Peanut butter and jelly. Chocolate and milk. Hot Pockets and Sriracha (What? I like it). Some things just go together. Like Bellator MMA and GLORY World Series kickboxing. If you are a real combat sports fan, you will not miss this joint event on Sept. 19. The Bellator cage and the GLORY ring will be side-by-side, under one roof, for the co-promoted Bellator 142: Dynamite 1 show.
Want to see great MMA fighters like Liam McGeary, Tito Ortiz, Phil Davis and Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal? You got it. Getting tired of that and want to see two guys like Paul Daley and Fernando Gonzalez stand and bang in a kickboxing match? All you’ll have to do is turn your head slightly and watch GLORY’s best go at it in the ring. This event is the first of its kind.
The event, which takes place at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., kicks off with a preliminary card that features six MMA bouts and one kickboxing affair that will air live on Spike.com at 7 p.m. ET. The main card, which includes five MMA scraps and three kickboxing bouts, airs live on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Sal DeRose and Chris Huntemann preview the MMA portion of the lineup in this edition of Toe-to-Toe.
The evening’s MMA headliner features veteran fighter Tito Ortiz challenging Liam McGeary for the promotion’s light heavyweight title. Does Ortiz still have enough left in the tank to be a champion in 2015, or will McGeary issue a one-sided beatdown to the former UFC star?
DeRose: I originally picked Liam McGeary to best Emanuel Newton when he took the title from the former champion and I’m sticking with him here. There is only one light heavyweight that can take the belt from McGeary on Bellator’s roster and he is in the tournament portion of this card, Phil Davis.
Ortiz is definitely going to put up a fight, but he won’t be champion in Bellator in 2015 or any year after. We’re past the point of return for that to ever happen again at his age and with the numerous injuries that have piled up over the years. Ortiz is still a name in the division and will command high profile fights that make a next contender for whoever the light heavyweight champion is. He’ll also take a top billing on any card Bellator promotes which, for a 40-year-old fighter, is solid. Champion is just a stretch right now.
McGeary is a finisher and unless Ortiz continuously dumps the 32-year-old fighter on his head, it’s all going to be an uphill battle. McGeary has an edge in the striking department and he is a finisher. His fight with Newton is the first time in his career McGeary has went the distance as his other nine victories are a mixture of submissions and knockouts. McGeary has only gone past the first round three times, two of which came in the first three fights of his career in 2010 and 2012, respectively.
McGeary did seem to have a case of the yips in that Newton fight that caused him to failure to complete a numerous amount of submission attempts that could have ended the fight before it went to the scorecards. But, there were definitely positives in the grappling department as McGeary was able to chain submissions together wonderfully.
Ortiz is coming off of a sloppy three round fight against Stephan Bonnar and McGeary is no Bonnar. McGeary will outstrike Ortiz and avoid being put on his back. Even if Ortiz gets the fight to the ground, McGeary has an active guard.
Huntemann: Ortiz has looked reborn in Bellator, albeit it helps to fight someone beneath his natural weight class in Alexander Shlemenko and someone whose best days are behind him like Bonnar. Regardless, Ortiz looks freshly motivated fighting under the Bellator banner and should be in the best shape of his life when he finally fights for another title.
However, Ortiz is facing a star on the rise in McGeary. He dominated Newton to capture the light heavyweight title and looks like a fighter whose best days are still to come. All the motivation in the world won’t help Ortiz against someone who is younger, faster and stronger. I think Ortiz can go the distance with McGeary, but there won’t be much doubt as to who won this fight. I think McGeary takes home another dominating decision.
The MMA portion of Dynamite is all about the light heavyweights. Before McGeary and Ortiz take to the cage to battle for the belt, four other 205-pounders will vie for the next title shot. The competitors in the bracket are Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, Linton Vassell, Phil Davis and Emanuel Newton. Rank these men in order from most likely to win all the way to the least likely. Furthermore, if one of the alternates — Roy Boughton and Francis Carmont — ends up inserted in the finals, how likely are they to steal the whole show?
Huntemann: Ranking the four light heavyweight tournament fighters from most likely to win to least likely, I would say it’s Davis, Lawal, Vassell and then Newton. Davis was a victim of a logjam in the UFC’s light heavyweight division, but he has the talent to be champion. During his time in the UFC, the 205-pound division was at its deepest and most talented, and he could just never emerge. Now that he’s in Bellator, he has a much better chance to shine.
Davis has the wrestling to neutralize King Mo’s striking and grind out a decision. Vassell is young and possesses a lot of talent, but he has already fallen to Newton once and hasn’t faced the caliber of competition yet to prove that he has what it takes to be a serious title contender. Newton was one of MMA’s great Cinderella stories when he upset Lawal for the light heavyweight title in 2013 and put together an impressive year-plus reign, but then he ran into the talented and hard-hitting McGeary and just never seemed to get his feet under him.
Could Newton put together another inspirational run and go through the tournament and then avenge his loss to McGeary? Certainly. But Davis’s addition to the Bellator roster raises the playing field.
