Bellator 161 takes place in Cedar Park, Texas this Friday night with a four-fight main card that will air on Spike TV. The card is headlined by a heavyweight matchup between Cheick Kongo and Tony Johnson. Yes, Kongo is still headlining events in 2016. A win here for either fighter could lead to a heavyweight title shot down the road, as the belt is currently vacant. The co-main event pits former featherweight and bantamweight champion Joe Warren against UFC veteran Sirwan Kakai. Warren has struggled of late, dropping his belt to Marcos Galvao back in March 2015 and suffering a first-round submission loss to Darrion Caldwell in his most recent bout. Kakai is 0-1 thus far in Bellator, losing a unanimous decision to Joe Taimanglo back in March. Despite those recent results, a win for either puts them right back in the thick of the bantamweight title picture. The main card also features Anastasia Yankova, because she’s a female fighter who is attractive, and Scott Coker runs this promotion. The Russian has gone 3-0 thus far, with all her wins by first-round armbar, and looks for the fourth against 2-0 Veta Arteaga. The televised card is closed out by what could be the best bout on the main card, a lightweight contest between Derek Campos and Djamil Chan. Holland’s Chan has scored 10 of his 13 wins by T/KO while Derek Campos scored just such a win over Melvin Guillard in his last appearance. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting odds for the main card bouts of Bellator 161 today at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Take a look: ——————– MAIN CARD (Spike TV, 9pm ET)
——————– Brad’s Analysis: By Bellator standards, this is a highly competitive card. Only one of the four bouts is intended as a squash match while I can see either fighter winning the other three. Kongo can’t stop people who want to wrestle him these days. Johnson wants to wrestle him. Johnson is a big, durable guy who will simply push Kongo up against the cage and work for takedowns. He’ll find them, and the fight will get easier and easier for him as the minutes tick off the clock. I’m not sure how much Coker wants Johnson to be a part of his heavyweight title, but I don’t think he has much of a choice here. Warren is nearly 40. It’s absurd that someone his age can even remotely compete at 135, but I think his time is coming to an end. Kakai is good in the clinch where Warren wants to get to do his best work. I think Kakai can keep himself upright, win any distance exchanges, and get back on track with a win in his highest profile fight. Yankova is going to be lined too high in almost all of her fights until she loses. I don’t think the loss comes here, but I’m certainly not betting an untested fighter at this price. I could see Chan clipping Campos and scoring a quick TKO win, but it’s far more likely that Campos can turn this into a bit of a wrestling match to wear Chan down. It could be a rinse/repeat type situation for 15 minutes, or perhaps Campos finds a submission late in the bout, but again I’m struggling to pull the trigger on Campos with the line where it is.