Bellator 148 marks the 2016 debut for the Bellator MMA promotion. The company heads to the SaveMart Center in Fresno, Calif., for a show that includes a four-fight main card with another nine scraps on the preliminary portion of the lineup.
In the main event, Paul Daley returns to the cage against Andy Uhrich. Originally, Daley was slated to fight UFC veteran Josh Koscheck in a grudge match after their last fight ended with the infamous punch after the bell that sent Daley packing from the UFC. Now, Uhrich steps in for the injured Koscheck. Uhrich will start his second stint with the promotion after going 1-2 in his first go-around under the Bellator banner.
In the co-headliner, Paul Bradley and Bellator welterweight prospect Chris Honeycutt look to continue their affair after the first ended prematurely. Bradley and Honeycutt bumped heads during their first fight in July. The doctor ruled that Bradley could not continue due to a deep cut on his head and the fight was declared a no-contest. Honeycutt is surely looking to add a name like Bradley to his list. Meanwhile, Bradley is looking for a big win to get him a shot at the title.
The lone fight above 170 pounds on the main card is a heavyweight affair between Tony Johnson and Raphael Butler. Both men will seek to continue their trend to the top of the heavyweight division.
Also on the card, Patricky Freire returns to the cage after a loss in December against Derek Anderson. Freire will take on Strikeforce and UFC veteran Ryan Couture, who is seeking his fifth consecutive victory.
The preliminary card of Bellator 148 will air live on Spike.com and Bellator.com beginning at 7:45 p.m. ET. The main card airs live on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET.
WW: Paul Daley (37-13-2) vs. Andy Uhrich (11-5)
Paul Daley was originally slated to try to avenge a loss to Josh Koscheck, but an injury to Koscheck has derailed the plan. Andy Uhrich steps in for Koscheck on about a month’s notice. It will also be a long layoff for both fighters. Daley hasn’t fought since last July and Uhrich hasn’t fought since last March.
Uhrich is starting his second stint with Bellator after going 1-2 with the promotion in 2014. The 30-year-old’s biggest claim to fame during his previous Bellator tenure is his knockout loss to Ben Brewer at Bellator 120. Uhrich was on the receiving end of a very brutal knockout finish that accounted for his second consecutive loss. Since then, Uhrich has changed his fortunes around and won three straight, including a victory in Titan FC against Bobby Cooper by split decision in March.
Uhrich is going to need to take this fight to the ground to have any success against Daley. Daley is relatively easy to break down. The Brit relies very heavily on punching power to get him a finish. Daley inched his way toward becoming well rounded in his more recent fights, but his bread and butter remains the knockout power that made him one of the better welterweights. Uhrich is going to need to take Daley’s power out of the equation. This means putting Daley on his back, which might be easier said than actually done.
Daley will attempt to keep on the outside and pick away at Uhrich to set up the knockout. Daley is a step above Uhrich at the moment and, barring any sort of upset power shot from Uhrich, the striker should be able to control the distance. The 32-year-old has 27 knockout victories in MMA competition. Another one shouldn’t too farfetched, considering the amount of time each fighter had to train for their opponent. Bellator also wouldn’t want to set up Daley with anybody that could conceivably derail a grudge match between Daley and his rival Koscheck. There is too much attention and money riding on that fight.
Daley by knockout.
WW: Chris Honeycutt (6-0) vs. Paul Bradley (22-6)
Chris Honeycutt is a very interesting and talented prospect. He will get a chance to add a bigger name to his resume with a win over Paul Bradley. Bradley and Honeycutt originally met at Bellator 140, but a clash of heads ended the fight when the accidental bump left a cut in Bradley’s forehead and he was deemed unable to continue.
This is a division-changing fight that could escalate Honeycutt up the ladder. Honeycutt likes to use his wrestling to dominate a fight before throwing some ground-and-pound. Bradley is much like Honeycutt and likes to use his wrestling to control fights. The edge goes to Honeycutt. He has the better overall grappling skill set — not just wrestling, but overall grappling. The 27-year-old isn’t just a wrestler. He isn’t a fish out of water on his back and has solid transitions to better his position before unleashing a ground-and-pound attack to weaken his opponent.
