Mike Perry and Luke Rockhold throw down Saturday night in a five-round bare-knuckle boxing grudge match at BKFC 41, which takes place at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colo., and features a card littered with familiar UFC names. Ahead of the action, MMA Fighting’s Shaun Al-Shatti, Steven Marrocco, and Jed Meshew sidled back up to the roundtable to predict the winners of BKFC 41’s four most compelling pay-per-view bouts.
Mike Perry vs. Luke Rockhold
Al-Shatti: Is there any fighter in MMA more born for bare-knuckle boxing than Mike Perry? “Platinum” should be thanking the blood gods every night that he came around in the era of BKFC, because it’s obvious he’s found his calling. Few combat sports place a premium on toughness quite like bare-knuckle, and watching Perry will himself to an upset over an objectively better boxer in Michael Page through sheer toughness turned me into a believer.
“Platinum” hits like a truck and eats punishment for days without blinking. Rockhold may have been a fearsome kickboxer and savant-level grappler in his best days, but now he’s a 38-year-old man with infinitely more wear and tear on his body than Perry, and he’s going to be deprived of his greatest gifts once Saturday rolls around. Perry wins via late knockout.
Marrocco: Luke Rockhold has a significant height, reach and weight advantage against Perry. Will that matter? I’m skeptical. Rockhold’s best weapons in the cage were his kicks and his grappling. With those unavailable, you’re telling me he’s going to make the stylistic adjustments he’s going to need in two months?
Rockhold may have a library of work with boxers from his MMA career, but those were in service of MMA fights. This is a different sport with different weapons, and it takes time to adjust. Time is exactly what he won’t have with Perry in his face, swinging heavy shots that promise to test his well-tested chin. I see Perry getting the knockout early, or taking the bloody decision.
Meshew: When analyzing any Luke Rockhold fight, one only needs to answer a single, simple question: Can Rockhold’s opponent throw a decent left hook? If he can, Rockhold is in trouble, and while Mike Perry has many failings, actual fist-fighting ain’t one of them.
Perry has never been a beautiful technician in the cage or ring, but he’s tougher than differential equations and he comes to fight. Those two qualities got him past Michael “Venom” Page, who is a much better boxer with much better defense than Rockhold has. In an MMA fight, Rockhold rinses Perry, but in bare-knuckle? The Ralph Lauren model is in trouble.
Chad Mendes vs. Eddie Alvarez
Meshew: Part of the fun of fighting for me is the mystery of it all. In stick and ball sports, the question of who is better resonates a little less with me than it does for pugilism, and this fight is my favorite sort of mystery box: The kind I’d never even thought of before.
Seriously, before this fight was announced, who ever thought about the possibility of these two men fighting? And yet, now that it’s out there, I’m intrigued. Alvarez is the “better boxer” of the two, but bare-knuckle is a very different world and plenty of decent boxers have struggled to adjust to the sport. Mendes at least has a little bit of experience in it, and he seems to be decent. Because of that, I’m going to default to Mendes winning a back-and-forth scrap, but I won’t be surprised in the least bit if Alvarez is a natural at this. After all, “The Underground King” knows his way around a scrap.
Marrocco: Two things stick out to me in this matchup: Alvarez’s layoff and the tread on his tire. The ex-lightweight UFC champ has been through a ton of wars, gotten dropped dozens of times, and generally starts slow. Mendes, a natural MMA featherweight, is just off the bench after a quick knockout in bare-knuckle and has some fast hands that promise to find Alvarez’s chin. What he might not anticipate is Alvarez’s heart and durability, qualities that have time and time again gotten him out of rough situations. I think Alvarez struggles in the early rounds and then rallies late, only to lose on points.
Al-Shatti: As a general rule of thumb in life, I try not to doubt Eddie Alvarez whenever it relates to matters of toughness. After all, we’re talking about a lunatic who once strode straight into the mouth of Hades and out-dueled Justin Gaethje in a battle of wills. Few men can claim such a feat. Alvarez is the bigger and longer fighter, and the more accomplished striker. Mendes may be younger, but he’s still 37 compared to Alvarez’s 39. This feels like a coin-flip fight, and my gut is warning me not to pick against “The Underground King.”
Give me Alvarez via an ultra-competitive, ultra-fun split decision.
Christine Ferea vs. Bec Rawlings
Meshew: Forgive me my ignorance here, but why is Bec Rawlings getting this opportunity? She lost her last BKFC fight to Britain Hart down a weight class and now she’s jumping up and getting a title shot? Against a woman who has beaten Hart, no less! In seven bare-knuckle fights, Ferea is 6-1 with five stoppages. To paraphrase the delightful Dona Hardy in the seminal classic The Running Man, “That girl is one mean motherf*****.”
Al-Shatti: When it comes to this one, let’s call a spade a spade. Bec Rawlings is the well-known BKFC name who’s about to get sacrificed upon the altar of Christine Ferea in order to increase visibility around the flyweight champ. Similar to Perry, Ferea’s strengths are much, much better suited for bare-knuckle boxing than they were MMA. She’s been a terror in the bare-knuckle ring and Saturday will be no different. Unanimous decision. And still.
Marrocco: Bec Rawlings is a former champion, and a dedicated BKFC evangelist and early bare-knuckle headliner, so that’s why she’s getting the opportunity. She’s just the name Ferea needs to build more casual interest, so in that well-worn playbook, she marches out and puts up a competitive fight before losing on points to the champ, who’s lighter, faster and a better finisher.
Ben Rothwell vs. Josh Copeland
Marrocco: Rothwell is likely to have a big weight advantage, and he’s also got height and reach on Copeland. He should play the outside game, which will incentivize Copeland to rush in and fight inside, hoping to land one of the inside hooks that felled previous opponent Levi Costa. I suspect Rothwell will wake up after taking a few hard shots and assert his dominance in the clinch, making it dirty en route to a decision win.
Meshew: I won’t sit here and pretend I have a deep well of knowledge about Josh Copeland. He was an underwhelming heavyweight in the PFL and he had a perfectly fine performance in his BKFC debut last year. You know who has been better than “underwhelming” and “fine” in his long career? Ben Rothwell. Rothwell was a top-10 heavyweight for a number of years, and lit the world on fire in his BKFC debut in October. I’m going to assume he continues to do so here.
Al-Shatti: Mike Perry may steal the headlines, but Ben Rothwell is easily the single most terrifying MMA convert we’ve seen step into the BKFC ring. Seriously, just imagine this 292-pound monstrosity barreling toward you with his bare fists. The mind shudders at the thought. There’s a reason BKFC frontman Dave Feldman struggled so mightily to find a victim willing to sign on the dotted line for this fight. Rothwell via Hulk smash.
Who wins Saturday’s main event?
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