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Bellator 145 predictions

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Bellator brings back another tent-pole event on Friday night with title fights headlining the card. In the co-main event, Will Brooks puts his belt up for grabs against a Polish leg lock master while one of the Pitbull brothers defends his title against a former champion. The card also features rising prospects, a former lightweight champion and a pro wrestling crossover sensation.

What: Bellator 145: Pitbull vs. Straus 3

Where: Scottrade Center, St. Louis, MO.

When: Friday, the preliminary card starts at 6:45 p.m. ET on MMA Fighting. The five-fight main card starts on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET.

Patrício Freire vs. Daniel Straus

The first fight was a clear win for Pitbull. The second was looking like a clear win for Straus until he made an error in the fourth round. I'm a big believer in the abilities of the Brazilian, but I'm expecting a new champion on Friday night. Straus' quickness and southpaw stance are going to give Freire real problems. The American has the wrestling acumen to stop or execute takedowns and the speed/footwork to change angles, fire a powerful left hand with relative ease. Freire's the better power puncher and Straus has shown a propensity to sleepwalk through fights sometimes, but not anymore. Just as he put it on Pat Curran after succumbing to him in their first meeting, this should be Straus' moment to get the better of the Brazilian.

Pick: Straus

Will Brooks vs. Marcin Held

Brooks is a very special talent, something we already knew, but will be reminded of on Friday night. Held is not to be discounted, of course. His leg lock entries are unique and he's able to chain together a variety of finishes based on responses. He's also added a decent ability to execute a takedown to the mix. But that's not going to fly against Brooks. The American's going to stuff any takedown attempts. The key is whether he'll be able to a) escape rolling leg lock entries or b) execute a takedown early and pass to keep Held from even starting a move to the legs (although that can be difficult to do now). The latter is possible when you've got a hardcore pressure passing style, which Brooks does not. What Brooks does have, however, is quick reactions and excellent mobility. He's likely going to slowly thwart Held's entries before he knows them all too well, at which point, the hammer of his ground and pound will rain.

Pick: Brooks

Emmanuel Sanchez vs. Justin Lawrence

I'm going to take the upset here. I know this was supposed to be Pat Curran's fight and Sanchez is filling in on late notice, but that still doesn't deter me. Lawrence is more polished as a striker, admittedly, and better at overall distance management. But I'm guessing he's not markedly better in that regard. More importantly, I really like Sanchez's pressure game. He's always finding ways to attack, counter and force opposition into making mistakes, especially by forcing the fight to change phases. He has some defensive liability issues, which absolutely could cost him, but his willingness to force the action with anyone makes all the difference.

Pick: Sanchez

Michael Chandler vs. David Rickels

I suppose anything is possible. That bizarre timeout Chandler called in the second Brooks fight is still troubling in terms of what it says about how much damage Chandler has taken. That said, skill for skill and athlete vs. athlete, I have a hard time seeing how Rickels wins this. Chandler is much quicker, packs a big punch, heavy takedown pressure and worse. Rickels has a few tricks up his sleeve, especially in grappling counters, but I seriously doubt that's going to matter here. This appears to be a rebuilding fight for the former champ and I suspect it'll work out exactly like that.

Pick: Chandler

Bobby Lashley vs. James Thompson

If I'm being honest, I really have no idea which fighter to pick here. Lashley's improved the effectiveness of his wrestling game and had a full, complete camp for this fight. He's also not traveling far to compete. Thompson defeated him the first time and maybe could this time. He has shown to be able to stop the takedown, albeit when Lashley gassed. So, will the American fatigue quickly again? My sense is not as bad as before, but honestly, who knows?

Pick: Lashley

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