Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal (Matt Quiggins/Combat Press)

Bellator 154: Davis vs. ‘King Mo’ Preview and Predictions

Bellator switches things up with a Saturday night card for Bellator 154, which takes place at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. Bellator is bringing a huge card for the Saturday night action, with 16 fights slated for the event.

The headliner of the night is a match eight months in the making. Top Bellator light heavyweights Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal and Phil Davis finally square off. The two were set to meet at Bellator 142 in the finals of the one-night light heavyweight tournament, but an injury to Lawal sustained in the opening bout of the tournament forced the former Strikeforce champion out of his finals match-up against Davis. Davis instead went on the dominate former Bellator light heavyweight champ Emanuel Newton in the opening bout before quickly dispatching fellow UFC veteran Francis Carmont in the finals. Now, the two will meet in what could possibly be the deciding fight to determine who gets the next shot at the light heavyweight title.

The co-main event features the return of Sergei Kharitonov to the North American MMA scene after four years since his last fight in Strikeforce. Kharitonov, who will be making his Bellator debut, is set to take on Bellator veteran Josh Appelt.


The main card also features a couple of prospect fights. Andre Fialho is set to clash with Rick Reger in the welterweight division. At the lightweight level, Adam Piccolotti and Ray Wood will tango to see who continues their ascension up the ladder. Welterweights round out the main-card lineup when veteran Evangelista Santos takes on Saad Awad.

The Bellator preliminary card action begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on The main card airs live on Spike TV beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

LHW: Phil Davis (15-3) vs. Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal (19-4)

Fans finally get the match-up the Bellator light heavyweight division promised: a battle between Phil Davis and Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, a pair of fighters with strong wrestling backgrounds.

Lawal’s fight against Cheick Kongo really proved that a size disadvantage won’t be enough to stop Lawal from securing the takedown and using his wrestling to dominate a fight. Kongo isn’t Davis in the wrestling department, but Kongo’s massive size advantage should have given him a better edge against King Mo.

This is going to come down to who can get the takedown more often and secure a dominant position. Another factor will be who can do the most work on the ground without being stood up by the referee. Both fighters have displayed a style fans loathe from wrestlers: they can be essentially blankets on the ground and do little or nothing to end the fight while holding dominant positions.

Davis has been around the top of the light heavyweight division not only in the UFC, but also in MMA in general. He has simply been one of the better light heavyweights in what some would call a weak division. Davis really dominated in his first fights in Bellator in the tournament, finishing both of his opponents in the first round. One of those opponents, Emanuel Newton, was a former Bellator light heavyweight champion whom Davis submitted with a kimura. It was really a one-sided fight against somebody who has beaten Lawal twice previously.

King Mo is one of the best light heavyweights on the Bellator roster, but Davis is on another level. This won’t be a finish. It will be a stalemate for a little bit before Davis breaks down Lawal and starts to consistently secure the takedown. Davis has faced some good light heavyweights and found success, and he will find success against Lawal, too. Davis by decision.

HW: Sergei Kharitonov (23-5) vs. Josh Appelt (12-5)

Sergei Kharitonov returns to the big-time North American promotions after just over four years fighting elsewhere, most notably under the M-1 banner. Kharitonov has gone unbeaten in that span while winning five straight fights since his last Strikeforce appearance. Since his loss to Josh Barnett, all five fights have ended with either a knockout or submission.

Kharitonov was one of the bigger names in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. He cemented his place in the tournament after knocking out former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski in the first round. Arlovski wasn’t the fighter he is today, though, and there were calls for his retirement after the loss to Kharitonov. Arlovski is part of an impressive resume for Kharitonov. The Russian has also defeated the likes of Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum and Pedro Rizzo, among others. Except for Arlovski, all of Kharitonov’s big victories came before 2010.

Josh Appelt is in for an uphill battle. He is going to need to survive an onslaught of strikes that have knocked out some of the top heavyweights at the time. Appelt is 3-1 in Bellator, but there isn’t anybody on Appelt’s resume that is anywhere near the skill level of Kharitonov.

Kharitonov will be a bigger name in Bellator’s heavyweight division. He should take the victory by knockout.

WW: Andre Fialho (6-0) vs. Rick Reger (7-1)

Prospect Andre Fialho makes his main-card debut against Rick Reger. Fialho went up against Manny Meraz at Bellator 150 and made a real lasting impact with an impressive TKO victory. The 21-year-old showed why he was signed and just how good he can be in the future when he was able to land a right hand that dropped Meraz and followed up with some ground-and-pound less than 30 seconds into the fight. That fight sets the blueprint here for Fialho.

