Bellator MMA returns for its first and only date in August with Bellator 160 at the Honda Center in Los Angeles.
Bellator 160’s headliner is former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson, who will appear in his second bout under the Bellator banner. Henderson faces former Bellator featherweight champ Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, who will take a step up to the lightweight division to for the contest. Freire won his last fight in April against Henry Corrales, but he lost his belt last year in a great fight against Daniel Straus that ended in a decision. Henderson made his promotional debut earlier this year with a tremendous amount of hype surrounding him. He didn’t land in his normal home of 155 pounds. Instead, he fought at the 170-pound level against Bellator welterweight champion Andrey Koreshkov. Henderson was outmatched and lost to Koreshkov by unanimous decision. It was Henderson’s third loss in his last five fights.
The evening’s co-main event features two Bellator lightweight mainstays. Saad Awad will look to win his second straight fight when he goes up against Derek Anderson. Awad defeated Evangelista Santos in May at Bellator 154, quickly dispatching the veteran fighter with a first-round knockout. Anderson has gone 2-2 in his last four fights. He won his last fight against Patricky Freire in December.
The four-fight main card also includes a battle at the top of the featherweight division between contenders Bubba Jenkins and Georgi Karakhanyan. Featherweight prospect A.J. McKee rounds out the lineup. He will try to keep his undefeated rise to the top of the division going against late replacement Cody Walker.
Bellator 160 will air its preliminary-card action beginning at 8 p.m. ET on Bellator.com. The main card will air live on Spike TV at 10 p.m. ET.
Benson Henderson has already fought for the Bellator welterweight title. He came up short. Now he’s back at lightweight, where he’ll face Patricio Freire. Will Henderson get past Pitbull, and if so, can he continue to march on to a title reign under the Bellator banner?
“Short” is an understatement for Henderson’s result in his welterweight title bid. Henderson has fought bigger guys before — namely Brandon Thatch — but Koreshkov looked like an older brother wrestling with his kid brother in the hallway. Henderson showed a lot of heart and determination in the fight to try to make it competitive, but unfortunately that can’t overcome the size and strength advantages that Koreshkov held over the UFC veteran.
Henderson is going to get another title shot eventually, whether it be directly after beating Freire or, if he loses to Pitbull, after a couple of rebound wins. If Henderson had beaten Koreshkov, we’d be looking at a champion-vs.-champion match-up between Henderson and Bellator lightweight kingpin Michael Chandler. However, Henderson didn’t win and Bellator wasn’t ready to give Henderson two straight title shots just to watch him lose both of those fights. The company paid big money for Henderson’s brand, and if he were to lose twice in a row, even to champions, it kind of defeats the purpose. Granted, it would help bolster the champions Bellator has on its roster if they were both able to defeat a former UFC lightweight champion, but Bellator isn’t paying Henderson to be enhancement talent.
Patricio is the better fighter of the “Pitbull” brothers. He has the better striking and grappling of the pair. His sibling, Patricky, tends to make fights into brawling exchanges and lives by his power. Patricio is much more methodical in his approach and will use his grappling if need be. Patricio’s strengths come more in his striking. He could pull off a flash knockout here if Henderson gets overly concerned with getting the takedown. Henderson is going to need to really work to bring this fight to the ground and avoid the power of Freire. Henderson is no slouch in the grappling department, either. He can be a very good defensive grappler, an attribute he might need against Freire, whose jiu-jitsu has led him to nine submission victories, including his latest win over Henry Corrales.
Henderson should be able to control this fight. He has a four-inch height advantage and five inches in reach. He should be able to dictate where the fight takes place and secure takedowns with relative ease. This should be a big night for Henderson, assuming age hasn’t started to creep up on him yet. The former UFC fighter will display why he was such a hyped acquisition for Bellator.
Derek Anderson has an impressive 13-2 mark as a pro, but he’s lost two of his last four. Can the 26-year-old finally put it all together in his co-headlining showdown with Saad Awad, or will the Bellator mainstay send Anderson packing?
Anderson himself is a solid Bellator veteran. We also have to look at who handed him those two losses. One defeat came by submission against Marcin Held. Held is extremely creative, and if he gets a hold of a submission, he is going to finish it. Now, Held may be UFC-bound as well, which adds only more credence to his status as one of the Bellator elite. Anderson’s other loss came against Brent Primus, who is currently undefeated and working his way up the lightweight ladder to become a Bellator veteran mainstay and possible title challenger. It was a very close loss — a split decision, to be exact — for Anderson against Primus. So, let’s not put too much weight into those two losses.
Awad, depending on which version shows up, is another Bellator veteran who can beat anyone on any given day. He added another vet to his win column in his last fight when he knocked out Evangelista Santos. Awad already had Will Brooks on that list from their first meeting when he knocked out the former Bellator lightweight champion early in his career. Awad has knockout power that can end the fight if he lands it clean.
