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Bellator 183 predictions

Benson Henderson

Well, this is one of those rare weekends where Bellator actually has a better event than the UFC, at least main card wise. Bellator 183 is being a headlined by an fun fight between former UFC and WEC lightweight champion Ben Henderson and veteran Patricky Freire. Apart from the great main event bout, Bellator 183 also features the promotional debut of former UFC heavyweight Roy Nelson, a welterweight showdown between heavy-hitters Paul Daley and Lorenz Larkin, and the return of blue-chip prospect Aaron Pico.

What: Bellator 183

Where: SAP Center, San Jose, Calif.

Where: Saturday, Sept. 23. The eight-fight preliminary card (which can be seen on MMA Fighting) begins at 7 p.m. ET, and the five-fight main card begins at 9 p.m. ET on Spike.

Ben Henderson vs. Patricky Freire

This is an interesting fight and a very tough pick. Ben Henderson hasn’t looked too great since leaving the UFC, while Patricky Freire looked the best he’s ever looked in his last bout against Josh Thomson.

A few years ago, Henderson was considered to be one of the best lightweights on the planet. Today, many would agree that has changed. Although no longer in his prime, Henderson is still a talented fighter that can be competitive against most 155 pounders. Henderson is strong, athletic and very durable. The former UFC champ has solid striking and a very well-rounded grappling game.

Meanwhile, ‘Pitbull’ doesn’t carry the same prestige that Henderson carries, but I would say ‘Pitbull’ is actually more dangerous than Henderson given his knockout power. Freire is quick and explosive in his striking. The Brazilian is technical in his boxing game, and for the most part looks to keep the fight on the feet. Freire’s grappling is not outstanding, but he definitely knows his ABC’s.

I think if both guys show up at their bests, Henderson gets the nod. However, Henderson is not the same fighter he once was, and having watched Freire’s brother Patricio do well against Henderson, I believe Freire has a solid chance. For the most part, I consider Patricio a better fighter than his brother, so there is that. Tough fight to call, as I can see Freire avoiding any kind of grappling and lighting up Henderson over the course of three rounds. Yet, I think we’ll see a very experienced Henderson digging deep and proving to the world he’s still has some of those world-class skills.

Pick: Henderson

Javy Ayala vs. Roy Nelson

“Big Country” will be fighting for the first time outside the UFC since 2009. The long-time UFC heavyweight will be taking on a very game Bellator veteran in Javy Ayala.

Like most of the UFC to Bellator crossovers, it’s safe to say that Nelson’s better days are a thing of the past. It’s not so much that Nelson has lost skill, but more that he’s failed to add new tools to his game and his opponents have figured him out. Either way, Nelson still carries one of the best chins in the game, a powerful right hand, experience, and some takedowns.

But will that be enough to beat Ayala?

Ayala is a small heavyweight with great wrestling and decent striking. Ayala is very tough and carries respectable power behind his punches. Ayala might not be as seasoned as Nelson, but he definitely has less milage and just feels to be the fresher fighter.

I actually think this bout is closer than what most people think. I don’t think Ayala’s wrestling is enough to bring down Nelson’s heavy base. However, I think Ayala can give Nelson some issues on the feet. Ultimately, I don’t think Ayala is quick enough to avoid Nelson’s power for three rounds.

Pick: Nelson

Paul Daley vs. Lorenz Larkin

Hands down this is the best fight of the card.

Paul Daley vs. Lorenz Larkin is a fan’s dream match up. Both welterweights are incredibly talented on the feet and are not afraid to throw down. Odds are this will be the fight of the night.

Daley is a very explosive and technical kickboxer with a great chin and a solid takedown defense. Daley is also extremely experienced, but remains in prime shape. Meanwhile, Larkin is a much cleaner and more polished striker, but probably less dangerous than Daley. Larkin is accurate and can mix things up well. Larkin also has more tools than Daley when it comes to the grappling department.

I’m really looking forward to this fight, and wouldn’t be surprise with either guy coming out on top. Regardless, I still give a slight edge to Larkin here. I think his striking technique is a bit sharper than Daley’s and I see him connecting with the better shots of the the fight. I think Larkin should hold up against Daley’s power.

Pick: Larkin

Goiti Yamauchi vs. Adam Piccolotti

It’s unfortunate this bout is flying under the radar, as it pits together two of the best prospects in Bellator’s 155-pound division.

Goiti Yamauchi is extremely experienced for his age. The 24-year-old possesses a very crafty ground game with sneaky submissions. Yamauchi is also a decent striker, but doesn’t pose much of a threat on the feet. Yamauchi’s downfall is that he’s sometimes too comfortable grappling off his back and that tends to be viewed as losing in the many judges’ eyes.

Adam Piccolotti is very similar to Yamauchi. Piccolotti might not be as experience, but he’s maybe a more dominant grappler than Yamauchi, as he likes to take his opposition down, adamance to a dominant position, and then look to submit. Piccolotti also has a solid takedown defense and good striking.

I think both these fighters could be one small mistake away from getting submitted. I expect to see a great grappling exchange. I believe that Piccolotti’s ground game is a little bit better suited for MMA, and I find his striking to be better than Yamauchi. Close fight, but I see Piccolotti getting a decision win.

Pick: Piccolotti

Aaron Pico vs. Justin Linn

Let’s see if the second time is the charm for blue-chip prospect Aaron Pico.

Pico had a major spotlight for his professional MMA debut back in June at Bellator NYC. Some blame Pico’s disappointing start in MMA on this massive spotlight, while others blame it on poor matchmaking. Well, things haven’t changed much this time around, as Pico is fighting another 10-fight veteran in the opening slot of the main card.

Justin Linn is 7-3 in MMA. His two most recent loses have come to current ranked UFC fighter Mathew Lopez, and former UFC fighter Cody Gibson. Linn is no scrub. The 28-year-old has good jiu-jitsu and solid striking.

We know Pico is a national junior Golden Gloves champion and a phenomenal wrestler, but we haven’t been able to see how well he translates that into MMA, since his last bout was so short. This bout is tough to predict because we still don’t know what kind of fighter Pico is. But from the little that I know, I think Pico will get his first win here. Pico will have a big size and strength advantage which will help him deal with Linn’s biggest weapon: jiu-jitsu. On the feet, Linn is not a knockout artist which plays in Pico’s favor.

Pick: Pico

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