Doug Marshall and Melvin Manhoef aren’t going to suddenly become world-beaters at 37 and 38 years old, respectively. We all know exactly what each man brings to the cage at this point in their careers. That’s exactly why, despite being divisionally irrelevant — yes, even in Bellator — this fight is something to watch on Friday night. Let’s run down the numbers. Marshall (18-7) has seen 18 of his career bouts end via knockout, another 5 by submission, and only 2 have gone to decision. Manhoef (28-11-1, 1 NC) has had 29 of his bouts end via knockout (and 26 of his victories have occurred in this manner), with 7 ending in submission (all losses), and just 4 going to decision. Just by looking at that, you get an idea of what’s going to happen when these two meet in the middle of the cage on Friday. Will we get a repeat of Manhoef’s classic brawl with (the original) ‘Cyborg’ Santos? Probably not, but the styles should create a fun bout while it lasts. Fun is a theme on this card, as none of the bouts will (or should) have an immediate impact on the Bellator title picture. Heavy hitter Brian Rogers is featured in the co-main event, while former boxer Raphael Butler gets another chance to prove himself as he kicks off the main card. Even the preliminary portion of the card holds some intrigue (from an individual performance perspective) as highly touted prospects Chris Honeycutt and Julio Cesar Neves make their organizational debuts at Bellator 125. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting lines for the top seven fights on Bellator 125 today at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Take a look: ——————– MAIN CARD (Spike TV, 9pm ET) Melvin Manhoef -265 Doug Marshall +185 Brian Rogers -160 Rafael Carvalho +120 Goiti Yamauchi -350 Martin Stapleton +250 Raphael Butler -475 Javy Ayala +325 ——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (Spike.com, 7pm ET) Jesse Juarez -210 Ron Keslar +160 Chris Honeycutt -555 Aaron Wilkinson +365 Julio Cesar Neves -385 Poppies Martinez +265 ——————– Brad’s Analysis: Normally middleweights don’t see such drastic lines when it comes to an under 1.5, but honestly if there was an under 0.5 option available for this fight, I would even be tempted to play that. Both of these guys are perfect examples of fighters who have insane punching power, but don’t necessarily take a punch that well. I favor Manhoef because he hits harder and can withstand a bit more, but the latter isn’t a drastic gap by any means. Playing a side here is tough, unless you’re able to get Manhoef near even money, but the under 1.5 almost seems too easy… Brian Rogers is another fighter noted for ending fights quickly, as 10 of his 11 wins would have cashed an under 1.5 bet in the past. At the same time, an under 1.5 has never been a winner when Rogers is now (Alexander Shlemenko finished him at exactly 2:30 of Round 2). Shockingly, the public seems to be favoring Carvalho here which is crazy to me, as I think Rogers should be at least a 2-to-1 favorite. If the line moves like I think it will, perhaps the under would offer more value than Rogers at the end of the day, but for now I like the line on Rogers straight. Martin Stapleton is a solid fighter, but he’s always had a bit of a weakness when it comes to defensive grappling. Both Saad Awad and Derek Campos were able to exploit that of late, and Goiti Yamauchi would seem to be able to as well. Yamauchi is a very talented grappler whose striking is developing better than expected, and his biggest struggles come when faced with other formidable grapplers who have strength and wrestling advantages over him. Stapleton is British, so we know the wrestling is out of the question, and the physical matchup should be quite close here. I like Yamauchi to win wherever the fight takes place, and continue to put the Will Martinez disappointment in the rear-view mirror. Raphael Butler looked atrocious in his last fight against Nick Rossborough. Cardio is going to be a huge concern for the former boxer moving forward, as is his defense and chin, since he got rocked by a sub-par striker in Rossborough on a couple of occasions. Luckily they’ve set him up with another heavyweight who has many of the same flaws and is an inferior striker. Butler should come through here, but the moment he gets matched up against any sort of capable grappler, I’m fading the “prospect”. Speaking of chinny fighters with cardio issues, Ron Keslar! Following his tournament wins over Luis Melo and Jon Koppenhaver, Keslar had some hype, and he performed well early against Rick Hawn before getting tired and KO’d. The same pattern followed against Karo Parisyan, where Keslar became the first TKO victim of Karo’s career. I don’t expect Jesse Juarez’ style to result in a T/KO here (nobody expected Karo to get the KO either), but he should do enough over the final two rounds to earn a decision after Keslar flashes some nice grappling early. Now we get to my favorite part of this card, the actual prospects. Chris Honeycutt was a runner-up at 197lbs in NCAA wrestling. He’s now fighting at 170. This kid is going to ragdoll Aaron Wilkinson. It’s not even really fair to put a British fighter against this caliber of wrestler, especially a British fighter who used to compete at 155. This will also be Wilkinson’s first fight in nearly a year. Things just don’t bode well for Wilkinson in this spot, and Bellator could be looking at one of their first top flight prospects in quite a while with Honeycutt. Poppies Martinez is the perfect example of a gatekeeper to legitimacy. He’s been around forever, has beaten up a bunch of scrubs on the regional level, and lost to nearly every single fighter with even a hint of a name who has fought him. Julio Cesar Neves doesn’t have all that much of a name yet, but he will the 20-year-old is already 29-0 (which is a horribly padded Brazilian record, mind you) with some insane striking ability. He could knock Martinez out, or he could hurt Martinez on the feet before submitting him, but either way the youngster will be a nice shiny 30-0 by the end of the night. I just hope he does it in style (perhaps a 6th flying knee) and gives Brian Rogers some competition for flashiest knockout artist in the company.
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