Anderson doesn’t need to “put it all together” in this fight. He already has. He owns two wins over Patricky “Pitbull” Freire, a guy who just fought for the interim lightweight title. His losses aren’t embarrassments, either. It has been eight months since Anderson’s last fight, though, which could lead to a slow start. It wouldn’t be surprising if Anderson plays it safe to avoid Awad’s knockout power, but he should look to put Awad on his back. Anderson has displayed some great skill in the past. If he can retain his form from eight months ago, he should be fine here.
The Bellator 160 card features a trio of fighters who have to follow in the steps of their much more successful relatives. There’s A.J. McKee, Antonio McKee’s son. There’s Kevin Ferguson, Jr., the son of the late Kimbo Slice. And there’s Chinzo Machida, brother of former UFC champion Lyoto Machida. The name value is big, but can any of these three men parlay their name into big-time success with Bellator?
Out of the three men, McKee has the most potential by a wide margin. He is 4-0 in Bellator currently and has looked nothing short of spectacular in each of his outings. In the course of those four fights, he hasn’t even left the first round and his last three wins came by way of knockout. The skill is certainly there, too. His striking looks really good and he’s a skilled grappler. It’s easy to forget that he is only 21 years old. He will only vastly improve from this point on, barring any major injuries.
McKee absolutely dominated the likes of J.T. Donaldson and James Barnes on his way to straight knockout victories. In McKee’s last fight, he was able to soundly beat Danilo Belluardo, one of the better prospects coming out of Italy, at Bellator 152. McKee’s potential is obvious in those fights. He has come on really strong and will only get stronger while having to fight some of the best names on the Bellator roster at 145 pounds. The promotion’s featherweight division is absolutely stacked, and it will take McKee only a couple more wins before he reaches the deep end of the pool. It would have been ideal if he had been able to meet his original opponent, Henry Corrales. Corrales would have been a great test for the young featherweight. It wasn’t too much, too soon, and it would have definitely thrown him into a little deeper waters if McKee had come out victorious. Still, a late-notice opponent like Cody Walker is still a nice test to gauge how McKee can respond and adjust his game plan.
Ferguson is also intriguing as a possible high-potential fighter. His father had tremendous punching power. The same appears to be true of Kimbo’s son. If Ferguson can learn a solid ground game, he could be a difficult opponent to get through. It might be pushing it to call this “star potential,” but the sky’s the limit with a little hard work and dedication from Ferguson to round out his game. His first fight in Bellator should definitely give everyone a good look at his skill set.
Finally, there’s Machida. He is an entirely different story. At age 39, he doesn’t have much time to show growth outside of being a tough, flashy striker. He’s a good opponent to toss out there against the younger generation coming up the ranks. He is 3-2 in his career, and his last fight came over two years ago. He has only fought twice in almost six years. It’s certainly an interesting play for Bellator, but a star turn might be a tough ask at his age.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
We haven’t talked about it yet, so let’s turn our attention to the showdown between Bubba Jenkins and Georgi Karakhanyan.
This is a toss-up fight where it’s just as easy to see Karakhanyan recording the win as it is to see Jenkins emerge with his hand raised. Both fighters are on different paths right now. Karakhanyan is on a two-fight skid, while Jenkins has won three straight fights, including one over highly regarded prospect Goiti Yamauchi.
Karakhanyan won their first fight, which makes him the safe pick in the rematch. He gave Jenkins his second career loss and stopped his ascension up the division. Jenkins is a tough wrestler, but this could land him in a Karakhanyan guillotine choke. That is how the first fight ended.
Jenkins has probably worked on his guillotine defense over and over again in preparation for this fight. He should be able to defend it in his sleep by now. This fight is a chance to see if Jenkins can finally break into the upper echelon of Bellator’s featherweight division.
Main Card (Spike TV, 10 p.m. ET)
LW: Benson Henderson vs. Patricio Freire
LW: Saad Awad vs. Derek Anderson
FW: Bubba Jenkins vs. Georgi Karakhanyan
FW: A.J. McKee Jr. vs. Cody Walker
Preliminary Card (Bellator.com, 7:50 p.m. ET)
WW: Joey Davis vs. Keith Cutrone
WW: Kevin Ferguson Jr. vs. Jonathan Tomasian
LW: Gabriel Green vs. Alex Trinidad
FlyW: Steve Ramirez vs. Ron Henderson
FlyW: David Duran vs. Kyle Estrada
LW: Jacob Rosales vs. Mike Segura
FW: Mario Navarro vs. Chinzo Machida
LW: Stephen Martinez vs. Jake Roberts
WW: Andy Murad vs. Johnny Cisneros
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