An upcoming title fight for Bellator officially has a date and place, and I’ll give my thoughts on this new bout in today’s MMA odds and ends.
Gegard Mousasi vs. Rafael Lovato Jr., Bellator 214
The Bellator middleweight title will be on the line when champion Gegard Mousasi takes on challenger Rafael Lovato Jr. at Bellator 214, which is set for Saturday, January 26 at The Forum in Inglewood, California. Bellator officials recently made the announcement, adding this big title fight as the co-main event to a card that features Ryan Bader and Fedor Emelianenko fighting for the Bellator heavyweight grand prix title in the main event. As well, a featherweight bout between Aaron Pico and Henry Corrales is also taking place on this card, which goes head-to-head with UFC 233 the same night across the greater Los Angeles region in Anaheim. Safe to say this is going to be a big night for combat sports enthusiasts.
Mousasi (45-6-2) is currently riding an eight-fight win streak and has looked incredible so far in Bellator since leaving the UFC as a free agent. In his first three Bellator fights, Mousasi has defeated former champion Alexandre Shlemenko to earn a title shot, former champion Rafael Carvalho to win the title, and then defended it against Bellator welterweight champion Rory MacDonald in a superfight. The victories over Carvalho and MacDonald were particularly brutal, as Mousasi was able to finish both men via TKO. Prior to entering Bellator, Mousasi had picked up stoppage wins over the likes of Chris Weidman, Uriah Hall and Vitor Belfort in the UFC, and with the way he’s peformed so far in Bellator it makes you wonder if the UFC is kicking themselves over letting him go as he’s still only 33 and seems to be actually getting better still.
Lovator Jr. (9-0) is undefeated in his pro MMA career with eight of his wins coming via stoppage. He’s won all five of his fights in Bellator, including submission wins over former UFC fighters John Salter, Gerald Harris and Mike Rhodes. The BJJ black belt is one of the most dangerous ground fighters in the middleweight division in either the UFC or Bellator and has quickly emerged as a contender despite being 35 years of age. Mousasi has pretty much run over everyone else he’s fought so far in Bellator, with his last two wins coming on the ground, so it will be interesting to see if Lovato Jr. can take advantage of an opening should this fight hit the mat.
This is a terrific matchup, but I’d have to favor Mousasi as a sizeable favorite here just based on his quality of opposition and the way he’s finished his last couple of fights in devastating fashion. Lovato Jr. does present a different element of fighting that Mousasi hasn’t matched up much against lately as far as being an elite submission artist goes, but even still Mousasi is such a well-rounded and dangerous fighter and it’s hard not to favor him against anyone Bellator’s middleweight division has to offer.