Keep an eye on Boughton and Carmont, too. Especially Carmont. If he’s subbed in for any of the aforementioned fighters, he could be a dark horse pick to win the tournament.
DeRose: The most likely candidate to win is very easily Davis. There really isn’t anybody in Bellator’s light heavyweight division that can stand up to his wrestling skills. McGeary, who would await Davis should the UFC veteran win the tournament, probably holds the best chance against Davis considering the British fighter has a strong set of striking skills and a very active guard off his back that could be a problem for a guy like Davis, who chooses to smother his opponents.
Hopefully, Davis wouldn’t do the cocky and overconfident move of trying to strike with a striker, since he clearly has shown he doesn’t have that particular skill set yet. And don’t forget just how highly ranked Davis was in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. Bellator’s division is much more shallow than the UFC’s light heavyweight roster, as my colleague already pointed out. If Davis can be a top-10 or top-five fighter in the UFC, he can be expected to rise to the occasion against Bellator’s best light heavyweights, who are probably fringe top-15 fighters at best in the 205-pound division.
Success in the UFC doesn’t always equate to success in Bellator, however. We’ve seen this before. Not every fighter makes the move and becomes a world beater in Bellator. However, as I tweeted when Davis signed with Bellator, he will be the champion of the company’s light heavyweight division. Davis is very accomplished in using his aforementioned wrestling acumen to win fights. McGeary is still green in some aspects of his skill set and still has a little ways to go before he can be considered one of the top fighters outside of the UFC.
Second on the list, I have to go with Lawal. King Mo is getting an easier pass in the first round against Vassell. Vassell gave Newton a good run for his money when they fought in their title fight. Vassell is a solid fighter, but Lawal has the wrestling to stop him (if King Mo decides to go that route instead of trying to knock out Vassell on the feet).
I have to issue a tie between Newton and Vassell at the bottom of my rankings. I have them both slated to lose their respective semifinal fights. Newton probably has more upside based on his past experience as a Bellator champion and his knack for pulling off the upset. Pressure doesn’t seem to faze Newton. When he is considered the underdog, Newton tends to pull out his best performances. If Newton can land one solid strike on Davis, he could crumble the former Penn State wrestler. I still have Davis as the victor in their semifinal fight, but Newton has proven me wrong before and could do so again.
Carmont and Boughton are probably on the outside looking in on this one. Carmont should pull out the victory over Boughton based on how dominant he can be over his opponents. Coming out of the Tristar camp, he should be very well prepared with a great game plan from coach Firas Zahabi. Carmont would jump into the middle of the rankings, right between the top two, Davis and Lawal, and the bottom two, Vassell and Newton. The UFC veteran is a good fighter, but Davis and Lawal are two of the top light heavyweights in Bellator. Carmont isn’t quite there yet. Carmont would stack up pretty well against Vassell, though, and has an outside shot at beating Newton.
Bellator President Scott Coker’s love of “big top” events is no secret. Evaluate this strategy so far. Has it made Bellator a more attractive product, and perhaps even a viable alternative (though still not a direct competitor) to the UFC? Is this joint fight card with GLORY kickboxing the icing on the cake? Should this become an annual event?
DeRose: I’ve been watching Bellator since pretty much forever, so I’m probably not the right person to answer this question. I’ve done previews and predictions for Bellator for so long that the changes have created quite a stark contrast to the Bellator of the Bjorn Rebney era.
Change can be good, though, and new(ish) company head Scott Coker has done a great job of piecing the promotion together to really pull away from the World Series of Fighting and ONE Championship as the clear-cut second biggest MMA promotion in the world. Bellator was always running behind the UFC and Strikeforce, but without Strikeforce, Bellator has really solidified that second spot behind the UFC. Bellator very clearly isn’t going to jump the UFC with Kimbo Slice, title fights featuring past-their-prime veterans and very clearly mismatched main-card fights, but the company trails only the UFC, albeit by a pretty wide margin.
The changes to a more glamorous presentation and big shows headlined by guys who really shouldn’t be headlining cards really shouldn’t jive with me. I understand why the company has made the move to big-name guys. Slice and Tito Ortiz are big draws. I still like seeing these fights, too. These are the fights that drew me to MMA in the first place. I’m a kid who came to MMA in high school as a youngster who wanted to see Slice fight. Now, as a 24-year-old, I’m writing about this sport. These things bring in new fans who could end up becoming very intelligent about the sport and love MMA just as much as I do.
Kickboxing has always been my favorite discipline to train in and watch, so I’m extremely biased in this. Having GLORY fights on this card is just absolutely amazing. So, yes, it’s like icing on the cake, topped with $100 bills in place of sprinkles. The idea of this as an annual event sounds like a great idea for both parties. They can do what they’re doing for this card and bring their best and brightest stars once a year, with title fights galore, and put it all on free television. That sounds like a win-win.
