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Predictions! Breaking Down UFC 234 Main, Co-Main Event

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will take a break from its ESPN+ fight cards to bring mixed martial arts (MMA) fans its latest and greatest pay-per-view (PPV) offering, headlined by a middleweight title fight, as well as a 185-pound No. 1 contender’s clash.

Front and center will be Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum, who battle for “The Reaper’s” belt across five rounds of middleweight action. Unless, of course, something dramatic happens before the 25 minutes expire.

Speaking of dramatic, former 185-pound champion, Anderson Silva, makes his return to the Octagon against kickboxing import Israel Adesanya. The winner is expected to compete for the title, which means the winner of Whittaker-Gastelum already has his next opponent lined up.

Before we break down the main and co-main event (stream them on Amazon by clicking here), let’s take a look at what “Prelims” maestro, Patrick Stumberg, had to say about all the action spread across the ESPN and UFC Fight Pass cards by clicking here and here.

UFC 234 odds and betting lines can be unpacked here.

185 lbs.: Robert Whittaker vs. Kelvin Gastelum

Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker

Record: 20-4 | Age: 28 | Betting line: -235
Wins: 9 KO/TKO, 5 SUB, 6 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 6’0“ | Reach: 73” | Leg reach: 43”
Stance: Orthodox | Striking accuracy: 774 of 1901 (41%)
Ranks: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu purple belt | Takedown attempts: 4 of 7 (57%)

Kelvin Gastelum

Record: 15-3, 1 NC | Age: 27 | Betting line: +195
Wins: 6 KO/TKO, 4 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 5’9“ | Reach: 71” | Leg reach: 39”
Stance: Southpaw | Striking accuracy: 637 of 1458 (44%)
Ranks: 10th planet jiu-jitsu purple belt | Takedown attempts: 9 of 18 (50%)

I know Kelvin Gastelum doesn’t always get the respect he deserves, and sometimes he brings the problems upon himself. Whether it’s smoking pot before a big fight or refusing to skip pasta night the day before weigh ins, the former Ultimate Fighter (TUF) champion has relied more on talent than hard work. That should give you a pretty good idea of just how good he is (and can be), as the porky welterweight masquerading as a middleweight has been able to notch wins over some notoriously tough outs in the form of Tim Kennedy, Michael Bisping, and Ronaldo Souza. He also neutralized Tyron Woodley back when Uncle Dana allowed him to fight at 170 pounds.

He’s solid in just about every area and should not be taken lightly.

Unfortunately for Gastelum, he’s facing someone his own age and not a thirty-something veteran who’s been through the proverbial mill. Also a former welterweight, Whittaker has been an absolute monster at 185 pounds and is now the winner of nine straight with five finishes. The big selling point is “The Reaper’s” ability to withstand the bludgeoning power of Yoel Romero and for good reason: it’s something no other fighter has been able to accomplish in UFC. How those brutal, five-round wars affected Whittaker’s ability to compete at the highest level is certainly a question worth asking, but at age 28, I’m not sure he’s going to exhibit any signs of deterioration just yet.

This fight is fairly simple for me, at least in terms of predicting. Gastelum is like that entry level video game character who comes with a basic set of sills, enough to get the journey started, and would eventually become Whittaker after a series of level-ups and in-game bonuses. “The Reaper” is simply better in every department and I don’t see where the challenger has an advantage. Gastelum is not the better boxer, certainly does not have the better cardio, and won’t be able to wrestle his way to a decision. He is one tough S.O.B., however, and will likely be in the fight for all five rounds, but don’t expect the scorecards to be close.

Prediction: Whittaker def. Gastelum by unanimous decision

185 lbs.: Anderson Silva vs. Israel Adesanya

Anderson “The Spider” Silva

Record: 34-8, 1 NC | Age: 43 | Betting line: +450
Wins: 22 KO/TKO, 4 SUB, 8 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 3 DEC, 1 DQ
Height: 6’2“ | Reach: 77” | Leg reach: 42”
Stance: Southpaw | Striking accuracy: 740 of 1213 (61%)
Ranks: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt | Takedown attempts: 3 of 4 (75%)

Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya

Record: 15-0 | Age: 29 | Betting line: -600
Wins: 10 KO/TKO, 5 SUB, 6 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 6’4“ | Reach: 80” | Leg reach: 44”
Stance: Switch | Striking accuracy: 241 of 436 (55%)
Ranks: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blue belt | Takedown attempts: 0 of 3 (0%)

I know all the cool kids already have Anderson Silva dead and buried, based on his age and tough run over the last couple of years, but let’s not break out the pine box just yet. I think in the case of “The Spider,” his extended layoff was a positive (just like his last drug test), because it gave his body and mind the ability to heal, refocus, and reenergize. We know going into this fight against Israel Adesanya that the action is going to play out on the feet and that will actually work to “The Spider’s” advantage. Keep in mind, this is only a three-round contest and we can already call the opening frame a wash, as both strikers settle in, establish range, and flick the jab, waiting for the other to commit.

