Bellator tries to march forward with it's first attempt at pay-per-view, albeit without the main event they really wanted to push. With the concussion suffered by Eddie Alvarez, the trilogy fight opposite Michael Chandler was forced to be put on hold. Still, the event continues and the grudge match between Rampage Jackson and Mo Lawal now serves as the main event. Chandler is still on the card, but he'll face Will Brooks for the Bellator interim lightweight championship. UFC Hall of Famer Tito Ortiz is also on the main card where he'll square off against Bellator middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko in a light heavyweight bout.
Will Rampage continue his undefeated streak in Bellator? Is this do or die for Mo Lawal? Will Chandler earn the interim title and continue his date with destiny opposite Alvarez in the future? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Saturday's fights.
What: Bellator 120
Where: Landers Center, Southaven, Miss.
When: Saturday, the five-fight preliminary card starts at 6 p.m. ET on Spike.com/MMA Fighting. The four-fight preliminary card starts on Spike TV at 8 p.m. ET and the five-fight pay-per-view card kicks off at 10.
This one is a bit tough to figure out. Neither fighter has recently looked like themselves at their most potent, but you have to wonder if Lawal is still rebuilding from the staph infections that nearly took his leg. Could he be getting better each time out? Perhaps, but I'm going to side with Jackson. His takedown defense is still pretty sturdy, he's riding a wave of confidence and Lawal hasn't (of late, anyway) been able to fluidly mix his striking and takedowns. If this is about striking on the outside, I don't have much of a choice but to pick Rampage even if I acknowledge he's not the threat he once was.
Michael Chandler vs. Will Brooks
Brooks might be able to surprise us all, but I doubt it. He's a talented fighter, for sure, but still in the developmental stages of his skill building. Chandler's getting better, too, but is much more of a dynamic threat. For a lack of a better description, he can do a lot more in a lot more phases of the game, both individually and in blend. I suspect he's going to be all over Brooks and will eventually force the rising lightweight into making a mistake that costs him the contest.
From what I can tell, this is a set-up fight for Shlemenko (it's certainly a no-lose situation). He'll defeat the larger Ortiz, probably via stoppage by body shot in the second or third rounds, and it'll lift his name to prominence a bit more. That's what the aim here is. I don't see any scenario where Ortiz comes out looking great, short of a blistering knockout win early in the contest, something that's highly unlikely. Shlemenko is tough as nails and adept at slowly chipping away at flawed opponents.
I'm surprised the odds are so close. Look, on the feet, Volkov is a legitimate threat. That isn't to say Ivanov is totally outmatched there, but it's certainly the best space for Volkov. On the mat, however, this isn't even a contest. Ivanov is leagues better as a guard passing submission threat. I'd be shocked if Ivanov doesn't take this fight to the mat and finish it there.
Believe it or not, I'm not the biggest believer in Page. Sure, his style is unique and thrilling to watch, but his record is hardly exemplary. He's fought anything but the toughest competition and has even competed in 'MMA' bouts where the rules didn't allow clinching or takedowns. I'm not saying he doesn't have amazing talents, but we also can't hide from the reality he might have legitimate liabilities, too.
Rainey has been brought in to lose, not because he's a bad fighter, but because he's likely to play into Page's game plan. He openly states he never fights with a strategy ahead of time. That's a fatal mistake against a guy who a) pretty clearly has one strategy and b) is absolutely lethal on those terms. Rainey has the ability to win, but as long as he's unwilling to strategize, he won't here.
From the preliminary card: