Bellator appears to be gaining ground on the UFC and whilst the bout order could be questioned somewhat (especially the main event), at least we know that the production of this card will be somewhat entertaining and enjoyable to watch even if the pre-fight shenanigans such as the weigh-ins are still lacking somewhat.
This card is the 2nd time a big MMA promotion will headline in New York (you can’t count that WSOF card) and will certainly find itself as a prime candidate for event of the year as on paper the title fights should deliver and everyone loves a grudge match, regardless of how relevant the competition remains.
Ignoring recent UFC PPVs and what potentially could be on offer later in the year; a McGregor return and Miocic vs Velasquez this Bellator 180/NYC card is a feast for the eyes in comparison to the recent UFC offerings – Nashville and Singapore spring to mind.
As you can see, this card is more stacked than your standard Bellator card we are used to seeing in recent years. Given the depth of this card with high profile names like Wanderlei and Fedor as well as actual high level fighters such as Phil Davis and Ryan Bader it will come as no surprise that the decision was made to split the card up a bit.
Although I don’t particularly share the same enthusiasm in the order of this card and with key Bellator figures of late missing from this card such as Kongo, Rampage and some of the recent women signings. It spreads out the action somewhat in case some of the fights don’t go as expected and highly touted prospect Pico will reap the rewards of making his pro debut on the main card of Bellator’s biggest ever card.
To break down the fights; there’s the Preliminary portion to kick things off that features mostly local talent and unknowns, this is followed by the “Bellator 180” card which serves as the undercard to the PPV card billed as “Bellator NYC” (when Bellator returns one would assume they’d roll with NYC 2 etc…).
The four bouts on the 180 card are what you’d expect from most normal Bellator cards of late; former UFC light heavyweights will rematch with the Bellator Championship on the line and this fight will be supported by surging prospects James Gallagher, Neiman Gracie and Heather Hardy. As for the PPV card, I will share my thoughts on that in a later post.
Phil Davis x Ryan Bader
Not exactly a rematch most fans would be too eager for giving how lackluster the first encounter was. On the bright side, this fight is more meaningful than the January 2015 affair with the 205lb Championship on the line.
Davis is a phenomenal athlete with a solid wrestling base. He’s rattled off 4-wins in a row since signing with Bellator but now facing his biggest challenge in the promotion as he fights the very last man to defeat him.
Bader also comes from a wrestling background, whilst he might not be as decorated as Davis it served him well in the first encounter and from what we’ve seen in recent years has certainly evolved more as an overall fighter – despite his chin being the more wobbly of the two.
Despite both fighters insisting this will play out differently than the first fight, expect a slow start from Davis and if Bader can avoid the takedowns midway through the fight I think this bout will play out similar to the UFC 172 fight Davis had against Anthony Johnson.
Ryan Bader via Unanimous Decision
James Gallagher x Chinzo Machida
Media love to make comparisons, fake news or not, there is definitely something about Gallagher that can’t be ignored. He’s undefeated, confident and has a great team behind him – many argue he’s untested and is just a wannabe of his friend Conor McGregor but in this fight with Machida he has a chance to prove himself.
Unlike McGregor, Gallagher finishes his fights with his submission skill set. Sure, he’s not exactly Demian Maia on the mat but he’s crafty in his scrambles and has shown consistent control thus far in his Bellator fights.
His striking is clearly not on the same level as McGregor’s but it has served him well in his fights in order to set up his entries for takedowns and trips.
He’s going to have his hands full in closing the distance carefully against a dangerous counter striker in Chinzo Machida. Just like his brother, Chinzo favours a patient approach with bursts of striking when countering his opponent.
By far the most skilled striker Gallagher has faced this fight looks to be a closely contested affair on paper; the first round is likely to play out as a feeling out process with neither fighter willing to be the aggressor – although Gallagher’s taunting might change that.
Chinzo succumbed to some early pressure and was taken down multiple times in his fight with Ocampo, whilst he was able to revert certain positions in that fight I expect Gallagher to capitalise on opportunities presented in this bout. Chinzo is no slouch with his grappling but he will prefer to keep this standing to utilise his counter striking at a range comfortable to his liking.
Despite the low quantity of wins in both fighters records, given the platform of this event and the need of fresh contenders in the Bellator featherweight division (not that keen on Straus vs Patricio Freire 5), you would be right in thinking the winner of this fight is expected to meet someone like McKee in a title eliminator later this year.
Gallagher’s pressure will eventually come into play like in his similar fights and if Machida succumbs to a takedown or two he could be in for a rough night. The scrambles will be key to how this fight plays out, going to give a slight edge to Gallagher as I was impressed with his recent performance.
James Gallagher via Submission Round 2
Neiman Gracie x Dave Marfone
One of the brighter Gracie prospects in recent times to represent the family that once dominated the sport in the earlier years. Whilst we are well aware of Neiman’s strengths as a fighter, he’s taken time to develop his skills in other aspects of the fight game.
His opponent shares a similar record and appears to be somewhat of a slugger as opposed to a technician. Granted he doesn’t land a knockout blow in the opening exchanges it would be a safe bet to say Neiman gets this fight to where he wants it and works for the submission.
Could be an interesting fight in the opening minutes, Gracie has faced the more experienced competition so far in his relatively short professional career. We know anything can happen in this sport but to go against a highly touted Gracie would be silly.
Neiman Gracie via Submission Round 1
Heather Hardy x Alice Yauger
The Soccer Mom versus WBC Bantamweight Champion has a strange ring to it. Hardy makes her debut after a successful boxing career which saw her win numerous titles and remain undefeated, now with the desire to see how far she can go in MMA we know that as long as she can stay on her feet she is going to be a problem for most women in this 125lb weight class.
Yauger certainly has experience on her side in MMA competition but her striking will look amateur like in comparison to Hardy. If Yauger is unable to complete her takedowns or bully Hardy up against the cage then this contest is all but lost.
Recent comments by Hardy on a certain spectacle happening later this year remind us that it is often hard to switch between combat sports. Let’s hope Hardy doesn’t witness that first hand.
One would imagine Hardy has worked enough in her short time training for MMA to fend off someone with Yauger’s skillset – Hardy might not be a spring chicken herself but she is better athlete and more dangerous fighter – a TKO should be expected.
Heather Hardy via TKO Round 2
Preliminary Card predictions
- Ryan Couture def. Haim Gozali
- Nate Grebb def. Bradley Desir
- Jerome Mickle def. Anthony Giacchina
- Matt Rizzo def. Sergio da Silva
- Hugh McKenna def. John Salgado