Bellator 131 marks the end of the old Bellator and the beginning of the new Scott Coker era as the company goes head-to-head with UFC 180 on Saturday night. Bellator 131 takes place at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego.
The main event of the evening is a grudge match between former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz and UFC veteran Stephan Bonnar. There is no title on the line for these gentlemen, but Bellator has worked diligently to hype this fight up.
In the co-main event, Michael Chandler gets a rematch with current interim Bellator lightweight champion Will Brooks. Brooks beat Chandler by split decision at Bellator 120 to capture the interim belt, but the two will now fight for the belt Eddie Alvarez vacated earlier this year when he departed Bellator to join the UFC.
Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal returns to action in the middle of this main card against Joe Vedepo. Vedepo replaces Tom DeBlass, who dropped out of the fight due to a cut suffered in training. Lawal, who beat Dustin Jacoby in September, will look to make it two straight wins when he clashes with Vedepo.
The card is rounded out by probably the two best fights in terms of action. Melvin Manhoef and Joe Schilling will engage in what should be a great stand-up war between two highly ranked kickboxers, and UFC veteran Nam Phan returns to the United States to face Mike Richman.
Bellator 131’s preliminary card starts on Spike.com at 7 p.m. ET. The main card airs on Spike at 9 p.m. ET.
LHW: Tito Ortiz (17-11-1) vs. Stephan Bonnar (15-8)
This is the second most interesting fight on the card—the most interesting being the co-main event—and it isn’t even because of the non-existent implications. The interest in this fight stems from the theatrics we’ve seen in marketing this fight. Bellator has really gone far to push this fight. It could be considered really corny and over-the-top, but perhaps it did enough to convince some fans to think, “Hey, maybe these two guys can defy age and logic and put on a great show.”
Tito Ortiz is riding high after defeating former Bellator middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko. Ortiz was immensely bigger than his opponent and it showed. Ortiz didn’t take long to submit Shlemenko in a fight that eerily mirrored his fight with Ryan Bader.
Ortiz is going to stick to his wrestling in order to beat Stephan Bonnar. Ortiz has two wins since 2006, and both have been submission victories. If the fight hits the mat, Ortiz could get another submission or utilize the ground-and-pound attack that once made him one of the best fighters in the world.
Bonnar’s last fight was against Anderson Silva and . Let’s just say it was not pretty. Bonnar was outclassed in a fight he had no business taking. To make matters worse, Bonnar was popped for Drostanolone after the fight. The TUF legend can’t be on his back in this fight and let Ortiz smother him. Bonnar has good submissions, but if the fight hits the ground, he is going to need to be on top. Bonnar’s best chance to win this fight will come from his striking. He needs to work the body to weaken Ortiz.
However, there’s another factor that could play a big part in the fight’s outcome. Bonnar is returning after a long hiatus. He has been out of the game too long, and that affect his performance.
Ortiz will beat Bonnar by unanimous decision.
LW Championship: Will Brooks (14-1) vs. Michael Chandler (12-2)
Will Brooks and Michael Chandler had a great fight at Bellator 120, and they will certainly look to have a repeat performance here. Brooks is technically the interim champion, but you wouldn’t know that in terms of how Bellator has promoted this fight.
That small gripe aside, Brooks had trouble early in their last fight when he was unable to stop Chandler’s takedowns. Brooks needs to learn from that and focus on what he did right against Chandler in their previous encounter. Brooks had opportunities to finish Chandler with a rear-naked choke, but he was unable to do so. Chandler is not a fighter you want to leave hanging around. If the opportunity arises to finish him, Brooks has to take it.
Chandler will make Brooks pay if he lets him linger. Eddie Alvarez learned that the hard way in their first fight. Chandler is a tough competitor who has knockout power in his hands, but he also has a wrestling base. Chandler won’t pass on the opportunity to score a takedown. It worked to start the last fight, and Chandler will certainly look to his takedowns once again in the rematch.
