Bellator 99 Bet: Akop Stepanyan (-150) vs Justin Wilcox (+110)

Wilcox vs StepanyanBellator 99 Date: September 13, 2013 Arena: Pechanga Resort & Casino City: Temecula, CA Featherweight bout: Akop Stepanyan (-150) vs Justin Wilcox (+110) Fight Breakdown: The Bellator 98 main card features a featherweight tournament match-up between a striker and a wrestler when the Armenian Akop Stepanyan takes on Strikeforce veteran Justin Wilcox. Stepnyan is currently the small favorite at -150 ($150 to win $100), while Wilcox is the slight underdog at +110 ($100 to win $110) at 5Dimes Sportsbooks. AKOP STEPANYAN (13-5 MMA, 1-2 Bellator) is giving it a third go in the Bellator’s featherweight tournament, after falling short twice before against Brazilians Wagney Fabiano and Marlon Sandro. He was beating Fabiano until getting caught in an armbar, and he lost a very close Majority Decision to Sandro. He put on exciting performances in both bouts, which resulted in the Bellator brass bringing him back at Bellator 92, where he beat TUF alumni Chris Saunders by third round knockout. Now, Stepanyan looks to get past Justin Wilcox, as he has his sights set on Pat Curran and the 145 gold. Training out of the Rusfighters Sport Club, Stepanyan has great stand-up skills, a ground game, and decent takedown defense. Stepanyan also has excellent boxing and kickboxing skills. His submission game is good, as well as his submission defense, even though he was tapped by black belt Wagney Fabiano. I believe he could generally hold his own against most talented submission artists. He’s a smart fighter and is also very tough, with a ton of heart. Stepanyan’s conditioning is very good and I believe he will be able to go hard for fifteen minutes against Wilcox and the grueling wrestling style he will likely be trying to bring to the table. Stepanyan is a definite finisher, as nine of his thirteen career wins have come inside the distance; seven by TKO/KO and two by tapout. JUSTIN WILCOX (15-5-1 NC MMA, 0-0 Bellator) is taking this fight on short notice, as he replaces Shabulat Shamalaev. Wilcox is making both his Bellator and featherweight debut, as he drops down from the lightweight division, where he had a successful run throughout his career. Consecutive losses to Caros Fodor and Jorge Masvidal under the Strikeforce promotion caused him to make the change. Cutting down to 145, Wilcox figures to have the size advantage over Stepanyan as he heads into this bout. Wilcox is a wrestler training out of the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, CA. He generally has decent cardio, but considering the weight cut, I feel like he is going to end up gassing out, should the fight reach the later rounds. Justin Wilcox is a big guy; he is very muscular. He will be a very big featherweight. If he is able to pull the cut off in a healthy manner and display good conditioning, I think he may be a problem for Bellator featherweights. Along with his cardio, Wilcox’s chin will be questionable. His wrestling is good, but his striking is nothing to write home about, although it does seem to be improving. At 34 years of age, Justin Wilcox is still trying to pull it together and he looks to get past Stepanyan on his way to a potential title shot. Fight Prediction: Stepanyan will keep the fight standing and get the better of Wilcox on the feet. Sooner or later, I think he will touch his chin and put him out. If the fight reaches the judges’ scorecards, I think Stepanyan will get the nod, as I feel his superior cardio will benefit him in rounds two and three. I see him getting the upper hand right off the bat, so I would imagine he gets a 30-27. I think both of these fighters are somewhat underrated and the combination of Stepanyan’s great skill-set and Wilcox’s big short notice weight-cut make Stepanyan a bigger favorite than the line of -150 suggests. Gabe’s Pick: Akop Stepanyan by KO (punch, 1:49 round 1) Gabe’s Recommended Play: Akop Stepanyan -150 for 5u

Written by Gabe Killian

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