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Bellator 123 predictions

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

After a brief hiatus, Bellator returns Friday with a television card that will overlap with the UFC's offering on Fox Sports 1, sparking fan and media curiosity about how each event will do. That intrigue is compounded by the fact both events are taking place ten miles from one another in the same state on a Friday night.

Notwithstanding, Bellator has built a card with a title fight at the top and TV-ready names on the rest of the line-up. In the main event, featherweight champion Pat Curran tries to defend his title against perennial contender Patricio Freire. Will Curran be able to defeat the Brazilian again or is this 'Pitbull's' chance to get revenge? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Friday's fights.

What: Bellator 123: Curran vs. Pitbull 2

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, CT.

When: Friday, the nine-fight preliminary card starts at 6 p.m. ET on Fighting. The four-fight main card starts on Spike TV at 8 p.m. ET.

Pat Curran vs. Patricio Freire

On a night with a sensational UFC card, it's hard for any other fight or event to stand out, but this is a great addition to those fights. If this bout is anything like their first, we should see the type of 'boxing' rare in MMA, namely, the close-range, phone booth, hand combinations most fighters have neither the guts to do nor dance partner to help. These two oblige each other, which is what makes their fights better than they'd ordinarily be.

As for who will win, Curran's move to Team Takedown might be the best thing he ever did or maybe it'll erode all the progress he's put together in tightening up his timing, defense and counter punching. We'll find out tonight. As for Pitbull, he's a more efficient version of the person who fought Curran the first time, which is to say all of the structual flaws in his offense that Curran pinpointed should still be there. Of the two, though, for sure the Brazilian is the heavier puncher.

Pick: Curran

Muhammed Lawal vs. Dustin Jacoby

Look out. This could be a lot more competitive than people think. Jacoby is known as the MMA fighter who left for kickboxing, but the truth is, he never had much success at GLORY. In fact, he only entered the Road to Glory tournament as a way to get prep for an upcoming MMA fight. He won, literally, as something of an accident. Yet, while he can't compete against GLORY's best, the time competing there and training in Holland has dramatically improved his striking. Moreover, he was a respectable MMA talent before switching to kickboxing. He washed out of the UFC, but made it there in only 9 months of training. I don't think he has the wrestling to hang with Lawal and he probably has some work to do to get back on the MMA horse, but it'd be hugely foolish to think Jacoby is some lamb being sent for the slaughter.

Pick: Lawal

Tamdan McCrory vs. Brennan Ward

This is a tough one to call. Ward is a feral animal with good wrestling skills, but not a ton of polish or restraint, even when it's prudent. McCrory, though, has been off forever. Who knows how good he is now? Could he come in and triangle Ward from his back with his lengthy frame? I suppose. He might even bust him up in the clinch. Or maybe Ward steamrolls him. Without knowing where McCrory in right now, it's not really fair to pick him, but I'm intrigued to learn more.

Pick: Ward

Cheick Kongo vs. Lavar Johnson

If you're expecting a slug fest, you're likely to be disappointed. Kongo is almost assuredly going to try to clinch and wrestle with Johnson where he can ultimately use his still rather ferocious ground and pound to close the show quickly. Johnson could put his lights out at any point, but all things being equal, expect him to get wrestled to death.

Pick: Kongo

Bobby Lashley vs. Josh Burns

It's not that I think highly of Lashley's abilities as much as it is my belief that Bellator gave him a winnable fight. Beyond that, there's probably not much analysis to provide except never count out Lashley's historically dubious preparation to doom him.

Pick: Lashley

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