The interim era of Bellator rolls on, this time with one of the last tournament winners getting their title shots before the true Scott Coker reign begins. Brandon Halsey won the season 10 middleweight tournament to capture a title shot against champion Alexander Shlemenko, who is coming off of a loss to Tito Ortiz at Bellator 120. The card also features the return of Bubba Jenkins and Bellator mainstays like Marcin Held and Patricky Freire.
Will Brandon Halsey become the new Bellator middleweight champion or can 'Storm' hang onto his title? I answer these questions and more with my predictions.
What: Bellator 126
Where: Grand Canyon University Arena, Phoenix, AZ.
When: Friday, the seven-fight preliminary card starts at 7 p.m. ET on Spike.com/MMA Fighting. The four-fight main card starts on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET.
I think we're going to have a new Bellator middleweight champion after tonight. Shlemenko is small for the weight class while Halsey is huge. Halsey is aggressive, has fantastic takedowns, punishing ground and pound and unlike many other wrestlers, good control on top through positional advancement. The issue for me is going to be the finish. Shlemenko is durable and Halsey is lethal, but still working out his finishing skills. The longer this fight goes, the more it favors Shlemenko. Still, though, Halsey is going to have a lot of success early. If he can hang on, the belt is his.
This is about as close of a toss-up as you're going to get. Freire is no slouch on the ground, but doesn't have the same speed chess style Held employs. It's close in that department, but the edge goes to the fighter from Poland. On the feet, Held is improving, but will, in all likelihood, get positively lit up by the Brazilian. This is about Held doing what's necessary to get the fight to the floor and working heel hooks, kneebars or back control. I'll flip a coin and go with Held.
Jenkins has looked much improved of late. That's a credit to his bumped up training, weight class drop and more tactical approach to competition. He's still working out some of the kinks even at this stage in his career, but there doesn't appear to be much Meller can do to stop him. He's very experienced against a wide array of competitors, but Jenkins' pressure, wrestling and superior athleticism should be enough to get the job done if he competes intelligently.
This is Richman's debut at bantamweight and assuming the cut didn't kill him, it should be his fight to lose. I think highly of Richman's boxing, even if I'm the first to note it's a little too limiting to his offense. Still, with his improved size relative to his opposition, strong takedown defense and excellent jab-crosses, this is his fight to lose. He'll need to stay out of scrambles on the ground where West has the speed and technical advantage, but that's a doable task.