Friday night, Bellator returns to Spike TV with a very important card that should grab major fanfare. Live from Connecticut, Bellator 163 will be headlined by a crucial light heavyweight title fight, which could be one of the best title fights in the company’s history.
In the main slot, Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion Liam McGeary looks to defend his gold another time when he takes on top contender Phil Davis. Davis is a former UFC contender who has dominated since coming to the company.
Other than that, we have big names on the card such as Paul Daley, Marloes Coenen and Sergei Kharitonov, among others. It should be an explosive night of fights. With that, let’s take a look at the card and make some predictions for the fights.
Liam McGeary vs. Phil Davis
The main event will see the Bellator Light Heavyweight title on the line, as champion Liam McGeary looks to continue his dominance of the Bellator 205-pound division against UFC veteran and top fighter Phil Davis. This is a classic striker vs. wrestler matchup, so we will see who can impose their style first. Davis is going to try and impose his will, throwing takedown after takedown on McGeary. McGeary has shown he’s comfortable off his back, but Davis is physically a brute from the top. McGeary needs to keep this striking which may be tough. I think Davis is the champ at night’s end, which pains me to say.
Saad Awad vs. Brennan Ward
The co-main event will be contested in the welterweight division, as knockout artist Saad Awad moves up a weight class to take on the always entertaining Brennan Ward. Awad is a power striker who is extremely aggressive and exciting. He will want to take the fight to Ward, though Ward is also a very aggressive fighter. This is going to be an absolute barnburner, but I will take Ward here, who is very durable.
Marloes Coenen vs. Talita Nogueira
Talita Nogueira has taken a long layoff, but she returns to the cage in the next bout in a featherweight matchup when she takes on longtime top featherweight Marloes Coenen. Both Coenen and Nogueira are tremendous grapplers. Coenen has been around MMA for a long time and has seemingly fought everybody. She might want to stay standing here, though, as Nogueira is a top-notch BJJ player. Nogueira hasn’t fought since 2013, as a knee injury derailed her in 2015. This should be somewhat competitive, but I expect Coenen to win convincingly.
Paul Daley vs. Derek Anderson
Sluggers are set to combat in the welterweight division next, as UK knockout artist Paul Daley takes on an underrated finisher in Derek Anderson. There’s no secret what Daley is going to do when he fights. He’s going to be aggressive, throw massive bombs and look to check chins with his big-time punches. His left hook is always what to watch for. As for Anderson, he has no fear when it comes to stepping toe to toe with big-time fighters. He has good striking himself, so he may entertain Daley, foolish or not. This should be a great fight, but I will pick Daley, though Anderson could score the upset.
Sergei Kharitonov vs. Javy Ayala
The big boys are set to collide next in the middleweight division, as Russian banger Sergei Kharitonov looks to march toward a title shot against the always tough Javy Ayala. Kharitonov is a longtime veteran of the sport that has been at the top for a while. He is a striker that rattles jaws and steals the consciousness of those he opposes. Ayala is tough as nails and is known for upsetting guys he isn’t supposed to beat. That’s what makes him intriguing here. However, it’s hard to go against Kharitonov. He will pepper Ayala early and often en route to a stoppage from strikes.
Josh Diekmann vs. Tyler King
The heavyweights are set to meet on the prelims next, as heavy hitter Tyler King looks to upend longtime Bellator staple Josh Diekmann. At 40, Diekmann is not exactly a rookie anymore, but he still has good power. He will want to keep this fight on the feet, as striking is his best asset. King would be smart to get this fight to the mat, as submissions will play to Diekmann’s weakness. If Diekmann keeps this upright, it will be game over. Otherwise, King will ground him and control him. I will go with the latter.
Blair Tugman vs. Walter Smith-Cotito
Featherweights will meet in the next affair, as 8-6 Blair Tugman looks to move further away from the .500 mark when he takes on 4-4 Walter Smith-Cotito. Smith-Cotito does enjoy the ground more than the feet, where he does earn submissions. He will have to bring that tool set with him against Tugman, who also likes to go to the ground. This could be a toss up fight, but I will take Tugman when the coin hits the turf.
