, I don’t know how you can bet the main event. On one hand, Sonnen should be able to get Silva to the mat whenever he needs to. On the other, Sonnen has admitted to quitting in fights if things don’t go his way. Perhaps if Sonnen gets an early takedown but Silva is able to get back to his feet, Sonnen will decide it’s not worth the effort and bow out. Or maybe the distaste these two have for each other will trump that, and we’ll get a legitimate effort out of both men.
Mitrione is still an extremely limited mixed martial artist, and I don’t think there’s a question that if any prolonged period of grappling occurs in this fight, it will end with him tapping out. However, Mitrione also hits extremely hard, has decent accuracy and timing, and is a solid athlete. He could clip Fedor’s 40-year-old chin on the way in and that could be all she wrote. I side slightly with Fedor because I’m a nostalgic fanboy and that’s the result I would much rather see here.
Larkin and Lima could put on a display of some of the best leg kicking in MMA in their title bout. But I can’t help but feel like Larkin possesses more weapons overall, and I give him the slight edge in this bout. Lima could surprise me by attempting to take this to the ground which would change the entire complexion of the match, but we haven’t seen much of that from him recently, so I fully expect a 25-minute (or less) striking affair.
Primus has been competitive with the likes of Derek Anderson and Gleristone Santos in his last two bouts, and somehow that has earned him a shot at Chandler, who does everything better than either of those two. Primus is a solid grappler, but I’d be shocked if he could consistently get on top of Chandler to put that game to use. Instead, it’s more likely that he gets stuck on the feet against a much better striker and gets battered for as long as he can survive.
The good thing about Aaron Pico’s background is that if he struggles on the feet against virtually any fighter until he gets up into the Top 25 or so of the division, he’ll be able to take them to the ground. I don’t expect him to struggle much standing with Freeman, so much like some of Henry Cejudo’s bouts early in the UFC, I’m not anticipating much wrestling in this one. Expect the kid to impress given his age, experience and level of opponent. But if he doesn’t get a finish, I don’t think that’s an indictment of his talents by any means.
I’m in the minority who believe that Davis beat Bader in their dreadful first UFC meeting, and I favor him to actually get the win this time. After about 14:30 of ineffectual striking, Davis won the only real grappling exchange between the two men, and I think he’ll be more willing to grapple this time around. If that’s the case, I think he manages a clear decision victory. However, if it just turns into a longer version of their first bout, it should be equally close, and who knows how the judges may see it. Bellator should certainly hope for something different this time around though, as a repeat of their original meeting won’t exactly be the impetus for people to purchase the PPV.
Bellator NYC: Sonnen vs. Silva
JUNE 24, 2017
Madison Square Garden | New York, New York
Main Card – (Pay-Per-View, 10PM ET)
Wanderlei Silva +110
Chael Sonnen -150
Over 1.5 -155
Under 1.5 +115
Fedor Emelianenko +100
Matt Mitrione -140
Over 1.5 +150
Under 1.5 -190
Douglas Lima +130
Lorenz Larkin -170
Over 2.5 -190
Under 2.5 +150
Brent Primus +375
Michael Chandler -565
Over 3.5 -140
Under 3.5 +100
Bellator 180: Davis vs. Bader
JUNE 24, 2017
Madison Square Garden | New York, New York
Main Card – (Spike, 8PM ET)
Light Heavyweight Title:
Ryan Bader +110
Phil Davis -150
Over 4.5 -150
Under 4.5 +110
Chinzo Machida +145
James Gallagher -185
Over 2.5 -150
Under 2.5 +110
Dave Marfone +500
Neiman Gracie -900
Over 1.5 +100
Under 1.5 -140
Preliminary Card – (Spike.com, 6PM ET)
Haim Gozali +435
Ryan Couture -705
Over 1.5 +160
Under 1.5 -210
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