In a busy weekend of MMA, Bellator 144 quietly rolls in this weekend, live from Uncasville, CT. It is card that went through a major change at the top, as this weekend was supposed to be a bantamweight title rematch between now-champion Marcos Galvao and former champ Eduardo Dantas. However, an injury has changed things up.
The new headliner will be a vacant middlweight title fight between unheralded former champ Brandon Halsey and tough Brazilian challenger Rafael Carvalho. Both men have seen success in Bellator thus far in their careers, leading them to this collision course for the 185-pound strap.
Outside the main course, this card is not the strongest offering Bellator has given its viewing audience. Although electric prospect Michael Page finds himself scrapping come this Saturday, the card lacks star power that will draw big viewers, especially since UFC in Ireland airs this weekend as well.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the impending card Bellator will offer this weekend, examine the matchup and make some predictions.
Brandon Halsey vs. Rafael Carvalho
With Bellator gold up for grabs, will Brandon Halsey be able to bully around Rafael Carvalho like he has many others, or will Rafael Carvalho be able to defend the shot and pick the former champ apart with his superior striking? Those questions will be answered when the chips are down.
Carvalho gets this opportunity after a strong 2-0 start in Bellator, brutally knocking Brian Rogers out in his debut and grinding away at kickboxing star Joe Schilling in his latest outing. That said, Halsey is undefeated at this point in his career and an absolute physical specimen. He achieves the takedown with ease and absolutely suffocates fighters on the ground.
Whether it comes via ground-and-pound or his underrated submissions, Halsey should be able to earn a finish here and become the two-time Bellator Middleweight Champion.
Brennan Ward vs. Dennis Olson
Since dropping to the welterweight division, Brennan Ward has looked like a new man set on a mission toward Bellator gold. With his charisma, toughness and skill, a win over Dennis Olson would likely put him in a solid position.
However, don’t let Olson’s record fool you. He is a tough fighter who has stepped in the cage with guys like Paul Daley, John Howard and Rick Hawn, meaning that he will be prepared for a war. Ward has fallen in love with his hands lately, and for good reason. He has power and can take a shot to give one. I don’t think Olson has what it takes to take out Ward, but it will be an entertaining fight while it lasts.
Isao Kobayashi vs. Goiti Yamauichi
In a very close and strong matchup, Isao Kobayashi of Japan makes his Bellator/American debut when he takes on Bellator veteran Goiti Yamauichi. Kobayashi has fought and defeated some very stiff competition over in Japan, including Bellator tournament veteran Marlon Sandro and UFC vet Will Chope in his most recent two fights.
His well-rounded skill set will match up nicely with Yamauichi, who has shown to be comfortable striking or grappling. Yamauichi is athletic and quick, as he constantly is looking for a flashy finish. These two have styles that will make for a fun fight when the cage door closes. It will be closely contested, but Yamauichi could be the man who takes the close edge here.
Michael Page vs. Charlie Ontiveros
In examining this fight, most look at this as yet another showcase fight for Michael Page. By that, of course, I mean that this is a gimme fight for Page, as Charlie Ontiveros has not proven to be at a high level.
What Ontiveros does provide is somebody that is willing to stand and bang against a guy like Page, who is extremely athletic, flashy and is building a highlight reel full of vicious knockouts. For that, there’s not a whole lot to analyze here. This will be quick, but it won’t be painless. Page will dazzle us with flashy technique and pure power, steamrolling Ontiveros to yet another stoppage.
Preliminary Card Quick Picks
Matt Bessette vs. Kevin Roddy
Two long-time Bellator vets collide here, though they have different paths. Bessette is a tournament veteran who has proven himself solid on the main stage, while Roddy insanely inconsistent (.500 record). This should be a breeze for Bessette, who uses a superior all-around game to earn the easy win.
Matt Secor vs. Jeremie Holloway
TUF 16 veteran Matt Secor has seen some success since failing to win that season of the show, but takes on an undefeated fighter in Jeremie Holloway here. Secor has stepped in the cage with some tough competition in the past with mixed results, while Holloway has only fought cans. Secor uses his ground game and experience to hand Holloway his first defeat.
Pete Rogers vs. Marius Enache
Two subpar talents meet here as 2-2 Pete Rogers meets up with 2-3 Marius Enache. Enache hasn’t won a fight against an opponent with a win in his record, so that could be very telling. I will take Rogers here, who will likely score with a finish.
Kin Moy vs. Walter Smith Cotito
Kin Moy has really been one of the better East Coast regional vets in the bantamweight division, so this is likely a showcase fight for him against the .500 Walter Smith Cotito. Cotito has nothing to offer Moy, who will likely batter Cotito until he can handle no more.
Billy Giovanella vs. Brandon Polcare
You have two very different flyweights entering this bout, as Brandon Polcare enters his second pro fight, while Billy Giovanella is a 12-fight veteran who has fought some tough east coast competition. Polcare is likely in over his head, as Giovanella should win this bout with relative ease.
Keenan Raymond vs. Damien Trites
Neither Keenan Raymond nor Damien Trites has done much to inspire much confidence in either one of them, so this could go either way. Though Trites has a big experience advantage, Raymond looks to have more upside and could walk away a winner come fight night.
Sam Watford vs. TJ Hepburn
Sam Watford is a gifted grappler and has an extensive amateur background, but makes his pro debut against an RFA veteran and five-time pro TJ Hepburn. If Watford can secure superior mat position, he has a chance to win, but Hepburn will welcome him to the pro ranks with a tough loss.
Ilya Kotau vs. Kemran Lachinov
Two men who are not experienced in the sport of MMA collide here, which will make for a tough pick to make here. A member of Team Link in New England, Kemran Lachinov showed he could go three rounds with middleweight prospect Eric Spicely, which could be an indicator that he is the stronger of the two competitors here.
Kevin Haley vs. Mike Zichelle
This heavyweight matchup features two men who usually fight a weight class or two below. In examining their histories, this fight should favor Haley, who despite a three-fight skid, has fought more quality competition, which is even tough to say in itself.