Bellator 106 Date: Long Beach Arena City: Long Beach, CA Featherweight bout: Akop Stepanyan (-180) vs Mike Richman (+140) Fight Breakdown: The Bellator 106 main card features a featherweight scrap between a pair of talented strikers when the Armenian Akop Stepanyan takes on former marine Mike Richman. Stepanyan is currently the small favorite at -180 ($180 to win $100), while Richman is the slight underdog at +140 ($100 to win $140) at Several Bookmakerss. AKOP STEPANYAN (13-6 MMA, 1-3 Bellator) just fell short in his third Bellator tournament. He was faced against Justin Wilcox, who was a very late injury replacement for Shahbulat Shamhalaev. The Armenian was dominating the fight, until the moment it hit the mat, where the superior grappler Wilcox sunk in a rear naked choke and put him to sleep. With a win over Richman, he will secure a spot in a fourth tournament, in hopes of becoming the champ at 145. Training out of the Rusfighters Sport Club, Stepanyan has great stand-up skills, solid takedown defense, but lacks a ground game. I used to think he could hold his own on the mat, but that does not seem to be the case against high level competition. In fact, he seems to be a fish out of water. He has solid boxing and phenomenal kickboxing skills. He is a smart fighter and is also very tough, with a ton of heart. He refused to tap against Wilcox and took a nap. His cardio is excellent and he will be ready for a three round war against Richman, though he does not expect the fight t last that long, as he will be looking for the finish from the opening bell. Stepanyan is a definite finisher, as nine of his thirteen career wins have come inside the distance; seven by TKO/KO and two by submission. MIKE RICHMAN (15-3 MMA, 4-2 Bellator) is set to make is seventh Bellator appearance, coming off a unanimous decision loss to “Frodo” Khasbulaev at Bellator 95 seven months ago. He’s taken the time off to improve his game, and with a win here, looks to book a spot in the next Bellator featherweight tournament. Richman is definitely a finisher, as 13 of his 15 professional mixed martial arts career victories have come via stoppage; seven by submission and six by knockout. He owns three impressive highlight reel knockouts which came inside the Bellator cage, all of them within the very first round of action. With the time off between fights, I expect Richman to have sharpened his tools and worked on his weaknesses. While he never plans to go the distance, the 28-year old Minnesota native has good conditioning and is generally able to go a full 15 minutes without fatigue setting in. Richman, while a talented striker, will be at a disadvantage in that department against the Armenian. That said, while he is no submission ace, he will have the advantage on the mat, and should be looking to take the fight there, though chances are he will be looking to put on an exciting fight and find another highlight reel knockout. It could play out that way, but Stepanyan has a better chin than Richman does, so it may not be the best gameplan. Fight Prediction: Simply put, the fight stays on the feet, whether Richman wants it there or not, until – Gabe’s Pick: Akop Stepanyan by KO (strikes, 0:45 round 2) Gabe’s Recommended Play: Akop Stepanyan -180 for a moderate play.