After a trip to Italy, Bellator MMA returns to North America for a stacked Bellator 153 card at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The return to American shores brings a five-fight main card with a headliner featuring the highly anticipated Bellator debut of a former UFC champion.
Former UFC lightweight titleholder Benson Henderson left the UFC for Bellator earlier this year. He was widely considered to be one of the best lightweights in the world and will now make his Bellator debut at 170 pounds in a welterweight title fight. His opponent is current welterweight champ Andrey Koreshkov, who seeks to make the first defense of his belt after he beat Douglas Lima to become the king of the division.
In the co-headliner, Patricio “Pitbull” Freire returns to the cage after losing his featherweight strap to Daniel Straus. Pitbull will look to rebound against Henry Corrales, who is on a two-fight skid after starting his professional career at 12-0. With a win, Freire could potentially seek to set up a fourth fight with Straus to recapture his featherweight strap. Their previous two encounters were exciting affairs.
Also on the card, Michael “Venom” Page returns to the cage to dazzle with his striking skills against Jeremie Holloway. Another exciting Bellator veteran finisher, Brennan Ward, will also take center stage when he faces Strikeforce veteran Evangelista Santos. At lightweight, Brent Primus will seek to continue his undefeated ways against Gleristone Santos.
The Bellator preliminary card action begins at 7 p.m. ET on Bellator.com. The main card airs live on Spike TV beginning at 8 p.m. ET.
It’s difficult to imagine a way in which Koreshkov can win this fight. However, this also isn’t one of those fights where pundits will give the overwhelming favorite a crown before he even steps inside the cage.
Henderson has been one of the better fighters at 155 pounds, and even at 170, inside the UFC since the promotion merged with WEC. He is one of the best examples of what it is to be a well-rounded fighter. Henderson has a very excellent ground game with submissions and wrestling that blend very well together to give opponents problems. Even his striking is very good, and he uses it well to set up his takedowns and bring the fight to where he feels most comfortable. This was a very big signing for Bellator. Henderson is still conceivably one of the best lightweights in the world, and he’s not too shabby just a division north at welterweight either. Henderson has routinely made competitive fights and won against bigger fighters.
The big takeaway here is Koreshkov’s fight against former Bellator welterweight champ Ben Askren. Askren was able to land takedowns and prevent Koreshkov from relying on his own strength that comes from landing tosses and trips leading to a smothering ground game. Koreshkov’s fight with Douglas Lima is a perfect example of his style. It wasn’t the most crowd-pleasing performance — Koreshkov spent a majority of the time making little progress in the clinch or on the ground — but when he was able to initiate the clinch and the grappling, he smothered Lima into giving him the welterweight belt.
Henderson won’t allow that same approach out of the champ. The former UFC titleholder is simply too good and has fought better fighters. Henderson will be able to anticipate Koreshkov’s moves and claim one of two belts he will inevitably grab under the Bellator banner.
Henderson wins by decision to set up a champion-vs.-champion match with lightweight kingpin Will Brooks.
These fighters are looking for a rebound performance in this fight. Freire’s last fight was a loss where he dropped his title to Daniel Straus. Meanwhile, Corrales is on a two-fight skid after going undefeated through eight fights under the King of the Cage banner and 12 fights overall.
Corrales came into Bellator as little more than a sacrificial-lamb opponent for the aforementioned Straus at Bellator 138. Corrales then received a more winnable fight against prospect Emmanuel Sanchez, but he was unable to get on the right side of the scorecards and suffered a split decision loss. Corrales can be very aggressive on the ground, which could be key against a fighter like Freire who is an adept striker, but even that seems like a longshot. Freire is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and could seemingly shut down Corrales on the ground.
Freire is a decently rounded opponent. In his last fight against Straus, Freire had trouble dealing with his opponent’s striking and grappling. Straus is one of the better fighters at 145 pounds, but it will be interesting to see if a fight like that leads to a little loss in confidence for Freire. Corrales is no Straus, and against Freire this seems like another uphill battle for Corrales.
Freire is trying to march back to his title. He has only lost one non-title fight, which came against Joe Warren, another of the best featherweights on the Bellator roster. Freire’s well-rounded ability and experience should lead to a knockout victory or, at the very least, a unanimous decision nod.
Ward is a very exciting fighter and typically puts on a good show for the fans. He has been on a roll with four straight victories in 2015. A win over Evangelista Santos could be the fight that pushes him into the title picture.