We never got the chance to see Silva test his striking — both offensively and defensively — against any real competition. Finishes over guys like Chael Sonnen, Stephan Bonnar, and Yushin Okami look great in the highlight reels, but are they a true measure of one’s technical prowess? Adesanya, meanwhile, was making his mark in the kickboxing circuit which admittedly, has a depressingly shallow talent pool as the marquee names jump ship in search of those MMA bucks. But even Silva’s most challenging opponents who were best known for their hands, like Vitor Belfort and Rich Franklin, would get embarrassed in stand-up fights against most of Adesanya’s past opponents, like Bogdan Stoica and Simon Marcus.

Silva is over the hill and hasn’t looked impressive in many moons, but that doesn’t change him as a competitor. Why does he still fight at this age? He certainly doesn’t need the money. “The Spider” is a fierce competitor and loves to win, and I would expect the very best version of the Brazilian come fight night. It won’t be enough, but I think some fans are going to be surprised at just how competitive this bout is, and Silva may even leave with a moral victory. If Marvin Vettori and Brad Tavares can make it a fight against Adesanya, so can the former champ.

Prediction: Adesanya def. Silva by unanimous decision

There you have it.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 234 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

To see who else is fighting at UFC 234 click here.

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Predictions! Bellator ‘Newcastle’ Main Card Preview, Quick Picks

Patricky Pitbull

Bellator Newcastle: “Pitbull vs. Scope” airs tomorrow afternoon (Sat., Feb. 9, 2019) from Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle upon Tyne, England via Bellator.com. The main event will see a ferocious battle between two Lightweight contenders gunning for a shot at the crown Michael Chandler wears once again.

Let’s break it down:

155 lbs.: Patricky “Pitbull” Freire (20-8) vs. Ryan Scope (10-1)

When you make a list of the most feared fighters in Bellator’s Lightweight division, Patricky Freire’s name should be at or near the top. Thirteen of 20 wins (65 percent) have come via knockout, or looked at another way, he’s finished one out of every two opponents he has faced to date. A winning percentage that high in mixed martial arts (MMA) can only mean one thing — prodigious punching power. After his last highlight-reel finish he called out Brent Primus, but one can only assume he’d call out Chandler if he scores another big win in Newcastle.

The Sunderland Fight Pit prospect unapologetically called “Big Baby” would love to be a road block to Freire’s title shot. Ryan Scope started out his career with three straight rear naked choke wins, then showed off the power of his own hands by finishing four of his next six opponents. Unfortunately it’s hard to get a read on whether or not Scope could be a flash in the pan due to long periods of inactivity — two years off from 2014-2016 and only two fights from 2017 to the present day. He also took his first professional loss via (ironically) a rear naked choke to unheralded fighter Lewis Long (16-5), who also has a date on this card with “Judo” Jim Wallhead.

Fighting at home will certainly motivate Scope to be at his best against Freire, and he may have a small physical advantage at 5’10” to Freire’s 5’7” (Scope’s reach has not been disclosed before press time). Advantages on paper tend to diminish when you fight a “Pitbull” though, which is what makes Patricio and Patricky’s nickname so apt. They are relentlessly determined in every bout and always turn in a performance bigger than they are. While the younger Patricio has had more frequent and more lasting success at the highest levels, one can only assume Patricky could finally earn his shot too in this fight.

Final prediction: Patricky Freire wins via second round technical knockout

155 lbs.: Aaron Chalmers (4-0) vs. Corey Browning (3-1)

If you remember the name Aaron Chalmers it’s because we’ve covered the reality show star turned-professional fighter before. After making quick work of a sub-par opponent at Bellator 200, it’s now time to Chalmers to step up and face some stiffer competition to prove he really belongs in the big leagues. I’m not sure Corey Browning is that man, though. Let’s all be honest that Browning was brought in to be fed to “Baby Slice” at Bellator 207 yet Browning turned the tables and submitted him when he gassed out. That win earned him this return fight yet I can’t imagine they’re flying him in from Tennessee just to do the same thing to another up-and-comer they are trying to make into a star.

