After attempting to go head-to-head with the UFC last weekend, Bellator returns to its normal Friday night slot this week for Bellator 155. The card is headlined by a middleweight title bout between Rafael Carvalho and Melvin Manhoef which should provide some fireworks on the feet. Carvalho has had a somewhat surprising run to become Bellator middleweight champion. In his promotional debut, he was rebooked on short notice to face Brian Rogers, and scored a first round knockout. In his next outing, he struggled at times with the grappling of kickboxer Joe Schilling, but emerged with a split decision. That win earned him a title shot against Brandon Halsey, where he was a +700 underdog. After surviving Halsey’s early onslaught, Carvalho crumpled him with a body kick to win the belt. Melvin Manhoef as a title challenger really shows the lack of depth in Bellator’s middleweight division. The kickboxer has been knocked out in two of his past three bouts (although one was overturned to a no contest), but always presents a threat because of his massive power. Despite his struggles, this will be Manhoef’s third consecutive Bellator main event (and fourth in five appearances since joining the promotion), so he’s no stranger to the bright lights. Former featherweight champion Pat Curran will also be in action, taking on former WSOF featherweight champ Georgi Karakhanyan. A pair of previous lightweight title challengers will be in action as well — although you’ll have to inexplicably tune in to the Spike.com prelims to watch them — as Marcin Held and Dave Jansen run back their 2013 bout. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting lines for the top six bouts for Bellator 155 today at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Check them out: ——————– MAIN CARD (Spike TV, 9pm ET)
——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (Spike.com, 6:30pm ET)
——————– Brad’s Analysis: Over the past 10 years, Melvin Manhoef has fought in MMA 29 times. 27 of those bouts have gone under 1.5 rounds. I’d say that’s likely to become 28 of 30 after this one. For his part, Carvalho has gone under in 7 of 13 career bouts. For a winner, you have to lean to Carvalho because of his superior durability and slightly more well-rounded game, and the line might be a bit generous if bettors haven’t fully bought into him as champion yet. Even if he has overachieved thus far, it’s hard to see Manhoef being the one to take the belt from him. The biggest question with Pat Curran fights is normally whether he’ll pull the trigger or not. I’ve passed that stage with him. I’m quite confident he won’t pull the trigger nearly as much as he needs to, and he’ll only get by when he has a significant skill advantage over his opponent. That’s not the case against Georgi Karakhanyan, as these two are fairly evenly matched. With a year layoff for Curran, he could be even more reserved than normal, and because of that I’m going to side with Karakhanyan for a slight upset. As a +150 or higher dog, I’ll take a shot on Karakhanyan, but I won’t be playing him if I have to lay any juice. Normally a 24-year-old, 9-0 heavyweight prospect generates more excitement than Augusto Sakai has, but thus far he’s been relegated to the Bellator prelims. In his first main card slot he takes on Dan Charles, who seems to drag every fight of his into stages most fans would rather not see heavyweights go. Personally, I find those types of fights endlessly amusing and I can certainly see myself betting this fight to get past the round and a half mark if I’m offered plus-money on it. #FGF Chase Gormley just got knocked out by Dan Charles, and Joey Beltran is returning to heavyweight after being stopped in his last three losses (two at 205 and once at 185). Please explain to me why this fight is on the main card ahead of Marcin Held and Dave Jansen? Marloes Coenen was originally supposed to fight Julia Budd in this spot, but Budd was injured and Alexis Dufresne stepped in. Coenen hasn’t looked particularly sharp in her two Bellator bouts, but she’s scored a pair of submissions. Her current form should be enough to defeat Alexis Dufresne who had one of the worst runs in recent memory in the UFC, and has been out for 16-months during which she had a baby. Perhaps returning to her more natural weight class will help, but I have to think Coenen gets the better of this one. This will be the big test of how much Marcin Held has developed over the past couple of years. Dave Jansen was able to grind him out back in 2013, but Held’s striking and wrestling seem to have improved dramatically since then. If he can have more success against Jansen in the wrestling — not even necessarily win the exchanges, but turn them into scrambles rather than Jansen securing top position — his submission skills are far more dangerous. The bigger area of concern for Held will be on the feet, where Jansen can pressure him constantly and perhaps wear him out in the clinch. This is a fascinating bout because of the history, and also because of the wide open nature of Bellator’s lightweight division following the departure of Will Brooks. It’s just baffling this isn’t on the main card, since it’s one of the top two fights on the card.