Bellator 102 main card preview for ‘Kongo vs Godbeer’ in Visalia

Bellator 102 is coming to us from Visalia, California, with a night full of tournament action. Three tournaments, in fact. We will see the debut of Cheick Kongo in the Season 9 heavyweight tournament, the continuation of the middleweight tournament and the finals of the Summer Series bantamweight tournament. There’s a lot to keep track of, but we have you covered below. The main event features former UFC heavyweight Cheick Kongo (18-8-2) making his Bellator debut in a shortened heavyweight tournament (4 participants instead of 8) taking on British up and comer Mark Godbeer (8-1). Remember Kongo vs. Barry? The fight that made us all collectively drop our jaws as Kongo was dropped multiple times before knocking out Barry? Yeah, I think this fight may be something like that. Bellator is expecting Kongo to come in and run roughshod over the weak Bellator heavyweight competition, and he may, but this Godbeer has six knockouts and 2 submission wins that were set up by his strikes. He’s got a good, young chin, and I’m thinking Kongo way take some heavy, heavy shots en route to a win. This could be a stand up war, but we’ve also seen Kongo work the takedowns and and use his wrestling to take care of opponents he knew couldn’t handle fighting off their back. Godbeer is that type of fighter. Two more UFC vets continue the Bellator heavyweight tournament, as Lavar Johnson (17-7) brings his heavy hands into the Bellator cage to fight Vinicius Queiroz (6-3). If you follow MMA closely, you may be wondering how Johnson is fighting here, considering he was found with elevated testosterone in his last UFC against Brendan Schaub fight and banned for a year. Well, the athletic commission shortened his suspension and now he’s here, with many other UFC castoffs to find glory in a non eight-sided cage. Johnson, simply put, is a banger. He lacks a ground game, he lacks great submission skills, but he can absolutely throw a bomb of a punch. Queiroz has found mixed success in both Bellator and the UFC. He is 1-1 in Bellator, and has a submission win over Mark Holata in last year’s heavyweight tournament, but was knocked out flat by Alexander Volkov in the next round. Volkov went on to win the vacant heavyweight belt. The Brazilian can strike, but he probably doesn’t want to with the power of Johnson waiting for him. If he does get the fight to the ground early, he can be in control, but this could turn into a stand up fight. In the Summer Series bantamweight final, we have Anthony Leone (13-5) taking on Rafael Silva (20-3). This will determine the next challenger to erstwhile Bellator champion Eduardo Dantas. Leone started his Bellator career with two split-decision wins, one of which was over former champion Zach Makovsky, which got him into the Summer Series tournament where he would submit Frank Baca at Bellator 97 to advance. Leone is a good, all-around fighter with up-tempo striking and good takedowns. His opponent spent the vast majority of his career in Brazil, but he’s still been impressive in his short Bellator run, defeating favorite Rodrigo Lima in the opening round of the tournament. Leone may be more well-rounded, but Silva has a stifling ground game. The only real question is if Silva can keep the pressure on Leone, who seems to consistently overcome adversity in the cage. We’ll see if he can overcome Silva trying for the submission over and over. Next, we have a middleweight tournament semifinal, as Mikkel Parlo(10-1), the Danish striker, taking on the undefeated Jason Butcher (7-0). Parlo defeated Brian Rogers in the first round of the tournament with non-stop takedowns and quick offense on the feet, which was impressive considering Rogers’ multiple highlight-creating explosive knockouts. Rogers is a bit of a gatekeeper, and Parlo advanced with flying colors, and is matched up against a motivated Jason Butcher. This could be fight of the night if it stays on the feet, but I’m not sure if it will. Parlo has 7 knockouts to his name, but this is where I tell you that Jason Butcher will likely rush in and attempt the takedowns until he can clinch his hands together and bring down Parlo. Striker vs. Grappler? Yes, this is that fight we know and love. Butcher has fought worse competition than Parlo in my opinion, and Parlo’s time at Xtreme Couture has really helped him with his grappling abilities, but will that be enough for the stifling Butcher? The middleweight semifinals then open the show, as Brennan Ward (7-1) a tournament replacement, takes on Joe Pacheco (6-0), a tournament replacement. Replacement on replacement action, here. And it should be good. Ward steps in for Andreas Spang, and Pacheco is filling in for the injured Perry Filkins. Ward is an NCAA wrestler who owns a pair of heavy hands, and Pacheco is a finisher with 4 knockouts and 2 submissions. Both of these men have impressed as of late, and this could perhaps steal the spotlight as the best fight of the night. Like any submission specialist, Pacheco will have a hard time finding room to maneuver under Ward’s wrestling abilities, while on the feet Pacheco actually may have the advantage despite Ward’s plentiful knockouts. It’s a kind of grappler vs. striker affair where both men are willing to bang on the feet. It should be interesting.

Written by Jason Nawara

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