Final prediction: Aaron Chalmers wins via first round knockout

185 lbs.: Fabian Edwards (5-0) vs. Lee Chadwick (24-13-1)

In what is sure to be a crowd pleasing affair for Newcastle attendees, local stars Fabian Edwards (hailing from Birmingham) and Lee Chadwick (hailing from Liverpool) will put on a show at Middleweight. Chadwick owns an obvious experience advantage and comes in with a three fight win streak that includes two submissions. He’s also the elder fighter at 33, which may tip a small edge to the undefeated Edwards, young and hungry at only 25 years old. Although he hasn’t gotten as much press for it as Tywan Claxton did, Edwards also won his Bellator debut via flying knee, and has diversified his attack with two knockouts and two submissions since. Call it a hunch but I think Chadwick will get more than he bargained for. He has been submitted five times and to me that’s his Achilles heel.

Final prediction: Fabian Edwards taps out Lee Chadwick with a first round rear-naked choke

155 lbs.: Terry Brazier (10-1) vs. Chris Bungard (11-4)

This is another bout for the local boys to shine with Brazier hailing from London and Bungard hailing from Coatbridge, Scotland. Bungard’s record seems more shaky from the word go. Although he’s won four of his last five, he lost to “Freakshow” Colin Fletcher in that span, who I find to be a very middling Lightweight who losses to almost every decent man he faces — Norman Parke, Mike Ricci, Andre Winner, Alex Lohore, et cetera. Fletcher is your basic “gatekeeper” fighter and if Bungard couldn’t even beat him that’s troubling. Meanwhile Brazier has racked up nine straight wins dating back to 2015 and has a very well rounded game with four knockouts, two submissions and four decisions. Do I really need to say anything else?

Final prediction: “The Dominator” Terry Brazier finishes Chris Bungard in round one

That’s a wrap!

MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator “Newcastle” tomorrow with a main card start time of 5 p.m. ET on Bellator.com (“Prelims” undercard begins at 3 p.m. ET). To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.

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Predictions! Bellator 214 Main Card Preview, Quick Picks

Fedor Emelianenko

Bellator 214: “Fedor vs. Bader” airs tomorrow night (Sat., Jan. 26, 2019) from The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., featuring a Paramount Network-televised (also on DAZN) main event that will see the mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion crown its first new Heavyweight champion since Vitaly Minakov was stripped in 2016 (details) with the conclusion of a year-long Heavyweight Grand Prix.

Let’s break it down:

265 lbs.: Fedor Emelianenko (38-5, 1 NC) vs. Ryan Bader (26-5)

Sports fans and MMA pundits alike branded Fedor the “G.O.A.T.” many years ago when he had nearly a decade of dominance, sporting a Heavyweight win streak from 2001-09 that saw him beat Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (twice), Mark Coleman (twice), Mirko Cro Cop and Mark Hunt just to name a few. Then, a surprising trilogy of losses in Strikeforce shattered the myth of “The Last Emperor” and not long after he went into a self-imposed retirement.

We all know the lure of the spotlight and the thrill of one-on-one competition leads to fighters making ill-advised choices about coming out of retirement, but Emelianenko has been largely successful since his 2015 return. The only blemish on his record in that time was arguably the best night of Matt Mitrione’s career. He rebounded from that loss by entering himself into Bellator’s tournament to crown a new champion, and finished both Frank Mir and Chael Sonnen via first round technical knockout to advance to the finals.

If you argued that Bader had the harder road to the main event I would 100 percent agree with that assessment. Timing and accuracy were on his side in a quick finish at Bellator 199 against Muhammed Lawal, but given “King Mo’s” wrestling pedigree and knockout power it could easily have gone the other way. It would be very difficult to pull off the same trick against the much larger Mitrione in round two, so Bader made the sensible choice to out-wrestle him instead.

In short, Bader fought two dangerous athletes who more than likely have their best years ahead of them, while Emelianenko fought two past their prime athletes whose best years are clearly behind them. If you have any doubt about that look at Frank Mir’s performance against Javy Ayala, because just like “The Iceman” he needs to be talked out of ever taking another fight. In theory that makes Bader is the clear favorite. He’s younger (35 vs. 42), he’s bigger (6’2” vs. 6’0”), and he’s on a six-fight win streak. Is it game over for the G.O.A.T.?