In their last fight, Honeycutt was the more aggressive fighter. He was able to take control of the striking early on. Bradley had some short-lived successes, but he was overall unable to really get anything going. The same should happen in this fight. It seems to be Honeycutt’s time to shine as the next thing in Bellator’s welterweight division.
Honeycutt gets a late TKO victory after he controls the striking and uses it to set up his takedowns and the ground-and-pound that eventually follows.
HW: Tony Johnson (9-2) vs. Raphael Butler (9-1-1)
Tony Johnson is closing in on the next title shot at heavyweight after a big win in his last fight. The American Kickboxing Academy product recently beat former Bellator champ Alexander Volkov by split decision and now rides a two-fight winning streak.
Johnson’s fight with Volkov did lack entertainment, sure, but it demonstrated Johnson’s wrestling power very well. Johnson dominated Volkov on the ground. He should look to do more of the same here by essentially taking Raphael Butler’s size advantage out of the fight early and using the same cage pressure he used to great effect against Volkov. Then, Johnson should use the cage pressure to not only wear down Butler and sap his cardio, but to get the takedown and put Butler on his back in unfamiliar territory.
Obviously, Butler will be a more-than-willing opponent to keep this on the feet. Butler was a professional boxer before making the move from the ring to the cage. In his last fight, he proved he is more than just a striker by sinking in a standing guillotine choke to beat Josh Diekmann in just over a minute of the first round. Butler’s no grappling stud, but the submission was a nice step in the right direction. Butler has heavy hands that have led to six wins by knockout and two submissions caused by punches. As the bigger fighter, Butler’s main objective in this fight will be to keep it on the outside and use his combinations to set up the power shot. If Butler can control the distance, the knockout blow is only a matter of time away.
Butler has knockout power. He should be ready for the takedown in this fight. This is a close fight to call. Both guys have equal methods of victory. The Volkov fight is probably the biggest name from either fighter’s resume, which suggests that Johnson can get the takedowns and stall Butler enough to get a decision victory.
LW: Patricky Freire (14-7) vs. Ryan Couture (10-3)
Patricky Freire has long been one of the better lightweights on Bellator’s roster. He has consistently faced the top of the division, but failed to really break through against them. Ryan Couture is looking to continue his winning streak and add Freire to his list of victims.
Couture is more known for his grappling. He’s not going to beat many fighters on the feet. His wins rely on his ability to use his jiu-jitsu skills to nullify his opponent and secure the submission. The 33-year-old has been rather impressive in his last two fights for Bellator. Couture is on a four-fight winning streak, and three of those fights have ended with first-round submissions after a dominant grappling display. The other fight in the run ended by second-round submission.
Freire is different from Couture. While Freire is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, his biggest strength in this fight will be his striking. The 30-year-old is a very adept striker who uses anything — knees, kicks, elbows or punches — at his disposal. Freire is well versed in mixing up his combinations with different types of strikes. The biggest issue comes in his striking defense. Freire does get hit fairly easily. His over-aggressiveness also leads to some very unfavorable endings for the Brazilian.
Freire is going to give Couture a very big challenge on the ground if and when it does happen. This fight will come down to who can outstrike the other, and the more favorable option there would be Freire, who owns nine career knockout victories.
Freire by either decision or TKO.
Preliminary Card Predictions
Women’s FlyW: Ilima-Lei MacFarlane (2-0) vs. Amber Tackett (1-1)
MacFarlane by unanimous decision
FW: Anthony Avila (12-4) vs. John Reedy (11-6)
Avila by third-round submission
HW: Javy Ayala (8-4) vs. Carl Seumanutafa (9-6)
Ayala by first-round TKO
FW: Art Arciniega (14-5) vs. Justin Smitley (9-7-1)
Arciniega by unanimous decision
FW: Mark Dickman (10-2) vs. Thomas Diagne (5-5-1)
Dickman by first-round TKO
BW: Paul Ruiz (6-2) vs. Josh San Diego (5-1)
Ruiz by unanimous decision
FlyW: Matt Perez (0-0) vs. Eugene Cancino (0-0)
Perez by unanimous decision
FW: Nick Bustamante (3-0) vs. Salvador Becerra (4-2)
Bustamante by second-round submission
LHW: Jermaine McDermott (1-0) vs. Eric Higgins (1-0)
McDermott by second-round TKO
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