The long-awaited Spike TV Bellator debut is upon us. The most pressing questions are about what sort of competition Bellator will be to UFC or what kinds of numbers they can grab as television ratings. None of us really know and we'll have to find out. What we do know is if nothing else, the first fight card should be a sensational one as not one, but two titles are up for grabs.
Can Chandler defend his belt against the power punching and strength of Rick Hawn? Will Curran prove he is the best featherweight in Bellator? I answer these questions and more with predictions' for tomorrow's event.
What: Bellator 85
When: Thursday, the Spike TV-televised card begins at 10 p.m. Eastern on Friday. However, Spike.com will carry the entire fight card beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern.
Where: Bren Events Center, Irvine, Calif.
I have agonized over this one for so long. Some days I believe the crisp punching power of Hawn will do Chandler in. Other days I'm convinced the pressure Chandler's going to put on Hawn will gas out the Olympic judoka. Then other days I just don't know which way to go.
Some of you readers get angry when I'm non-committal on a pick, but it's hard to see how anyone can be confident about this. Chandler should win and I'm picking him, but his over pursuit often causes him to get hit a lot. While Hawn does a number of things wrong, hitting opponents extremely hard is not one of them. I absolutely expect Chandler to be hurt at various portions in this fight.
Ultimately, though, the pressure he puts on opposition will be the difference maker. Chandler is relentless in his attacks even if that leads him into recklessness at times. Hawn's a sensational athlete, but I do wonder what sort of cardio he can show after three or four rounds of this.
It should be noted where Eddie Alvarez fought fire with fire in striking exchanges, Hawn is probably more willing to clinch. He likes to catch opponents on the move from the outside rather than plant the feet and fire at will. In other wrods, he'll still hurt Chandler here, but not enough to put him away.
Even a Babalu on semi-sabbatical should beat Zayats. Sobral isn't the Babalu of the UFC or even the Strikeforce days, but I don't think he has to be. He's quite obviously battle-tested, hugely experienced and has enough tactical skill to give almost any kind of opponent a hard time. As I alluded to earlier, he is older and probably can't take punishment like he once did, but I'm not convinced Zayats is going to be the one dishing it out. Most of Zayats' victories come courtesy submission over basically helpless opposition. That's not Sobral, even an aging version of himself.
Months ago my initial inclination was to lean Pitbull, but I've since changed. I do believe Curran will start slow, but I like him overall. I think he'll defend the takedown enough, should it even be necessary. And while I suspect he'll lose striking exchanges early, I think over time he makes better adjustments while mixing up strikes in combination attacks. And if he needs the takedown, I wouldn't suggest that's out of the question either. It's a close fight and a tough fight. A Pitbull victory should by no means be surprising, but Curran's got the hot hand here.