It isn’t a surprise that Ward likes to go for the finish. He has 12 stoppages on his record out of 13 victories. Even his losses came before the final bell. It’s safe to say that the most likely outcome of this fight will be either a submission or a knockout, not a decision. Ward has significant power in his hands that can really turn the tide of any fight. Roger Carroll and Dennis Olson found that out the hard way when Ward was able to get a straight knockout victory over each of them.
Santos will definitely be game and oblige Ward in a striking battle. The 38-year-old has 12 victories by way of knockout, and he is going to look for the finish on the feet as well. Even if the fight were to hit the ground, Ward is good enough offensively in grappling exchanges in comparison with Santos.
Santos has 10 losses by way of knockout. He has also only fought once in the last two years and only three times in the last four years. That all doesn’t bode well for Santos against someone like Ward.
Ward gets a finish and another win on his way up the ladder.
Primus is coming off the biggest victory of his career in which he handed Derek Anderson the second loss of his professional career. This was no small accomplishment, as Anderson typically hangs around the top as one of Bellator’s best lightweights.
Primus, a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, is primarily a grappler. If he is going to win this fight, that is where he will find the most success. Four of his victories came by way of submission, and the ground game was instrumental in his upset victory over Anderson. Primus could potentially use this fight to catapult himself to the top of the lightweight ladder. An undefeated record looks great and his grappling could certainly give some of the other lightweights a run for their money.
Santos is a veteran of the Brazilian MMA circuit. He has also made a couple of stops in Titan FC. Santos made his promotional debut at Bellator 143 in September against John Teixeira. He lost the fight by split decision.
Santos needs to keep this fight on the feet and try to outpoint Primus. Any run to the ground could result in a victory in favor of Primus. Santos does have power in his hands, as evidenced by his nine knockout victories. This could play into his favor and keep Primus from engaging in the middle.
Primus looked great in his last fight against Anderson. That is a level of victory Santos has yet to achieve. Primus stays undefeated with a win here.
Even with a fight containing former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson among the lineup, this contest featuring Page is probably the easiest to predict.
Page has been something of a showstopper in his Bellator tenure. He has scored impressive knockout after impressive knockout. Page displays a sense of confidence in his striking that not many other fighters will show. To put it simply, Page is a very creative striker with a vast array of strikes that seemingly come out of nowhere. When you think you’ve seen his entire arsenal, he pulls something else out of the woodwork and dazzles the crowd.
Page was expected to face Fernando Gonzalez at Bellator 151, but had to withdraw from the fight. That sort of fight seemed tailor-made for Page, but Gonzalez would have probably given him the biggest run for his money so far in his career. Nah-shon Burrell made life as rough as possible for Page, but since that fight, which took place in October 2014, Page has been winning fights with relative ease.
Holloway has to look to take away the striking from Page. It sounds obvious, but it isn’t the easiest task. Page has perplexed opponents who have sought to close the distance and initiate the ground game. Holloway will need either a submission or a one-sided grappling decision to be able to take this fight from Page. Holloway has displayed some ground skills in previous fights — he has two submission victories in his professional career — but his ground game does leave a little to be desired. Holloway was submitted via leglock by Matt Secor in his last fight, but he won’t have to worry about Page trying to pull off a submission.
Page should take this like he has taken his previous fights. It will be a display of striking brilliance until he eventually lands the knockout blow.
Then, we can sink back into the Page hype train until he gets one of the upper echelon welterweight names on Bellator’s roster.
|WW: Chris Honeycutt (6-1) vs. Matt Secor (7-2)||Honeycutt by unanimous decision|
|FW: Matt Bessette (17-7) vs. Keith Richardson (14-6)||Bessette by unanimous decision|
|MW: Tim Caron (3-0) vs. Justin Sumter (0-0)||Caron by first-round knockout|
|LW: Sam Watford (1-0) vs. Dean Hancock (2-0)||Hancock by unanimous decision|
|FW: Chris Foster (8-4) vs. Felipe Levandoski (5-0)||Foster by first-round knockout|
|LW: Jay Bakanowski (3-2) vs. T.J. Hepburn (4-2)||Hepburn by second-round knockout|
|BW: Blair Tugman (7-6) vs. Jay Perrin (2-1)||Tugman by unanimous decision|
|LW: Djamil Chan (12-2) vs. Richard Patishnock (6-3)||Chan by second-round knockout|
|LHW: Mike Zichelle (7-4) vs. Joe Cronin (2-3)||Zichelle by second-round knockout|