This Friday, one of the better Bellator cards in recent memory will take place at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri. The organization’s two best divisions will be featured with a title fight and potential number one contenders bout each, and then Bobby Lashley and James Thompson will break up the monotony of good fights with something potentially awful. The legitimate fights on this card are deserving of attention however, as for the first time in quite a while a Bellator card isn’t comprised solely of lazily-booked squash matches. Headlining the event is the trilogy bout between Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire and Daniel Straus. Now, ‘Pitbull’ has gone 2-0 against Straus, but had to pull off a dramatic comeback to take the second bout between the two. His performance in that bout, and dominant win over Henry Corrales was enough for Straus to be awarded a second title shot against the current champion. The co-main event moves up one division, as lightweight champion Will Brooks puts his title on the line against Marcin Held. Perhaps the sport’s pre-eminent Polish fighter (which is impressive, given the crop of Poles in MMA at the moment), Held has developed his game far beyond the leg lock based attack he first showed up in Bellator with. Still just 23, Held has shown vast improvement in his striking and wrestling, while maintaining an edge to his BJJ game that not many fighters can match. He’ll need every bit of that against Brooks, a fighter who was almost discounted after his knockout loss to Saad Awad back in 2013, but has gone on to win his last seven fights in increasingly impressive fashion to capture and retain the 155lb belt. Beyond the two title fights, there’s Lashley and Thompson in the heavyweight division, former lightweight champion Michael Chandler rematching David Rickels, and Justin Lawrence taking on Emmanuel Sanchez in the featherweight division. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting lines for the Bellator 145 main card today at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Check them out below: ——————– MAIN CARD (Spike TV, 9pm ET) ——————– Brad’s Analysis: Even though Straus has been finished a couple of times in title fights when he had no business getting finished, I find it hard not to like him against ‘Pitbull’ this time around. Freire has looked worse and worse from a defensive perspective recently, and Straus was already finding a great deal of success against him in their last fight. I think Straus avoids getting stopped this time around and ends up taking a decision to reclaim the featherweight title. Will Brooks has looked incredible in his last couple performances. His effort in retaining the belt against Michael Chandler is really what opened most eyes, and he solidified his status as a top lightweight with the dominant win over Dave Jansen. I expect the Held fight to go similarly, as the youngster simply doesn’t have the physicality or cardio to stand up to Brooks’ constant attack. Held always has a shot to snatch a leg lock or submission, but Brooks is such a well-prepared and smart fighter that it’s hard to picture him getting caught. Lashley lost his first fight against James Thompson because he got tired. That’s it. He’s probably going to get tired here as well, but he’s become much better at pacing himself and controlling opponents even when he can’t get takedowns. I expect this to be a bit of a snoozer, but I think Lashley gets the job done once again in the Bellator cage. Two questions in regards to this fight: Why was Michael Chandler booked to fight David Rickels again? Why did David Rickels accept the fight? Chandler is better everywhere from both technical and physical perspectives, and it’s hard to see this going much different than their first encounter, when Chandler was too fast and too good on the feet for Rickels to even make it out of the first round. Justin Lawrence seems to be another one of those fighters who keeps being available at discount prices because bettors are remembering his UFC run rather than looking at the fighter he is now. Lawrence is a better striker and wrestler than Emmanuel Sanchez, and with Sanchez’ questionable defense, there’s a possibility that Lawrence can put him away here as well. I think it will be another impressive performance for the Missouri native, and he may be next in line for a featherweight title shot afterwards.