Bellator is coming out of the gates with a two-pronged attack this weekend, featuring one show with a surprising amount of depth and another that, while top heavy, boasts one of the best welterweight matchups of the year.
First, on Friday, Frank Mir and Roy Nelson will meet in the heavyweight main event of Bellator 231. This rematch from UFC 130 is somewhat of an odd booking given that Mir won their first meeting conclusively on the scorecards, but regardless, this is an opportunity for one of these veterans to get a much-needed win. The other, as Scott Coker implied on media day, could be headed to free agency.
Then on Saturday we have another rematch, this one between two welterweights in their primes as Rory MacDonald fights Douglas Lima in the finals of the Bellator Welterweight World Grand Prix for a world title, a tournament crown, and a $1 million prize courtesy of 50 Cent. MacDonald defeated Lima by unanimous decision in January of last year, though Lima did more than enough damage during their five-round war to have fans calling for an immediate runback.
Instead, MacDonald and Lima fought their way through a dangerous Grand Prix field to earn the right to face off once more, setting the stage for the second chapter of what could become an all-time great rivalry.
In other notable action this weekend, former light heavyweight champion Phil Davis welcomes highly touted Swedish prospect Karl Albrektsson to the Bellator cage, Paul Daley takes on short-notice replacement Saad Awad in a welterweight bout, Ed Ruth seeks redemption after his first loss, bare-knuckle boxing champion Bec Rawlings and kickboxing champion Robin van Roosmalen make their Bellator debuts, pro wrestling transplant Jake Hager goes for win No. 3 against Anthony Garrett, plus Nick Newell makes his second Bellator appearance and undefeated bantamweight Patrick Mix looks to improve to 12-0.
What: Bellator 231, Bellator 232
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
When: Friday, Oct. 25 (Bellator 231). The nine-fight preliminary card will be available to stream on MMA Fighting and the DAZN streaming service at 6 p.m. ET (un-aired prelims will take place after the evening’s main event). The five-fight main card begins at 9 p.m. ET and will air on Paramount Network and DAZN.
Saturday, Oct. 26 (Bellator 232). The seven-fight preliminary card will be available to stream on MMA Fighting and the DAZN streaming service at 7 p.m. ET (un-aired prelims will take place after the evening’s main event). The five-fight main card begins at 10 p.m. ET and will air exclusively on DAZN.
Frank Mir vs. Roy Nelson
There’s reason to be concerned about Frank Mir’s chin given that he’s been finished by strikes 10 times in his career. His last loss to Javy Ayala wasn’t a traditional KO (the bout ended when Mir lost his mouthpiece and tapped out due to an alveolar ridge fracture caused by Ayala’s punches), but his ability to avoid damaging shots should certainly be questioned.
Roy Nelson has taken out his fair share of heavyweights with that monster right hand of his and Mir will join that list if he gets caught. It hasn’t been as effective a weapon as late for Nelson, which suggests that opponents have it well-scouted at this point in Nelson’s career. Mir sussed it out in their first meeting and he neutralized the power of “Big Country” by going to the clinch at the slightest sign of trouble and scoring a few timely takedowns.
Even if Mir doesn’t have the same success with takedowns this time around, he still has the length to keep Nelson at reach and the grappling ability to tie him up and slow him down. It’s Mir who will dictate the pace here, just like when they fought eight years ago.
The former UFC heavyweight champion has mentioned his concern over this possibly being a tactical, uneventful fight and he’s correct that it could turn out that way. He’s also correct that he has all the tools to beat Nelson again, so this should be another decision win for Mir.
Phil Davis vs. Karl Albrektsson
It’s unclear why Bellator’s matchmakers chose to match up the experienced Phil Davis with Karl Albrektsson, a newcomer who has the potential to be one of the more entertaining strikers in the light heavyweight division. With the right matchups, Albrektsson should be able to produce barnburning standup duels. Davis is not that matchup.
Yes, “Mr. Wonderful” has the tendency to freelance, especially if he gets off to a strong start. Getting into ill-advised standup exchanges is a tendency that has been to his detriment though, as evidenced in a recent loss to Vadim Nemkov and earlier losses to Anthony Johnson and Rashad Evans. In those latter examples, Davis’s opponents defended well against his takedowns, and if Albrektsson can do the same then he goes from intriguing brawler to legitimate contender.
Davis should show his maturity here and look to put Albrektsson on his back early and often. The 26-year-old Swede has good agility and a strong arsenal of kicks, both attributes that will make Davis’s life difficult, but he shouldn’t be able to avoid being taken down for three full rounds. And if Albrektsson scores a takedown of his own, you can expect Davis’s buddies at Penn State coaches to be hanging their heads in shame.
Albrektsson is aiming to become the first man to finish Davis, but I think it’s actually Davis who will set a precedent here, handing Albrektsson his first submission loss.
Other notable bouts
Ed Ruth def. Jason Jackson
Bec Rawlings def. Ilara Joanne
Jake Hager def. Anthony Garrett
Mandel Nallo def. Killys Mota
Talita Nogueira def. Jessy Miele
Rory MacDonald vs. Douglas Lima
I’m liking Douglas Lima in this one, if only because of his impressive ability to adapt not just from fight-to-fight but in the middle of the fight itself. “The Phenom” always seems to be moving at his own speed and he’s willing to give up a round here and there to collect data. Keep in mind that he was close to beating Rory MacDonald the first time too, so it’s not as if Lima will need a major overhaul to topple the “Red King.” He has the skill, he just has to be a notch better than last time.
MacDonald will need to do more with top control in this one if he wants to replicate his success. Much of the criticism of his first fight with Lima stemmed from the fact that the visible damage was heavily in Lima’s favor, even if MacDonald was able to get in close and stifle Lima for much of the contest. Simple as it sounds, MacDonald’s ability to not get chewed up by Lima’s kicks will be one of the deciding factors in this rematch.
Lima has to show improved takedown defense as any chance of a late finish was snuffed out by MacDonald putting him on the mat and controlling him for most of the final frame. Again, Lima is excellent at adapting and if his evolution in the Andrey Koreshkov trilogy is any indication, he’ll be more than ready for MacDonald’s methodical grappling.
A trilogy between these two has seemed inevitable for some time and a Lima decision victory on Saturday will guarantee that it happens.
Paul Daley vs. Saad Awad
Major props to Bellator lifer Saad Awad for taking this fight on short notice and at a higher weight class no less. He’s been one of the unsung heroes of the promotion for years now and he’s doing the matchmakers another solid here by saving the co-main event of a thin card.
Awad has always been a gamer, but he’ll be in tough against Daley. “Semtex” was in fine form in his last fight with Erick Silva, showing the fast hands and killer instinct that have made him a fan favorite. Even without a finish, Daley reminded everyone why he’s still one of the welterweight division’s most respected strikers. He’ll have Awad on the backfoot early and Awad will be spending most of this fight just staying out of the way of a Daley KO blow.
It might be smart for Awad to try and take this one to the ground and wear Daley down, but you get the sense that there will be a gentlemen’s agreement between these two to stand and slug it out. Should that be the case, this should end in a knockout victory for Daley.
Other notable bouts
Nick Newell def. Manny Muro
Patrick Mix def. Isaiah Chapman
Devin Powell def. Marcus Surin
Kevin Ferguson Jr. def. Craig Campbell