One of the oldest cliches in fighting is that “power is the last thing to go.” Emelianenko’s submission skills (17 of 38 wins, 44 percent) should probably be given as much or more credit than his knockouts (12 of 38 wins, 31.5 percent), but fans and fighters alike talk with reverent awe about the power of Fedor’s punch. Even the fight he had with Matt Mitrione resulted in an amazing double knockdown when each landed a hard strike at the same time. Bader on the other hand should get more credit for his power (11 of 26 wins, 42 percent) so it’s not out of the question the exact same thing could happen here.

As someone who still remembers buying Pride FC on pay-per-view (PPV) before it folded up its tent and sold its assets to Zuffa, I have to put nostalgia aside and stick to what we know of present day Emelianenko. This is a man who very nearly got folded by a middling fighter in Fabio Maldonado. This is a man who had his chin tested by both Mitrione and Mir, and he failed the test on one of two occasions. And whether you like it or not, Bader knows that history is at stake here if he can become a dual-weight champion.

If Bader wasn’t going to stand and trade with Mitrione, there’s very little chance he wants to do it with Emelianenko. Expect a takedown each round — maybe several — and potentially lots of booing. Bader won’t care how you feel once they read the scores, wrap that new Heavyweight title around his waist, and hand him a nice large check for his performance. If it’s crowd pleasing that will be an unexpected and surprising bonus.

Final prediction: Ryan Bader wins the Heavyweight title via unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Aaron Pico (4-1) vs. Henry Corrales (16-3)

Pico has become a force to be reckoned with at the very young age of 22. He is consistently knocking off more experienced foes in fight after fight and has shown off scary power in the process. It’s actually stunning to think he was planning to go to the Olympics as a wrestler in 2016 when boxing could have easily been his calling. Everyone (including me) talks more about his grappling than his junior Golden Gloves championship in 2009, and he’s had almost a decade to work on those hand skills and get better over time.

Pico keeps getting tested over and over again and to pass this time he’ll have to surpass Corrales. He’s a forgotten figure in this division despite racking up four straight wins, including his recent finish of Andy Main, who had both height and reach on him in the fight. Like better known Featherweight compatriot Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, he’s not intimidated by larger men, although his stature compares well to Pico. Corrales stands 5’8” with a 69” reach, while Pico stands 5’8” with a 70.5” reach, so if Mike Goldberg is on commentary for this bout you’ll no doubt hear that, “everything else is virtually EYE-dentical.”

The one thing that’s not identical is that Corrales had a three-fight skid before his current win streak, dropping bouts to Daniel Straus, Emmanuel Sanchez and the aforementioned Freire, losing two of three by guillotine choke. Pico is so good with his hands that we’ve never seen him tap somebody out, but to be fair we’ve also never seen him in a fight that lasted longer than 3:45. Some fighters soften you up to take you down and submit you, but Pico simply bypasses softening and goes straight to stiffening. As much as anybody he’s fought, Corrales will be a “stiff test” for Pico but it’s one I expect him to ace.

Final prediction: Aaron Pico wins via first round knockout

265 lbs.: Jake Hager (0-0) vs. J.W. Kiser (1-1)

If you don’t know Jack Swagger by now you will after he makes his professional MMA debut on Saturday. All puns aside, Hager was a legitimate wrestling badass at the University of Oklahoma and it was that pedigree that led him to be recruited for pro wrestling by WWE. He now has the chance to go back to those roots and see if they can land him success in MMA, and since it worked out reasonably well for Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley, he’s got plenty of reason to think it will for him, too, as a fellow Heavyweight. Let’s be honest, though — Kiser is no kind of competition for anybody. He lost the only fight he had to date in 24 seconds, and unless Hager shits the bed worse than C.M. Punk, he should be just fine here.

Final prediction: Jake Hager f/k/a Jack Swagger takes a unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Juan Archuleta (21-1) vs. Ricky Bandejas (11-1)

“The Spaniard” Juan Archuleta hasn’t lost in 16 straight fights and has knocked out 10 of his opponents. Bandejas, meanwhile, shocked the world at Bellator 204 by finishing James Gallagher, and has finished almost 60 percent of his fights (four knockouts and three submissions) thus far. Archuleta owns both the height and weight advantage going into this fight, but Bandejas was a Cage Fury prospect who was overlooked until he cleaned Gallagher’s clock with a kick. It would be easy to count out Bandejas again given his more experienced opponent, but Bandejas has a six-fight win streak of his own and has shown no fear of aggressive fighters who try to swarm early. It could very well be another quick finish for Bandejas unless Archuleta keeps his cool.

