On Sept. 26, Bellator will head to Phoenix and the Grand Canyon University Arena for its fourth show of the season. Bellator 126 houses a four-fight main card headlined by a middleweight title fight and the lightweight tournament finals.
The middleweight championship bout will be the main event of the evening. Champion Alexander Shlemenko returns to the cage to face Brandon Halsey. The winner of that fight will face Melvin Manhoef on a date yet to be determined. Manhoef earned his spot as a future title challenger when he took care of business last week against Doug Marshall.
In the co-headliner, the always dangerous Patricky Freire takes on submission specialist Marcin Held in the season-10 lightweight tournament finals. The victor will face the winner of the upcoming championship showdown between Will Brooks or Michael Chandler.
The card is rounded out with two lower weight class fights. At featherweight, Thiago Meller takes on former wrestler Bubba Jenkins. Then, at bantamweight, two Bellator veterans face off as Mike Richman takes on Ed West.
Bellator 126’s preliminary card will begin on Spike.com at 6 p.m. ET. The main card will air on Spike at 9 p.m. ET.
MW Championship: Alexander Shlemenko (50-8) vs. Brandon Halsey (7-0)
After a disastrous outing at Bellator 120, Alexander Shlemenko will put his belt on the line against Brandon Halsey in the main event.
Shlemenko lost to Tito Ortiz in a light heavyweight bout at Bellator 120, bringing an end to a 13-fight winning streak that started way back in March 2011. The last fighter to have beaten Shlemenko before that run was former Bellator middleweight champ Hector Lombard.
The 30-year-old Russian fought a weight class up and that certainly helped Ortiz bring their fight to the mat. Still, Shlemenko’s striking looked crisp and was certainly the one tiny bright spot in an otherwise dark night.
That striking will be a huge difference-maker here. Shlemenko has great kickboxing. Halsey, like many of Shlemenko’s former opponents, will certainly have trouble dealing with that aspect of the champion’s game.
Shlemenko is going to avoid repeating his fight with Ortiz. He will aim to keep this fight on the feet, where he can work to outpoint Halsey. Shlemenko doesn’t have a reach advantage against the challenger, but he will want to keep Halsey as far away as possible to avoid the threat of a takedown.
Halsey’s game plan is the opposite of Shlemenko’s strategy. The 28-year-old is a former NCAA Division I wrestler and can certainly terrorize Shlemenko on the ground. Halsey won’t have the humongous size advantage Ortiz enjoyed, though, which is certainly good news for Shlemenko.
Halsey had a great fight in his last appearance, which came at Bellator 122. He submitted Brett Cooper in the first round to extend his undefeated run.
I’m curious to see just how Shlemenko rebounds from the loss to Ortiz. Will it affect him going forward, or will it be a starting point to another long winning streak? Shlemenko certainly has the experience to rebound well, so I’ll take him by third-round TKO.
LW Tournament Final: Patricky Freire (13-5) vs. Marcin Held (19-3)
Patricky Freire will get a chance to do what his brother did a few weeks ago and make a statement in the cage. He’ll face grappler Marcin Held in the lightweight tournament finals.
Freire is a well-rounded fighter, much like his brother. Freire’s bread and butter is his striking. He is one of the scariest strikers in Bellator’s lightweight division. Despite holding the rank of black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Freire is going to want to avoid the ground, where Held has an advantage over the Brazilian. Freire’s striking is much, much better than Held’s, as evidenced by Freire’s last two victories, both coming via knockout.
Overall, nine of the 28-year-old’s 13 victories have come by way of knockout. It would realistically have been 10 of 14, had he not let a victory over Eddie Alvarez elude him. Freire rocked Alvarez early and seemingly had him on the ropes, but Alvarez clipped him and the two traded back-and-forth before Alvarez finally ended the fight. However, there’s no shame in losing to Alvarez, a two-time Bellator lightweight champion.
Freire has failed to perform against top competition so far in his Bellator career. His three biggest fights—Alvarez, Michael Chandler and Lloyd Woodard—all ended in losses for the Brazilian. Now the question becomes whether Held is top competition after being one of the most intriguing prospects on Bellator’s roster since he joined the promotion in 2011. Held has made the finals for the second time now and will face the toughest opponent of his career.