Mike Zichelle vs. Tim Caron
The middleweights get the call to the cage next, as undefeated Tim Caron brings his perfect 6-0 record in against 8-4 Mike Zichelle. Zichelle is a ground fighter, BJJ to be specific. That said, in addition to submissions, he can land big shots from top position. Caron is a big, strong fighter who has finished every fighter he has faced. He can do it on the feet or on the ground. However he wants this, preferably on the feet, Caron gets this done and scores another win.
Ilya Kotau vs. Carlos Correia
Welterweights at the beginning of their pro careers square off next, as 1-1 Ilya Kotau takes on 1-0, Venezuelan-born Carlos Correia. Kotau has a win and a loss by submission, both of which came under the Bellator banner. Correia will want to keep Kotau on the feet, where he can light him up with some big strikes. That will happen, as Correia runs his record to 2-0 in impressive fashion.
Sarah Payant vs. Hannah Regina
The ladies come to the cage in the next bout in a flyweight contest, as 1-3 Sarah Payant looks to right the ship of her pro career when she takes on pro debutant Hannah Regina. Regina is making her debut under the bright lights, and while Payant isn’t the most experienced fighter ever, she has fought for Bellator before and other big east coast promotions. She’s a BJJ fighter, so her strength lies on the ground, which is why I think Payant takes this via submission.
Keenan Raymond vs. Kastriot Xhema
Up next are the welterweights, as 3-3 Keenan Raymond takes on pro debutant Kastriot Xhema. Not much is known about Khema, other than he likes to strike. Raymond has a win by TKO, submission and decision, as well as a loss by TKO, submission and decision. In what will be an upset, I will take Xhema, despite the fact that he’s an unknown.
Tom English vs. Chris Foster
The featherweights get the call to fight in the next bout, as 6-6 Tom English looks to move ahead of the .500 mark against 9-5 Chris Foster. English is 41 years old and has been used as an east coast jobber for some of the top talent. Foster is a physical specimen who has also fought some very tough east coast talent, though he’s far more successful than English. Foster will score a TKO in this fight, sending English under the .500 mark.
James Boran vs. Vinicius de Jesus
A pair of welterweights are looking to get their names known and they must do so against one another, as 6-0 James Boran puts his undefeated record on the line against 4-1 Brazilian Vinicius de Jesus. De Jesus hails from Brazil, but has fought on the east coast regional scene against low level talent. Boran has fought some better competition and has yet to take a blemish on his record. That’s the type of confidence I want from him, as he takes it to de Jesus and wins the fight.
Ed Ruth vs. Mark Mangiardi
Bellator has invested in a blue chip prospect that has dazzled in the wrestling world in Ed Ruth, and they put him on display for the first time when he takes on Mark Mangiardi in the middleweight division. Mangiardi was 2-3 as an amateur, so he doesn’t come to the cage with too much hype behind him. He takes on Ruth, who is clearly a superior athlete, is vastly more explosive and will drag him to the mat for a beat down. That happens, as Ruth makes good in his first MMA bout.
Tyrell Fortune vs. Cody Miskell
Tyrell Fortune made his name in the world of amateur wrestling and he now looks to break through in the world of pro MMA when he makes his debut in the heavyweight division against Cody Miskell. Miskell was a 5-2 amateur and is just 22 years old. He is powerful and can throw heat on the feet. Fortune, who is training with the Blackzilians, is far more explosive and athletic. He has a massive wrestling edge, something I expect him to use. He grounds, tires out and finishes Miskell, making a good first impression.
Neiman Gracie vs. Rudy Bears
A welterweight divisional bout will see a longtime MMA vet take on a fighter from MMA’s royal family, as Rudy Bears makes another trip to the cage against Neiman Gracie. Like the rest of his clan, Gracie is a ground fighter with superior submission skills to most he goes into the cage with. Bears is a journeyman who has fought some top fighters, but has not had the most success in his career. In fact, he’s hovering just above the .500 mark. The undefeated Gracie stays unbeaten here, possibly tapping Bears out on the mat.