Final prediction: Juan Archuleta finishes via third round technical knockout

145 lbs.: Brandon McMahan (5-6) vs. Adel Altamimi (7-5)

Let’s make this short and sweet: McMahan is a sub-.500 fighter by any record you can find for him anywhere online. Altamimi’s only loss in his last six fights was to the aforementioned Archuleta and 86 percent of his wins end by submission. What more can I say?

Final prediction: Adel Altamimi wins via kimura

That’s a wrap!

MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 214 on Saturday night with a main card on Paramount Network at 9 p.m. ET (also on DAZN) and DAZN “Prelims” undercard bouts starting at 7 p.m. ET. To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.

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White: ‘Horrible Stoppage’ Marred UFC Brooklyn Main Event

Was the UFC on ESPN+ 1 main event stopped prematurely?

That depends on who you ask. Not surprisingly, UFC bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw, is furious that referee Kevin MacDonald intervened just 32 seconds into his flyweight title fight against Henry Cejudo last Sat. night (Jan. 19, 2019) inside Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Cejudo, however, believes it was a “great stoppage.”

“When your body goes limp like that, when you cut weight like that, thinking you’re gonna go out there and just take my belt from me, that’s not the way it works,” Cejudo said after the fight. “So I think it was a great stoppage. This is why MMA is sanctioned now because of refs. If I was to talk to that ref, ‘You’re okay, man. We were both in there. We saw him go limp a few times.’ Watch it again and you’ll see it.”

Watch it again right here and see for yourself.

UFC President, Dana White, is siding with Dillashaw and believes the bantamweight champion was cheated out of his chance to recover and fight back following a quick knockdown that led to a mad scramble for position.

“I thought it was an early stoppage, too,” White said during the post-fight press conference (watch it). “You’ve got two of the best guys in the world, two world champions in a superfight. Let them fight; let them finish. I’m not taking anything away from Cejudo, because the fight went 20 seconds and Cejudo busted him up, but Jesus Christ, let them fight. Horrible stoppage.”

Both Dillashaw and Cejudo are down for a rematch; however, the former wants to come back down to flyweight while the latter wants to bump up to bantamweight, because each combatant wants to become the next “champ-champ.”

For complete UFC Brooklyn results and play-by-play click here.

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UFC 232 Weigh-in Results: Main Card Set, Montel Jackson Heavy

Jon Jones looks to become the first three-time light heavyweight champion in UFC history as he takes on an old foe in Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 232.
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UFC 232 Weigh-in Results: Main Card Set, Montel Jackson Heavy

Jon Jones looks to become the first three-time light heavyweight champion in UFC history as he takes on an old foe in Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 232.
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Mike Beltran Replaces Injured Herb Dean to Referee UFC 232 Main Event

UFC 232 already changed states and venues due to an abnormality in Jon Jones’ drug test results. Now Saturday’s headliner will have a new referee.
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Predictions! Bellator 212 Main Card Preview, Quick Picks

Salute the Troops

Bellator 212: “Salute the Troops” airs tomorrow night (Fri., Dec. 14, 2018) from Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, Hawaii, featuring a Lightweight title defense in the main event of the evening that is so long overdue it almost doesn’t feel real that it’s finally happening.

Let’s break it down:

155 lbs.: Brent Primus (8-0) vs. Michael Chandler (18-4)

This all started on June 25, 2017, at Bellator 180 in Madison Square Garden. Then-defending Lightweight champion, “Iron Mike” Chandler, was ready to collect his fifth straight win against the previously undefeated Brent Primus, but then the unthinkable happened. Primus landed a precise kick that wobbled his left leg and left him unsteady on his feet. Despite barely being able to stand, Chandler roared back and hurt Primus with a right hand, but as he continued to limp and stumble, referee Todd Anderson paused the match. And on the advice of the ringside doctor, the bout was stopped moments later. Indeed, Primus officially became a world champion via technical knockout at 2:27 of round one.

Several opportunities to make the rematch since fell through, including Bellator 197 earlier this year, and every step of the way Chandler blasted Primus as “heartless” and a “part timer” in the sport. Given Primus hasn’t taken a single fight until now since winning the Lightweight title it’s very hard to argue with at least one of Chandler’s two points. Unless a monster tsunami rises from the ocean and takes Honolulu off the map, we’ll finally find out if he’s right about the other point and see just how much “heart” Primus has in a rematch.

The Oregon-born, raised and trained Primus stands 5’10” with a 73” reach and mixed bag of finishes — two knockouts, four submissions, two decisions. Of those two knockouts one was actually the doctor’s stoppage mentioned above, so his power in the striking department can be questioned. Chandler’s power, on the other hand, cannot be disputed. He has knocked out seven foes, submitted seven more, and only four wins went to the judges scorecards. Even notoriously tough brawlers like “Pitbull” Patricky Freire have fallen to the power of his right hand.