Held’s chances of victory lie on whether he can bring this fight to the ground and use his grappling. The 22-year-old is an ace on the mat, and he has used every type of submission imaginable. Eleven of Held’s 19 victories came by submission, ranging from toeholds and heel hooks to rear-naked chokes and armbars.
The fight will start on the feet, and that’s where it is going to stay. Freire has faced better competition in his Bellator career and, coupled with his brother winning the featherweight title, he will have the motivation edge as well. Freire will get a TKO victory in the second round.
FW: Thiago Meller (19-5) vs. Bubba Jenkins (7-1)
Bubba Jenkins will be the Bellator veteran in this fight. He welcomes Thiago Meller to the promotion.
Meller is certainly somebody who could hand Jenkins his second loss. Meller has fought good competition over the years on the regional circuit. He faced the likes of Jose Aldo and Rafael dos Anjos early in his career, suffering a majority decision loss to the future UFC champ and a submission loss to the future UFC contender. The Brazilian is also a finisher, picking up 18 out of his 19 wins by either knockout or submission.
Meller certainly has good Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu—13 submission victories—and should keep the fight competitive when it inevitably goes to the mat. He is going to need to somehow bring the former collegiate wrestler to the ground and keep him on his back, where wrestlers are known to have a lot of trouble. Bringing the fight to the ground will also help Meller to grind down Jenkins, who still has question marks in terms of his cardio and could fade late in the fight.
The other option is keeping this fight on the feet and trying to outstrike Jenkins, who has demonstrated raw striking skills so far in his young career. If Meller does decide to keep it standing, he will want to avoid taking any power shots from Jenkins, who has a tremendous amount of power in his hands.
The game plan for Jenkins is always a simple one: go for the takedown. Jenkins will launch some power shots. As a former Division I wrestler, it shouldn’t be too hard to land them.
Jenkins’s wrestling will inevitably win out in this fight as he takes another step away from his first loss and toward making a big stride in the featherweight division. Jenkins by TKO in the second round.
BW: Mike Richman (16-5) vs. Ed West (18-8)
After recent setbacks, Mike Richman and Ed West will look to turn their luck around in this fight.
West has fought sporadically since making the bantamweight semifinals in 2011. He has had only competed in three fights since then. Including that semifinal fight against Eduardo Dantas, West is 1-3 during that span. He lost his last outing, which came in a regional promotion in Mexico. The 30-year-old has skills on the ground and can grapple with some of the better Bellator fighters. West has nine submission victories in his career, and he has had a knack for entertaining battles. The problem with West is that he has holes in his striking and tends to disappear against better strikers. Dantas proved that very well by negating anything and everything West threw at him. West will want to take this fight to the ground and either grind out a decision or catch a submission against Richman, who doesn’t have the grappling of West.
Richman is a former professional boxer. His striking will be what wins him this fight. Much like West, Richman has had trouble as of late and sports a 1-3 mark over his last four fights. Richman could have conceivably won his fight with Goiti Yamauchi. It was a back-and-forth fight, but Yamauchi ultimately got the better of Richman on the feet and scored the decision. Richman has faced good competition in Bellator and has also stayed more active in the past few years.
Both of these fighters are tough outs, but Richman will score the knockout. And if he can’t finish the fight, he’ll claim the decision victory.
Preliminary Card Predictions
HW: Ryan Martinez (10-4) vs. Nick Rossborough (24-18-1)
Martinez by second-round TKO
LW: Brandon Girtz (10-4) vs. Benny Madrid (7-1)
Girtz by second-round submission
LW: Derek Campos (14-4) vs. Estevan Payan (15-6)
Campos by unanimous decision
HW: Stuart Austin (8-0) vs. Dan Charles (7-2)
Austin by second-round TKO
BW: Michael Parker (11-6) vs. Joe Taimanglo (19-6-1)
Taimanglo by unanimous decision
MW: Jacob Ortiz (13-4) vs. Clifford Starks (9-2)
Starks by unanimous decision
LW: Raymond Pina (4-0) vs. LaRue Burley (4-0)
Burley by third-round TKO
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