Obviously the highlight of the weekend for us gamblers will be UFC Philadelphia, but Friday night’s Bellator 219 card offers some opportunities as well. Scanning the card for value, I’m intrigued by this women’s featherweight bout between Janay Harding and Marina Mokhnatkina.
For obvious reasons, the young New Zealand native is very marketable. Although her professional record is unremarkable at 4-4, she hasn’t walked the easy road like a lot of prospects. She’s fought some tough opponents – including the likes of current UFC competitor, Jessica Rose Clark, as well as former boxing standout and SBG Ireland fighter, Sinead Kavanagh.
Harding’s main strength is her kickboxing. While she throws caution to the wind defensively, her offense is potent – unleashing a hurricane of punches, kicks, knees and elbows on her opponents. She’s also extremely tough and will fight to the death for your money. At the end of a high paced brawl with Amber Leibrock – you got the feeling that Harding could keep going for a few more rounds.
Looking through her footage, Harding’s grappling seems to be a weak spot. In particular, the way she was taken down repeatedly by Ramona Pascual in a 2017 E-1 World Championship contest was alarming. This is a red flag since she’s facing an opponent with a sambo background, but from what I can tell she’s been working diligently on her grappling at Tiger Muay Thai and City Kickboxing.
As an eight-time Russian champion in sambo, Marina Mokhnatkina is a relentless submission hunter. While she has some good takedowns from the clinch, it’s worth remembering she’s fought her entire career at bantamweight. She will be at a size (and perhaps strength) disadvantage against Janay Harding, who is a full sized featherweight.
On the mat, the Russian fighter chains submission attempts until she gets the tap out. This approach allowed her to win her first four professional fights by first round submission, but things didn’t go according to plan in her last contest against Georgian muay thai fighter, Liana Jojua. Not only did Mokhnatkina lose out in scrambles, she also appeared to tire during the second round. In 2019, I’m not a big fan of the submission over position style of grappling for MMA.
On the feet, Mokhnatkina looks serviceable – but you’d think she’ll be at a disadvantage against the taller, longer, more dynamic striker in Harding. I anticipate the Russian will primarily want to punch her way into the clinch and execute takedowns rather than hang at range.
If the sambo ace scored a takedown and won by submission in the first few minutes of the fight, it wouldn’t surprise me whatsoever. With that being said, if Harding can survive the early grappling onslaught – I give her an excellent chance to win. Despite her questionable takedown defense, Harding is the much larger fighter with a striking and cardio advantage. I think these lines are way off, and I’m happy to take the value on Janay Harding at the generous price of +275.
Pick: Janay Harding +275