Bellator has announced a couple of big fights for upcoming fight cards, and I’ll give my thoughts on these new matchups in today’s MMA odds and ends.
Juan Archuleta vs. Ricky Bandejas, Bellator 214
Featherweight contender Juan Archuleta has decided to drop down to bantamweight and he’ll take on top prospect Ricky Bandejas at Bellator 214, which takes place January 26 at The Forum in Inglewood, California. Archuleta (21-1) is on a 16-fight win streak and is 3-0 thus far in Bellator with his most recent victory being a decision win over Jeremy Spoon back in November. Bandejas (11-1) started off his Bellator career with a bang when he brutally knocked out Bellator’s golden boy James Gallagher this past summer. He has only lost once in his career, to UFC vet Nick Pace, and he holds a notable win over current UFC bantamweight Merab Dvalishvili. This is such a good fight between two fighters on the rise, and it’s not an easy one to pick considering both men are extremely talented and both are riding tons of momentum into this fight. I think Archuleta is a bit more solid and proven, but Bandejas is a special prospect himself. Look for a close line with a slight lean towards Archuleta.
Roy Nelson vs. Mirko Cro Cop 2, Bellator 217
Heavyweights Roy Nelson and Mirko Cro Cop are set to rematch at Bellator 217, taking place February 16 at Mohegan Sun Resort in Uncasville, Connecticut. Neslon (23-16) is 1-2 so far in Bellator and most recently was knocked out by Sergei Kharitonov in an upset. Nelson previously defeated Cro Cop via TKO back at UFC 137 in 2011. Cro Cop (37-11-2, 1 NC) will be making his long-awaited Bellator debut on the heels of a nine-fight win streak, wiht many of those wins coming in RIZIN. Nelson may have beaten Cro Cop the first time, but based on Cro Cop’s long win streak and Nelson’s declining chin I’d have to favor Cro Cop to win the rematch.
Lorenz Larkin vs. Andrey Koreshkov, Bellator 220
An exciting welterweight bout between strikers Lorenz Larkin and Andrey Koreshkov is set to headline Bellator 200, taking place March 29 at Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California. Larkin (20-7, 1 NC) is just 2-2 so far in Bellator, but he is coming off of consecutive wins over Fernando Gonzalez and Ion Pascu. The Pascu fight was supposed to be a welterweight tournament alternate bout, bout Bellator must figure they do not need a repacement fighter so they gave Larkin this fight against Koreshkov. Despite Larkin being a bit of a disappointment so far since signing a big free-agent contract with Bellator, he still possesses knockout power that will always make him a threat to beat anyone in the division. Koreshkov (21-3) is 12-3 overall in Bellator and most recently lost by submission to Douglas Lima in the opening round of the welterweight tournament. His ground game and chin have looked shaky at times in Bellator, but like Larkin he’s always a threat to win by knockout. This should be a very competitive fight but Koreshkov always gets massive respect from bettors and I figure he wil be a small favorite here.