Last time these two met, the result was a split decision victory for Brooks. Well, we’re looking at another split decision here. The fight is really that close. Brooks and Chandler will engage in what possibly turns out to be the best fight on this card. When the dust clears, Brooks will be the undisputed lightweight champion.
LHW: Muhammed Lawal (13-4) vs. Joe Vedepo (17-8)
Joe Vedepo steps in on short notice against Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal. Lawal looks to jump back into the title picture in the new-look Bellator.
King Mo is a wrestler who will use his skills to control the fight. In his loss to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Lawal used that game plan but wasn’t very active with strikes or looking for submissions. Lawal has the ability to finish the fight with his ground-and-pound, but it depends on which King Mo shows up to the fight. Will he be cocky with his striking? Will he use his wrestling? These are hard questions to answer. Lawal’s consistency has been his biggest problem in Bellator.
Vedepo is coming off a win over Davin Clark. It’s only a one-month turnaround for the fighter, and that could be a factor in the contest. With his wide-ranging arsenal of submissions, Vedepo has a lot to offer on the ground. He could find a submission from his guard and win the fight off his back if the opportunity arises. However, Lawal has good control on the ground. King Mo may not be very active, but it’s doubtful he will get caught in anything unless he sticks his neck out. Simple mistakes have cost Lawal before.
Vedepo is well rounded as a fighter, but Lawal is also very highly skilled and can be overwhelming on the mat. Lawal by unanimous decision.
MW: Melvin Manhoef (29-11-1) vs. Joe Schilling (1-3)
If it wasn’t for Chandler vs. Brooks, this contest between Melvin Manhoef and Joe Schilling would be the best fight on the card come the end of the night. Both men are kickboxers, and they are going to stand and strike. Someone is getting knocked out.
Schilling has recently fought as a kickboxer for GLORY, and his MMA career has gone the way you would expect a kickboxer’s MMA career to go. All three of his losses have come by submission, but his lone win is a surprising submission victory.
Here at Combat Press, we have Schilling ranked as the No. 2 middleweight kickboxer compared to Manhoef, who checks in at No. 8. Schilling has become a lot better in his defense over his career, too. Schilling is using smaller gloves now which protect a lot less and could provide an opening in his defense.
Manhoef and Schilling have weak chins, and this is basically going to be a kickboxing match in a cage with smaller gloves. Manhoef is more comfortable and experienced in MMA, though, and he’ll get the knockout in the first round.
FW: Mike Richman (17-5) vs. Nam Phan (20-13)
Mike Richman is another fighter making a quick turnaround to compete on this card. He will face UFC veteran Nam Phan.
Richman knocked out Ed West in his last fight, which took place in September. He has a lot of power, and the West fight is a perfect showcase of that power. Richman is a former professional boxer who has certainly showcased those skills in his tenure with Bellator.
Phan was 2-6 during his time with the UFC. Since then, he has compiled two wins in Japan and now heads back to the United States for his fight with Bellator. He is a black belt in karate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Phan should be comfortable regardless of where this fight goes. He has seven victories by submission and another seven by knockout.
Phan’s best bet to win comes on the ground. Oddly enough, though, he’s more likely to try to stand and trade with Richman. Phan does have some technical striking, but Richman is a professional boxer.
Richman will pick up the decision victory.
Preliminary Card Predictions
MW: Kyle Bolt (8-3) vs. A.J. Matthews (6-3)
Matthews by second-round TKO
FlyW: Ron Henderson (3-0) vs. Jonathan Santa Maria (2-0)
Henderson by unanimous decision
FW: Jordan Bailey (4-1) vs. Alex Higley (2-1)
Bailey by second-round submission
FlyW: Nick Garcia (7-3) vs. Matthew Ramirez (1-0)
Garcia by third-round TKO
WW: Andy Murad (8-2) vs. Bubba Pugh (3-2)
Murad by unanimous decision
FW: Rolando Perez (7-4-1) vs. Mark Vorgeas (5-2)
Perez by second-round submission
LW: Ian Butler (1-0) vs. Joao Faria (0-1)
Butler by unanimous decision
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