Huntemann: I’ve been a big fan of the changes Coker has made since taking over Bellator. The product has been talked about more now than it ever has before. Yes, more than a few people roll their eyes at that when fights like Ortiz vs. Stephan Bonnar and Kimbo vs. Ken Shamrock have been made. But isn’t the point of putting on fight cards to get people to watch? Plus, you still get quality fights on top of these “freak show”-esque match-ups.
Simply put, the joint Bellator/GLORY card is a combat-sports fan’s wet dream. If this card delivers and is a success, it should become an annual event and will continue to help boost Bellator’s stock and maybe even help it start to emerge from the UFC’s shadow.
Former UFC lightweight veteran Josh Thomson makes his Bellator debut on the card. Can Thomson make some noise in one of the deeper divisions in Bellator? Or is he just a name to help build up stars in the lightweight division?
Huntemann: Like Phil Davis, Thomson was lost in the shuffle of UFC’s even more crowded lightweight division. Bellator’s lightweight division is also not lacking talent with guys like champion Will Brooks, Patricky “Pitbull” Freire and Michael Chandler. However, Thomson still has something left in the tank and can be a valuable addition to Bellator. His fights with Gilbert Melendez in Strikeforce are still talked about today, and he can add to his legacy with some impressive performances in Bellator.
DeRose: Thomson can definitely make some noise in Bellator’s deep lightweight division. Does he beat the champion Brooks or perennial contender Chandler? Maybe. If nothing else, though, Thomson certainly will be a good litmus test to see just how good Bellator’s best division really is. If Thomson absolutely dominates the division, it’ll demonstrate that the UFC’s lightweight class is that much better (and that Thomson is good, but not quite at the upper levels of the elite).
Brooks and Chandler seem to be the far and away the best two lightweights in Bellator. They’re probably the only two, on first glance, who would beat Thomson if they were matched up. Thomson should beat everyone else. Freire would be a tough out, but his likelihood of drawing Thomson into a brawl dramatically reduces those chances. Thomson is still a good name for any of these guys to add to their resume.
Age also isn’t a big thing to worry about in Bellator. Whether you’re in your 40s or early 20s, title shots come to everybody. Also, Thomson getting booked in very clearly mismatches, like the one against Mike Bronzoulis, should help bolster those chances until Bellator wants to pair a really legitimate name like Thomson against one of its top stars.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
DeRose: I always like the Bellator prelims. Having done the previews for so many Bellator cards on this site and others, I am very rarely disappointed. The prelims even tend to be much more competitive than the main-card fights. I’m going to the undercard here and taking two veterans in Carlos Eduardo Rocha and James Terry. Terry is known for his knockouts — he has nine victories via strikes — and has fought some of the best names under the Strikeforce banner. Rocha is a submission fighter with eight victories coming from his superior grappling. The former UFC vet Rocha and the former Strikeforce vet Terry should combine for a fight that ends early.
Huntemann: The light heavyweight title fight will steal the show on Sept. 19. But it’s not the title fight you’re thinking of. I’m referring to GLORY’s light heavyweight title bout between Zack Mwekassa and Saulo Cavalari. Mwekassa is a bad, bad man. The last time one of his fights went the distance? 2009. Since then? Knockout after TKO after knockout and back again. The majority of Cavalari’s fights have gone to a decision, so he needs to come into this fight with a much more aggressive attitude, or else Mwekassa will send him to the hospital. Trust me, do not miss this fight.
Pair this card with…
Huntemann: A cigarette. Because when this card is over, you’re going to feel like you do when you meet a nice girl (or guy) and take her (or him) home for a good ol’ time. You’re going to need a cigarette. The action will be fast, furious, exciting and action-packed. Vin Diesel himself couldn’t drive a more exciting show than what you will see from Bellator and GLORY.
DeRose: Any of your two favorite things, mixed together. In honor of this card that mixes the best of both worlds in combat sports, mix two of your favorite foods, music or anything. I’ll be mixing some great Taco Bell with perhaps some tasty McDonald’s McNuggets. That probably sounds disgusting to everybody else, but I’m a guy in my mid-20s, so this is pretty much normal to me.
Main Card (Spike TV, 9 p.m. ET)
LHW Championship: Liam McGeary vs. Tito Ortiz
LHW Tournament Final: Lawal/Vassell winner vs. Davis/Newton winner
LW: Mike Bronzoulis vs. Josh Thomson
LHW Tournament Semifinal: Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal vs. Linton Vassell
LHW Tournament Semifinal: Phil Davis vs. Emanuel Newton
Preliminary Card (Spike.com, 7 p.m. ET)
LHW Tournament Alternate: Roy Boughton vs. Francis Carmont
FW: Ousmane Thomas Diagne vs. Mike Malott
LW: Marlen Magee vs. Adam Piccolotti
BW: Gabriel Carrasco vs. Joe Neal
FlyW: Josh Paiva vs. Matt Ramirez
WW: Carlos Eduardo Rocha vs. James Terry
LW: Israel Delgado vs. J.J. Okanovich
FW: David Blanco vs. Victor Jones
MW: Mauricio Alonso vs. Nick Pica
MW: Brandon Hester vs. DeMarco Villalona
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