It’s not unusual for Bellator cards to go under the radar these days, but Benson Henderson was supposed to be one of the fighters who would make a bit of a splash and put them on the radar whenever he fought. Unfortunately for that plan, Henderson’s first fight is scheduled during the week where Conor McGregor announced his retirement out of the blue, and Jon Jones returns to the cage. Still Henderson making his Bellator debut is worth a watch, and Andrey Koreshkov is a worthy champion who has made some massive improvements since Ben Askren mopped the floor with him back in 2013. Koreshkov has won five straight since that loss, utilizing his devastating striking and a much improved wrestling game along the way. In the past five years, Henderson has only lost to current UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos, former champ Anthony Pettis, and a very controversial decision to perennial contender Donald Cerrone. That period also includes Henderson’s run as UFC champion, which featured a couple of close decisions that went his way. Bellator 153 also features the organization’s former featherweight champion, Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire. Freire’s last bout was when he dropped the belt to Daniel Straus via a 25-minute decision back in November. His opponent will be Henry Corrales, and this may be his last shot in Bellator. After entering the promotion undefeated at 12-0, Corrales has dropped back-to-back bouts to Straus and Emmanuel Sanchez, although he acquitted himself well in both outings. The main card of Bellator 153 will also see Brennan Ward take on Evangelista ‘Cyborg’ Santos, undefeated prospect Brent Primus face one-time top prospect Gleristone Santos, and British striking whiz Michael Page put his unbeaten record up against Jeremie Holloway. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting lines for Bellator 153 today at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Check them out: ——————– MAIN CARD (8pm ET, Spike TV)
——————– Brad’s Analysis: Benson Henderson has proven a bit more susceptible to takedowns lately, but that is against a far more accomplished level of wrestler than Andrey Koreshkov. On the feet, Henderson is a master at winning rounds by answering back whenever he gets tagged, and ending rounds strong. Even though Koreshkov is the more dangerous striker, I expect Henderson to be able to edge rounds on the feet if they stay there, and be the one scoring takedowns if there are any to be had. Regardless of the outcome, this bout is a win for Bellator. They either have a former UFC champion — still in the prime of his career — as their new champ, or Koreshkov gets a legitimizing win over Henderson. Patricio has been taking far too much damage for anyone’s liking over his past few fights, and that’s cause for concern moving forward against the top of Bellator’s featherweight division, but not here. Corrales only has two true TKOs on his resume, and doesn’t have the tools in the wrestling or submission department to really trouble ‘Pitbull’ there. I think the former champion gets back on track with a dominant win. The extent of that dominance depends on how active he chooses to be in this fight, but given his punching power he has a chance to finish this regardless of how aggressive he comes out. ‘Cyborg’ surprised me in his last outing. I figured he would be completely past it, but just about everything about his game looked as good as it ever has. Of course, for a career 20-16 fighter, that’s not necessarily the highest of praise, but it’s a positive for him. In this fight, he has the proverbial puncher’s chance. Ward is reckless enough that he can be clipped coming in, and his chin has failed him in the past. I really don’t see that happening though, because if we’re talking about probabilities of chins failing, ‘Cyborg’ has been stopped by strikes 9 times in his career. With Ward’s aggression and power, I fully expect that to become 10. For a guy who is only 6-0, Brent Primus has already faced some solid competition and performed well. Obviously the win against Derek Anderson in his last outing was the best of the bunch, but none of his first three performances in Bellator should be discounted. He’s gotten far from the Michael Page treatment. Considering Gleristone Santos just lost to a guy who isn’t nearly the grappler that Primus is, and his biggest struggle throughout his career has been good submission artists, this matchup bodes well for Primus. Jeremie Holloway just got submitted in his Bellator debut, and now he gets promoted to the main card against Michael Page, because of course he does, this is Coker’s Bellator. Holloway isn’t the grappler or the athlete needed to beat Page, but he has a record that looks a lot better on paper than in reality, so Page getting a win over a 7-1 guy will go towards building him up even further.