Fialho packs a lot of power in his right hand. If he can find a home for that right hand again, it won’t be a very long fight. Fialho knows how to set the shot up. The downside is his lack of experience. He has mainly fought in Portugal’s regional circuit. Meraz was his toughest test to date and his first outside his home country of Portugal.

Reger has fought once for the Resurrection Fighting Alliance. While that fight was a loss, it came against future UFC fighter James Moontasri. Outside of the one loss, Reger is perfect in his MMA career. He has earned most of his victories by submission, most notably choking out his opponents.

Reger should try to nullify Fialho’s power and get the fight to the ground. That’s easier said than done, but it’s his best method of victory. If Reger tries to stand and trade with Fialho, it won’t be long until Fialho finds an opening and lands a clean right hand.

Fialho is an interesting prospect and Reger is a good test to see how to continue Fialho on his prospect path. Fialho should take the win by knockout and get a nice boost in competition in his next fight.

WW: Evangelista Santos (21-16) vs. Saad Awad (18-7)

Evangelista Santos is making a Donald Cerrone-esque turnaround against Saad Awad. Santos fought previously at Bellator 153, where he quickly ended the title hopes of Brennan Ward in 30 seconds with a leglock submission. After not having a fight in almost two years, this will be his third bout of 2016 and second in roughly three weeks.

The long layoff between Santos’ loss to Melvin Manhoef in April 2014 and his victory over Artenas Young in January could be a difference maker. Santos may run into a problem with so many fights in a row after a layoff of that lengthy duration, but his fight with Ward showed anything but ring rust. Santos wasn’t the brilliant pick in that fight, either. Ward had fought very well in his four-fight winning streak leading up to his bout against Santos, and it seemed a forgone conclusion that Ward would win the fight. Ward was even a heavy favorite.

Santos did a good job of using his superior submission skills against Ward. He will seek to find the same success against Awad. Awad is more of a power puncher who is really aggressive with his striking. This seems to play into the favor of Santos, who just took on a similar fighter in Ward. Santos is also very good at luring fighters into a brawl and finding success.

This seems like a close fight. Bellator has found some rather successful MMA veterans, brought them into the ranks and watched them flourish in their respective divisions. Awad has failed to get a big victory over a Bellator opponent since beating Will Brooks at Bellator 91. Awad’s last three losses came against David Rickels, Patricky Freire and the aforementioned Brooks in a rematch at Bellator 105. That is the upper echelon of the Bellator lightweight division.

Santos won’t be a pushover, and that alone makes this a toss-up fight. Will Santos be tired after having fought a couple of weeks prior? Who knows?

Santos by decision.

LW: Adam Piccolotti (7-0) vs. Ray Wood (8-1)

This is a great prospect feature fight for the main card. Adam Piccolotti takes on Ray Wood in a short-notice bout.

Piccolotti has been something of a submission wizard so far in three fights for Bellator. His last two contests have ended in the second round via choke submissions. Piccolotti has displayed a great ground game. He could be an interesting future prospect to combat fighters like Michael Chandler who have wrestling backgrounds.

Wood is another up-and-comer at lightweight. He’s going to look to implement his wrestling and look for a finish. Wood made his Bellator debut at Bellator 151 against Chris Jones and was able to secure a knockout victory. Wood fought under two weeks ago and defeated Brandon Phillips by unanimous decision. The quick turnaround could be a detrimental factor for Wood in this fight.

This is another close one to call, but between two bright prospects. Piccolotti’s game has so far been the more impressive, though, and he’ll be the one to take the decision nod.

Preliminary Card Predictions
Fight Prediction
FW: Victor Jones (0-1) vs. Anthony Taylor (0-1) Jones by unanimous decision
WW: Don Mohammed (4-0) vs. Martin Sano (4-1) Mohammed by second-round knockout
FlyW: Josh Paiva (7-1) vs. Steve Gruber (5-2) Paiva by unanimous decision
WW: Sam Spengler (8-5) vs. Doyle Childs (2-1) Spengler by second-round submission
BW: Josh San Diego (6-1) vs. Jeremiah Labiano (9-4) San Diego by unanimous decision
FlyW: Alvin Cacdac (16-12) vs. Darren Uyenoyama (10-5) Uyenoyama by unanimous decision
FW: Thomas Diagne (5-5-1) vs. Mark Dickman (10-2) Dickman by second-round knockout
Women’s Strawweight: Stephanie Frausto (5-5) vs. Jaimee Nievara (3-1) Frausto by unanimous decision
LW: JD Hardwick (0-0) vs. Jorge Acosta (0-1) Hardwick by unanimous decision
HW: James Chapman (0-0) vs. Sean Tucker (0-1) Chapman by first-round knockout
MW: Andres Alcantar (2-0) vs. Nick Pica (5-0) Pica by second-round knockout