In addition, Chandler’s two return fights since losing the title have both been convincing, from a brutal beatdown of Goiti Yamauchi for a lopsided unanimous decision to a strangulation of Brandon Girtz in a match Primus bowed out of. He has looked so good that the loss of his title now seems like even more of a fluke than it did in New York City. Meanwhile, because of his sheer inactivity, there’s little of Primus to compare against him, and split decision wins in two of his last three fights don’t suggest an ability to dominate over five rounds if it even lasts that long. There was no reason on paper to pick Primus the first time and sadly for the champion there’s even less reason to do so now.

Final prediction: Michael Chandler whoops ass until scoring a technical knockout in round two

205 lbs.: Frank Mir (18-12) vs. Javy Ayala (10-7)

This is another fight that is unlikely to go the distance. Already the loser of three straight, Mir has competed just once over the last two years, getting destroyed by Fedor in just 48 seconds back in April. Ayala, meanwhile, has been more active over that same span, but he lost a decision to Roy Nelson then got knocked cold by Cheick Kongo in May. You can put as much sugar and honey on this fight as you like, including the fact Mir is a former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) title holder and Ayala once finished Kharitonov, but the fact is neither of these fighters are even near the middle of Bellator’s Heavyweight division. The only deciding factor to me is that Mir actually tagged Emelianenko with a punch in their fight that he admitted hurt him, and if Kongo can rock Ayala, I suspect Mir will too in a fight that should end quickly … and dramatically.

Final prediction: Frank Mir knocks out Javy Ayala in round one

145 lbs.: Derek Campos (19-7) vs. Sam Sicilia (15-9)

Campos was on a four-fight roll before Patricky Pitbull stopped him cold at Bellator 194 earlier this year. That may have motivated him to drop down from Lightweight to Featherweight, and if so, it could work well against Sam Sicilia. Campos stands 5’9” and has a 68” reach, while recent Bellator newcomer Sicilia is 5’8” with a 67” reach. Not only does that make the weight a better fit for Campos, he benefits from fighting a fighter on the decline who has lost four of his last five bouts dating back to 2015. As long as he makes a successful weight cut and isn’t dried up like a raisin this will go Campos’ way.

Final prediction: Derek Campos scores a third round technical knockout

125 lbs.: Alejandra Lara (7-2) vs. Juliana Velasquez (7-0)

Alejandra Lara had the honor of being the first woman to challenge Ilima-Lei Macfarlane for the women’s Bellator Flyweight title, but easily got outclassed in that fight and hasn’t been heard from since. This will mark her most active year since 2015 though as Lara has previously taken approximately one bout a year until now. Other than her debut and last year, Velasquez typically has two fights a year, and this will be her second of 2018 following an impressive technical knockout of Rebecca Ruth in April. The young Lara (24) stands 5’7” with a 68” reach, while the elder Velasquez (32) stands 5’6” with a 67.5” reach. As Mike Goldberg would say other than their age, “everything else is virtually identical.”

Velasquez has finished 57 percent of her opponents (three knockouts, one submission) in a thus far flawless career. Lara has fought more though and has finished 66 percent (three knockouts, three submissions). The most telling thing for me though is what doesn’t show up in the stats — how one-sided Lara’s loss to the champion was. When she’s faced older fighters — even if they have relatively the same number of professional bouts — they clearly don’t have the same level of experience between fights in the gym. I suspect what was true with Macfarlane is perhaps even more true with Velasquez — when “everything else is virtually identical” it’s that hard work outside of the cage that gives one woman the edge.

Final result: Alejandra Velasquez wins via technical knockout in round three

145 lbs.: A.J. McKee (12-0) vs. Daniel Crawford (10-2)

I’d like to say the Englishman Crawford has a chance here … but if I did I’d be lying. For “Mercenary” McKee this is simply a “stay busy” fight until he finally gets a world title shot against Emmanuel Sanchez. Crawford already lost his Bellator debut to Pedro Carvalho by split decision, and if that’s the best he can muster at anything above the BAMMA level, I don’t see him beating McKee. McKee stands 5’10” and has a 73” reach, while Crawford is at least one inch shorter in height with an undisclosed reach I don’t see closing the range of McKee with his hand speed and devastating kicks.

Final result: A.J. McKee wins via first round knockout

That’s a wrap!

MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 212 tomorrow with Paramount fights starting at 9 p.m. ET. To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.

