Bellator 123 – Spike TV Main Card Preview

Bellator 123While the preliminary portion of UFC Fight Night 50 is going down just 20 minutes away at Foxwoods Casino, Bellator will be live on Spike TV with their four-fight main card from the Mohegan Sun starting at 8pm ET. The scheduling of these two events is almost perfect for MMA fans, as the Bellator main card should be wrapping up just as the UFC main card begins at 10pm. In my opinion, that’s actually a good thing for the UFC, as given the choice between the main event at Bellator 123 or any fight on the UFC card, I would likely have my TV settled on Spike. The main event features Bellator featherweight champion Pat Curran (20-5) defending his belt for the second time against Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire (21-2). Their first bout was one of the best fights of 2013, as the pair went 25 minutes in a back-and-forth battle that saw Curran’s hand raised by a split decision that truly could have gone either way. Since that bout 20 months ago, Curran defended his title once, then lost and regained his belt in a pair of bouts with Daniel Straus. Freire won a bout against Jared Downing to get back on solid footing, then the fall of 2013 saw him capture his second featherweight tournament title with victories over Diego Nunes, Fabricio Guerrerio, and Justin Wilcox. Following a very public spat with former Bellator exec Bjorn Rebney, it must have been a relief for ‘Pitbull’ to see Scott Coker take charge of the promotion this year. With a new boss on board and his long-awaited rematch about to go down, 2014 may turn out to be a very good year for Freire should he overcome the champion. Right now, odds suggest that this bout will be just as competitive as the last, with Freire a slight -120 favorite (bet $120 to win $100) over Curran, who sits at +110 (bet $100 to win $110) at Several Bookmakers. The rest of the Bellator card doesn’t feature nearly the intrigue of the main event, but there are plenty of recognizable names. One of those names is former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion ‘King’ Mo Lawal (12-4, 1 NC). The decorated wrestler takes on former UFC fighter Dustin Jacoy (10-3), and it should be a good bout to get Lawal back on track following his dubious decision loss to Quinton Jackson in the main event of Bellator’s pay-per-view effort in May. Jacoby is a talented striker who has caught on with the GLORY kickboxing promotion, but has fought at middleweight through most of his career, and has always struggled with strong grapplers. Unless Lawal decides to test out his boxing at a very inopportune time, he should be able to ground the striker. The betting odds agree, as Lawal is once again a big favorite in the Bellator cage, this time coming in at -475. Jacoby’s striking prowess doesn’t have him as big an underdog as many of Lawal’s opponents, but those abilities on the feet only give him a bit of a chance in the eyes of bettors, as he is still +420. Even more lopsided are the odds in the heavyweight “attraction” between Bobby Lashley (10-2) and Josh Burns (8-7). There are ways to hide it being obvious that you’re booking a fight specifically for one fighter, but apparently Bellator wasn’t interested in them on this occasion. Lashley is a -705 favorite currently with Burns being +570, and the line would likely be higher if the public had any faith whatsoever in Lashley. The former WWE wrestler and current heavyweight champion in the TNA wrestling promotion seems to have been brought in to draw some attention from the wrestling fans who tune into Spike, and it should work. Burns is 0-4 previously in Bellator, and has lost each of his fights by stoppage (with only two making it past the first round). The likely scenario here is that Lashley gets a quick takedown and lands ground-and-pound forcing Burns to cover up, or latches on a keylock or similarly heavyweight MMA type submission. This should do the job for everyone concerned. Lashley gets paid and gets made to look like a solid fighter, Scott Coker gets some extra eyeballs on his promotion, and Burns gets a paycheck. Even TNA has their heavyweight champion look like a monster in a legitimate fight. Opening up the main card will be a slightly more competitive heavyweight bout, as a pair of former UFC employees look to cement their place in Bellator’s pecking order. Cheick Kongo (21-9-2) has already seen himself win a Bellator tournament, but he fell short in his championship bid against Vitaly Minakov. The Frenchman did become just the second fighter to avoid being stopped by Minakov however, which is important given his historically shaky chin. That chin will be in for another test here, as Kongo takes on Lavar Johnson (18-9), one of the biggest hitters in the sport. Beyond that power, Johnson doesn’t bring much to the table however. That single-minded focus has resulted in Johnson’s tenure with Bellator not being particularly successful, as he’s gone just 1-2 with none of his bouts making it out of the first round. Chances are that if this bout ends in the first round as well, Johnson will have his hand raised. If it goes longer, Kongo’s wrestling and overall conditioning should carry him to victory. Most seem to be of the mind that Kongo will drag things out a bit and pick up the victory, as he has climbed all the way up to a -290 favorite, with the comeback on Johnson at +260. Bellator 123 also features some solid undercard action which will be streamed on starting at 6pm ET. The premiere bout on the undercard pits former middleweight tournament champion Brennan Ward (9-2) against former UFC welterweight Tamdan McCrory (11-3) who competes for the first time in over five years.

Written by Brad Taschuk

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