With the UFC on its longest hiatus since April of this year, Bellator has a chance to run an event which will have the majority of the MMA world’s focus. Bellator 162 takes place on Friday night from the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tennessee. The last time the promotion was in the Memphis area was when Bellator made its lone foray into Pay-Per-View, with the Bellator 120 card featuring Rampage Jackson, Tito Ortiz and others. Bellator 162 has a much different feel, as the only holdover from their PPV card is Alexander Shlemenko, whose reputation has declined markedly since his days as middleweight champion. The Russian will be making his return to Bellator after 18 months. That time saw him serve a suspension for PEDs and take a couple of fights in his native country. Shlemenko will be facing former Ultimate Fighter winner Kendall Grove, who has put together a somewhat surprising 4-2 run since signing with Bellator late in 2013. The co-main event will likely be the fight that draws the most eyeballs to Bellator 162, and that could be a strategy that backfires big-time. Bobby Lashley never measured up to the unrealistic expectations that were set with him making his MMA debut so close to Brock Lesnar’s, but he has turned into a serviceable heavyweight and a decent attraction. With seven consecutive wins — and six coming by finish — it’s easy to see the improvements he has made in his near decade of MMA competition. He’ll be taking on Josh Appelt, who is one of the heavyweights who perfectly encapsulates Bellator’s heavyweight division. The Spike TV portion of Bellator 162 also includes a couple of matchups which could be entertaining if the fighters play to their strengths. Middleweights Hisaki Kato and AJ Matthews are both entertaining strikers while Goiti Yamauchi moving up to lightweight to take on Ryan Couture could actually produce a fun grappling battle if Yamauchi doesn’t make use of his striking advantage. Bellator 162 is a 16-fight card in total, and the prelims feature a few decent matchups as well. Welterweights Ricky Rainey and Gilbert Smith will each be looking to impose their style on the featured prelim, while Julia Budd and Arlene Blencowe hope to make some noise in Bellator’s women’s featherweight division. A pair of heavyweight fights with UFC veteran Chase Gormley (facing Bobby Brents) and Strikeforce vet Virgil Zwicker (taking on Dan Charles) also toe the line between just plain sloppy and good old-fashioned sloppy fun. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting odds for Bellator 162 today at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Check them out: ——————– Bellator 162: Shlemenko vs. Grove OCTOBER 21, 2016 FedEx Forum | Memphis, Tennessee Main Card Spike TV – 9 PM ET Kendall Grove +200 Alexander Shlemenko -280 Over 1.5 -130 Under 1.5 -110 – Josh Appelt +265 Bobby Lashley -385 Over 1.5 -170 Under 1.5 +130 – A.J. Matthews +160 Hisaki Kato -210 Over 1.5 +140 Under 1.5 -180 – Ryan Couture +160 Goiti Yamauchi -210 Over 2.5 -170 Under 2.5 +130 ——————– Preliminary Card Spike.com – 6:45 PM ET Ricky Rainey +150 Gilbert Smith -190 Over 2.5 -190 Under 2.5 +150 – Bobby Brents +150 Chase Gormley -190 Over 1.5 -180 Under 1.5 +140 – Arlene Blencowe +400 Julia Budd -600 Over 2.5 -170 Under 2.5 +130 – Virgil Zwicker +135 Dan Charles -175 Over 1.5 -170 Under 1.5 +130 ——————– Brad’s Analysis: Grove could have a shot if he can drag this fight to the ground, as Shlemenko’s grappling has looked particularly vulnerable in recent appearances. However, Grove is a little too content to keep things on the feet, and I can’t see that ending any other way than with Shlemenko landing something big (hopefully of the spinning variety) and finishing him with strikes. Appelt normally likes to get top position on his opponents and work a ground-and-pound game. That’s going to be difficult against a superior wrestler and athlete in Lashley. I could see Appelt being effective enough in his grappling to avoid being truly dominated, and that could drag this fight out. At some point, the 40-year-old Lashley will lose the physical edges he has over his opponents too, which will see him limp to victory more in the fashion he did early in his career, and I think this could be the type of matchup to make that happen. A battle of strikers will often come down to who can absorb more punishment, and in the second middleweight matchup on the main card I think that is Kato, who also has the better wrestling game and could go to that if Matthews is giving him too much trouble on the feet. There’s certainly a chance that Matthews can land something clean enough to score the victory, but Kato is the more likely victor. Still, if the line gets too high here, I could be persuaded to put a small play on Matthews. Yamauchi is the more talented fighter in the lightweight bout on the main card, but that has been the case in nearly his entire career, and it hasn’t stopped him from putting on a couple of duds in the past. The one in particular that could give pause about backing him here is the Will Martinez fight, which Yamauchi was controlled for 15 minutes by an inferior grappler. Perhaps at lightweight, that could happen again, although I don’t quite think Couture has the wrestling to replicate the performance. Because Couture rarely gets much support from the betting community, I think the line will be too high to warrant a play on Yamauchi.