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Neil Magny Appreciated Being Able to ‘Die By the Sword’ in UFC Fight Night 140 Main Event

Neil Magny was on his last legs — literally — in the waning moments of the UFC Fight Night 140 headliner in Buenos Aires, Argentina ,on Saturday night.
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Predictions! Breaking Down UFC Argentina Main, Co-Main Events

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is charging full steam ahead, which means a mixed martial arts (MMA) fight card every night for the rest of the year (that’s seven, for all you math wizards). That includes the UFC Fight Night 140 event on FOX Sports 1, taking place this Sat. night (Nov. 17, 2018) inside Parque Roca Arena in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Leading the charge will be welterweight title hopefuls Neil Magny and Santiago Ponzinibbio, who may not be mainstream stars (yet), but are definitely in “the mix” with a big performance this weekend. The former sits at No. 8 in the official rankings (see them here), whereas the latter clocks in at No. 10.

Before the 170-pound headliner pops off, former featherweight title contender, Ricardo Lamas, will look to prove he’s not yesterday’s news by turning away the venerable Darren Elkins. Separated by just one spot in the official rankings, this 145-pound showdown is a pivotal fight for both combatants, who are both in their mid-thirties.

Before we go ahead and look at the main and co-main events, be sure to see what pro fighter and resident analyst Andrew Richardson had to say about the rest of the main card bouts by clicking here. In addition, the UFC Fight Night 140 preliminary fights were dissected by the indomitable Patty Stumberg here and here.

Let’s finish the job here and now.

Welterweight: Neil Magny (21-6) vs. Santiago ‘Gente Boa’ Ponzinibbio (26-3)

Biggest Win For Magny? Unanimous decision victory over Carlos Condit
Biggest loss? Submission defeat to Rafael dos Anjos
Biggest Win For Ponzinibbio? Unanimous decision victory over Mike Perry
Biggest loss? Technical knockout defeat to Lorenz Larkin
Latest Odds: Magny (+240) vs. Ponzinibbio (-280)
How these two match up: Consistency is the biggest issue with Magny, who always seems to stumble right at the precipice of greatness. After a dreadful 1-2 start to his UFC career, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 16 veteran put together seven straight wins with four finishes. Then came a high-profile submission loss to perennial title contender Demian Maia. Certainly no shame in that, and Magny rebounded by winning his next three, including back-to-back victories over Hector Lombard and Kelvin Gastelum. Similarly, his journey to the 170-pound title was derailed by submission, courtesy of former lightweight champion, Rafael dos Anjos. Do we once again put faith in Magny based on his recent wins over Carlos Condit and Craig White?

I think we have to first decide what condition Condit was in during that contest, something that is applicable to earlier victories, as well. “The Natural Born Killer” has dropped four of his last five, Johny Hendricks coughed up five of his last six, and Hector Lombard is the loser of six straight. Was Magny the superior fighter, or the beneficiary of shot journeymen who no longer had the chops to compete at the elite level? I want to put more stock in the Kelvin Gastelum victory, but that was 2015 and the UFC 234 headliner performs far better at middleweight. I think my biggest issue is that Magny looks great, even against “names,” until he faces them in their primes, like Maia and Dos Anjos.

I suppose a similar critique is warranted for Ponzinibbio. The Argentinian has looked outstanding in recent years, capturing eight of 10 under the UFC banner. It’s kind of hard to find the downside to a six-fight win streak, because there really isn’t one, but in the interest of objectivity we also need to be real about his level of competition. Mike Perry has dropped three of his last four, Gunnar Nelson is just 3-3 over the last four years, and Nordine Taleb has been finished twice in 2018. I would like to see a signature win that was beyond reproach and right now … I got nothing. I don’t want to blame “Gente Boa” for that because he’s not the matchmaker and he can only work with the tools he’s given. By that same token, I’m not going crazy over his technical knockout loss to Lorenz Larkin. Not only was it over three years ago, it was just his second defeat since 2011, a span of 11 fights.

This is an interesting clash of styles. Percentage-wise, Magny is by far the more accurate striker, one of the benefits of having an 80-inch reach, which leaves Ponzinibbio at a seven-inch disadvantage. He’s also the more consistent grappler, landing 41 takedowns in 86 attempts. Considering how “Gente Boa” has only attempted nine takedowns in his UFC career, it’s understandable to think he might keep this fight upright, but we also can’t sleep on his takedown defense after stuffing Zak Cummings four out of five times and giving Court McGee nothing in four attempts.

