Coming off of their Pay-Per-View offering just three weeks ago, a very different Bellator card will greet viewers this Friday night (July 14, 2017). Names like Fedor, Sonnen and Wanderlei are not present, nor are the three titles that were on the line during their trip to Madison Square Garden. Instead, it’s back to one of their old haunts in the WinStar World Casino, and some of the standard fare we’ve become accustomed to from Bellator as of late. Brandon Girtz and Derek Campos will have their rubber match in the main event (yes, they’ve already fought twice, and yes, both fights happened in Bellator), as each man searches for an opportunity in the recently changed Bellator lightweight division.
The fortunes of each man have gone in opposite directions since Girtz stopped Campos in just 37 seconds in November 2015. Girtz has dropped decisions in his two appearances since then while Campos has picked up three victories. Campos would seem to have a higher ceiling in the division in addition to the obvious momentum, but Girtz may have a greater sense of urgency coming into this match given his recent performances. Whether that results in a repeat of their first meeting (a Campos decision), their second (Girtz TKO) or something completely different remains to be seen.
The co-main event of Bellator 181 features former TUF winner Kendall Grove taking on fellow UFC veteran John Salter. Grove has gone 4-3 in Bellator, including an unsuccessful title challenge against then-middleweight champion Brandon Halsey. Meanwhile, Salter is a perfect 3-0 with the promotion, including a victory over Halsey. The main card also includes former two-division Bellator champion Joe Warren taking on a man 15 years his junior in Steve Garcia. Finally, women’s flyweights Jessica Middleton and Emily Ducote will open the Spike TV card.
While those will be the only lined fights on Bellator 181, some of the more intriguing bookings are on the preliminary card. Among those, world BJJ champion Rafael Lovato Jr. has transitioned nicely to MMA thus far, putting together a 5-0 record on his way to becoming Legacy FC champion. His Bellator debut came in March, and he used his striking, not his grappling, to earn a 13-second victory. Taking on UFC veteran Mike Rhodes on Friday will be the biggest test of his short career.
Speaking of short careers, Logan Storley has been a pro for less than two years, but he has quickly become one of the brightest prospects in MMA. The four-time All-American wrestler at the University of Minnesota — who also hails from Webster, South Dakota (Brock Lesnar’s hometown) — has picked up TKO victories in all five of his appearances, taking just 12:48 total to put his takedowns and violent ground-and-pound to work. Even with all of the impressive wrestlers on Bellator’s roster at the moment, Storley may possess the most MMA-adapted game.
MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting odds for Bellator 181 today at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Check them out below…
Bellator 181: Campos vs. Girtz 3
JULY 14, 2017
WinStar World Casino and Resort | Thackerville, Oklahoma
Main Card – (Spike, 9PM ET)
Brandon Girtz +160
Derek Campos -210
Over 2.5 -210
Under 2.5 +160
Kendall Grove +150
John Salter -190
Over 1.5 -150
Under 1.5 +110
Jessica Middleton +145
Emily Ducote -185
Over 2.5 -175
Under 2.5 +135
Steve Garcia +135
Joe Warren -175
Over 2.5 -185
Under 2.5 +145
Brad’s Analysis: While the possibility that Girtz clips Campos again certainly exists, Campos is the superior fighter overall and should be able to get the edge in the series. It should be competitive early, but the more Campos can force Girtz to work, the more the gap should widen between the two.
I keep expecting Grove to have nothing left, and then have consistently been surprised by his performances over the past three-four years. So while I expect that Salter can take Grove down, control position, and maybe even work his way to a submission, I’m not going to be shocked if Grove manages to use his length standing to land some hard shots and perhaps turn this fight in his favor.
Four of Warren’s six career losses have come to men who are (or were at one point) champions in high-level promotions. That number could turn to five if Darrion Caldwell fulfills his promise. While Garcia has had some success against wrestlers (he handed Shawn Bunch his first MMA loss), Warren possesses a motor that Bunch never showed during his time in Bellator. And even at 40 years old, there are few fighters who can hang with him once a fight hits close quarters. I don’t think Garcia has the movement to avoid Warren, and the former champ should have his way once inside.
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