Bellator returns to action on Friday, this time bringing a former UFC champion back to his natural weight class as well as showcasing top featherweights on the organization's roster.
What: Bellator 160: Henderson vs. Freire
Where: Honda Center, Anaheim, Calif.
When: Friday, the preliminary card starts at 7:45 p.m. ET on MMA Fighting. The four-fight main card starts on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET.
Benson Henderson vs. Patricio Freire
This is a bizarre, but interesting fight. Freire is moving up from featherweight where he was known to pack a huge punch. Will it translate at lightweight? It should, at least a little. He's also obviously skilled everywhere, but his offense largely runs through his ability to hurt opposition. Henderson is coming off of a five-round drubbing at welterweight and is the former UFC lightweight champ. He enjoys a size advantage here as well as a competitive one, insofar as the weight class is concerned. The interesting part is this is a three-round contest. Henderson has to get right to work. Will he go for the takedown as is necessary? It's not to suggest the American can't win on the feet, but given what Freire is good at and where Henderson's natural advantages lie, it seems reasonable to conclude tying up would be central to his game plan. My hunch is Henderson gets it done, but this won't be easy and he has to be willing to get right to work.
This is a tougher call than it used to be, but I'm still going to side with the Armenian. Jenkins's wrestling is obviously top notch and instinctual. He's also dramatically improved his had placement on takedowns, thereby limiting risk for chokes. Karakhanyan, by contrast, will happily jump guillotine if he has to, sometimes to his detriment in terms of following a strategy that makes sense for the time or opponent. The truth, though, is that I still believe in Karakhanyan's ability to get to his feet and at least threaten with submissions. Aside from positional control, I'm still not sure how Jenkins threatens Karakhanyan.
This one promises to be a striking battle. One of Awad's greatest weapons for a time was his hand speed. That's certainly still a component of his game, but isn't quite the ace in the hole in once was. Anderson, for his part, is a more polished striker and can take a shot. Things might get dicey if he tries to trade a bit too much with Awad, but this is Anderson's fight to lose.
There isn't much to this one. This is a fight made very much on McKee's terms where he is expected to look good. I am in no position to disagree.