If Magny fights to win, he is likely to cruise to a decision. That would require him to spam the jab and work in well-timed shoots. Does he have the discipline for that? It’s hard to stay focused when a power-punching bruiser is walking you down and dropping bombs. I want to pick Ponzinibbio for the finish, but Magny is such a difficult fighter to figure out because of his length, as well as his craftiness. I’m sure there will be a handful of close calls, but I think Magny lets “Gente Boa” gas himself out while swinging for the fences — in an attempt to please the hometown crowd — before taking over and mopping up the final three frames.

Winner: Magny by unanimous decision

Featherweight: Ricardo ‘The Bully’ Lamas (18-7) vs. Darren ‘The Damage’ Elkins (24-6)

Biggest Win For Lamas? Submission victory over Cub Swanson
Biggest loss? Knockout defeat to Josh Emmett
Biggest Win For Elkins? Submission victory over Michael Johnson
Biggest loss? Unanimous decision defeat to Alexander Volkanovski
Latest Odds: Lamas (-200) vs. Elkins (+170)
How these two match up: Ricardo Lamas is about halfway to his 37th birthday and coming off back-to-back losses to Josh Emmett and Mirsad Bektic. The former is the most troubling, as it represented the fourth time “The Bully” has been stopped by strikes and he was unable to rebound from that loss with a strong performance. In fact, I think we have to go all the way back to his Dennis Bermudez fight to find a victory over a Top 10 opponent. That’s traveling back more than four years and since that time, Lamas has been handily defeated by the upper echelon of the weight class. That includes losses to both Max Holloway and Chad Mendes. Those sorts of defeats would be more forgivable if the Illinoisan was blowing out the mid-card middlemen, but he’s struggling there, too.

His record just doesn’t hold up very well as we start to put some distance between now and the names of yesteryear. How much stock do we put into unanimous decision wins over guys like Hatsu Hioki and Hacran Dias? I’m probably being too hard on him, but my job here is to stack him against an opponent who is looking to take his soul. Regardless of his performances or his consistency, Lamas is, and always was, a complete fighter. He hits with power, has sneaky submissions, and can compete for five rounds without batting an eyelash. As we’ve learned in this unforgiving sport, the physical tools are not enough. Mental acuity, gameplanning, and poise under pressure are also part and parcel of any successful fight.

Everything said about Lamas can, for the most part, be applied to Darren Elkins, an equally battle-tested veteran with a long and fruitful run under the UFC banner. “The Damage” climbed to No. 10 in the official rankings after putting together six straight wins, including January’s submission over former lightweight, Michael Johnson. I’m sure it was massively disappointing for the 34 year-old bruiser to give it all away in his unanimous decision loss to Alexander Volkanovski, but that’s life in the fight game. No doubt a highlight-reel finish over Lamas would go a long way in erasing that memory and let’s face it, the clock is ticking for Elkins, who cannot afford another defeat if he hopes to position himself for a run at the strap.

Elkins, like Lamas, brings with him two post-fight performance bonuses. I don’t think anyone expects this bout to be a snoozefest. I am a bit concerned that “The Damage” has only secured two finishes in his last eight fights, especially when you consider he opened his MMA career by stopping nine of his first 10. By that same token, he’s only been finished once over the last eight years and that came by way of Chad Mendes and his Duane Ludwig-trained fists. His biggest threat is his wrestling, where he won a state championship as a high school senior before hitting the mats at University of Wisconsin Parkside. Elkins scored six takedowns against Steven Siler and seven apiece against Chas Skelly and Rob Whiteford. Lamas is successful in defending about half the shots taken against him, but if Hatsu Hioki can score four of five takedowns, it’s pretty clear to me that when “The Damage” wants to take “The Bully” down, he’s going down. The question remains, what will he do once he gets there?

I like Lamas if this fight stays on the feet, where the reach (71”) is the same for both combatants. He’s the better striker and has more stopping power. I’d probably favor him in the submissions, as well, but only if he’s in top position, unlikely against a grinder like Elkins. Since this is a three-round fight, and the winner only needs to capture two for the victory, I have to side with the wrestler, because judges love those last-second takedowns, even when they yield little-to-no results. I think Lamas will look great in the opening frame, then get walled and stalled in rounds two and three. I’m not anticipating a finish in a fight that may have some fans (and judges) divided when the final numbers are tallied.

Winner: Elkins by split decision

There you have it.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 140 fight card tomorrow night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bout at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” undercard bouts at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET, also on FOX Sports 1.

To see who else is fighting at UFC Argentina click here.

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