Saturday will see the three biggest North American MMA promotions going head-to-head-to-head, as the UFC, Bellator, and WSOF all have cards running. From the standpoints of relevance, entertaining matchmaking, and morbid curiosity, Bellator may actually have the most intriguing card of the three. The only problem is that the company can’t seem to get out of its own way. Rather than having the lightweight title bout between Will Brooks and Michael Chandler — a rematch of one of the top fights of 2014 (both relevant and entertaining) — as their main event, we get Tito Ortiz vs. Stephan Bonnar (morbid curiosity) in that slot. The main card also features Mo Lawal fighting a middleweight with a questionable chin, Melvin Manhoef fighting a kickboxer, and Mike Richman fighting the fighter who has likely seen more 10-8 rounds scored against him than anyone in recent memory. As mentioned earlier, entertainment and morbid curiosity are a big part of this event. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting lines for all five main card bouts of Bellator 131 today at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Check them out: ——————– MAIN CARD (Spike TV, 9pm ET) Tito Ortiz -125 Stephan Bonnar -115 Bellator Lightweight Title Michael Chandler -265 Will Brooks +185 Mo Lawal -900 Joe Vedepo +500 Melvin Manhoef -165 Joe Schilling +125 Mike Richman -290 Nam Phan +210 ——————– Brad’s Analysis: If Tito Ortiz was booked the same way Stephan Bonnar was booked, he probably would have won 3 of his final 4 fights in the UFC. Instead, 6 of his last 9 UFC bouts were against former champions and he went 1-7-1 in that stretch. Bonnar is one of those guys I’ve never come around on, as he survived in the UFC by being the the TUF 1 finale, and then beating up the absolute dregs of the light heavyweight division. I have a hard time placing much faith in Tito, but I may prove to have an even harder time not fading a guy who got outwrestled by a 44-year-old Mark Coleman, whose best career win is a bad decision over Keith Jardine, and who has been out of action for over two years following a positive drug test. There were rumblings that Michael Chandler was injured heading into his May bout with Will Brooks, and from the looks of his performance (in which he still deserved a win, or at the very least a draw) he wasn’t 100%. He basically has one adjustment to make in order to win this fight. Don’t give up your back every round to Brooks. If he can do that, he’ll win this fight. I’m quite confident that he is capable of doing just that, and I’m hoping to get a discounted price because of the result last time around. Another Mo Lawal fight, another massive line. This will be the sixth time he closes as a greater than -500 favorite since coming to Bellator. This marks his ninth bout in the promotion. I understand that Vedepo is a short notice opponent, but it would be nice if they could get Mo booked in some competitive fights, because even the bout with Tom DeBlass probably would have had a fairly wide line as well. I really hope this fight plays out with Melvin Manhoef submitting Joe Schilling. Watching these two grapple would be an all-time hilarious MMA moment. Primarily known for his kickboxing abilities, Schilling has actually fought in MMA four times previously, going 1-3 with all of those bouts ending via submission (yes, he actually has a submission win). So maybe I’m completely off base, maybe Schilling will be the one looking to use his ground skills against Manhoef. It’s unlikely that I get my wish of a grappling battle here, but I guess it should still be fun while it lasts on the feet. While many will be picking Schilling because of Manhoef’s chin, I’m going to lean with the guy who has more experience in the varied settings allowed in MMA, and I think Manhoef can get it done. If he doesn’t, who the heck is Brandon Halsey supposed to fight? Mike Richman looked phenomenal in his bantamweight debut. In recent appearances, Nam Phan has looked like a guy hoping he can sustain a beating from his opponent and then outlast them. He won’t be able to outlast Richman, and I’m not even sure he can survive 15 minutes in this bout. Richman is on the verge of a Bellator title shot, and I see him likely earning that shot with the win he picks up here.
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