Bellator MMA continues its run through the month of April, heading to Torino, Italy, and the Pala Alpitour. This is a combined event between Bellator’s kickboxing and mixed martial arts properties.
The main event on the MMA side of the card will be a middleweight title rematch between the champion, Rafael Carvalho, and the challenger, Melvin Manhoef. The two fought to what could be described as a stalemate, despite Carvalho receiving the decision nod. It was a fight where almost nothing happened. With a shortage of challengers, the promotion has decided to go for a second fight between these two men.
Bellator 176 will also head to the women’s side for a catchweight fight at 130 pounds where Anastasia Yankova looks to keep up her winning ways in Bellator against Elina Kallionidou. In other MMA action, Djamil Chan goes up against Valeriu Mircea in the lightweight division. At bantamweight, Giorgio Belsanti seeks his seventh victory in a fight with Vando de Almeida. Lightweight Mihail Nica clashes with late-replacement foe Samba Coulibaly in the opening MMA fight of the evening.
The MMA main card airs tape-delayed at 3 p.m. ET on Spike TV. Bellator Kickboxing also contributes to the action with five fights, including a kickboxing headliner featuring Giorgio Petrosyan and Amansio Paraschiv. The kickboxing event also airs tape-delayed on Spike TV, beginning at 5:15 p.m. ET. Combat Press writer Sal DeRose, who previews the MMA portion of this card, is joined by fellow staff member Rob Tatum, who previews the kickboxing portion of the show.
Can Melvin Manhoef finally claim a major championship, or will Rafael Carvalho continue his run as the Bellator middleweight king?
Manhoef has been a mixed bag of performances, and his title chances depend on just which version of Manhoef shows up on fight night. Are we talking the Manhoef who can knock out just about anyone? Or will we see the Manhoef who sports a weak chin and is easily defeated by a grinding fight style. If it’s the latter, then Carvalho has a significant advantage.
These two already fought to a split decision in their last fight. It was very forgettable five rounds — probably the worst title fight to ever air on national television. Perhaps these men can do something to erase that nightmare.
Manhoef needs to make sure Carvalho doesn’t close the distance and clinch to bring the fight either to the ground or the cage. Manhoef hasn’t looked great in his Bellator run so far. He has three unimpressive losses, including a “Knockout of the Year” loss to Schilling.
Carvalho can grind Manhoef against the cage and completely neutralize his striking. Carvalho employed this strategy with great effectiveness against Joe Schilling at Bellator 155. Schilling is a top kickboxer with a similar skill set as Manhoef. Carvalho took away Schilling’s only method of victory, and the champ should have the same game plan against Manhoef. The only difference is that Manhoef has a ton more MMA experience than Schilling.
The remainder of the MMA portion of this card is filled with fighters who have received little or no push from Bellator. Which fighters do fans need to know about heading into this event?
Bellator tends to bring watered-down cards abroad to places other than England. This card has a couple of good prospects, but their rate of success is still uncertain.
The most obvious choice would be Anastasia Yankova, who could be a dangerous part of Bellator’s flyweight division. Yankova was one of the bigger signings for Bellator when the company introduced the weight class. Yankova already has two victories in Bellator. She beat Anjela Pink in her debut with a quick submission and then turned around to beat Veta Arteaga by split decision. Yankova has a lot going for her in a division that has yet to crown a champion, but even this fight isn’t being fought at the 125-pound level.
Djamil Chan is another fighter to watch. Chan came into the organization on a big knockout victory over Richard Patishnock. He got his first true test against Derek Campos, one of the better fighters on the Bellator roster. It was a big step up for Chan, who was only making his sophomore appearance for the promotion.
To this point, Bellator’s foray into kickboxing has featured many big names in one-sided match-ups. Will that change in Torino? Which fight(s) will be the most competitive?
The short answer is no. Fans should not expect things to drastically change in Torino. Thus far, “BellaKick” has focused heavily on building up stars rather than targeting competitive fights. However, this strategy has already backfired on more than one occasion. First, Joe Schilling got crushed by Hisaki Kato at Bellator Kickboxing 2 in St. Louis with a spinning back fist. Then top-10 ranked welterweight Karim Ghajji was upset by the largely unknown Zoltan Laszak at Bellator Kickboxing 3 in Hungary. And, most relative to this event, current women’s flyweight champion Denise Kielholtz was edged by Gloria Peritore in the pair’s first meeting. The unpredictable nature of combat sports makes the promotion’s early strategy difficult, however understandable it might be from a business perspective.
As for the action in the ring in Torino, the top two fights should follow the promotion’s model. Former pound-for-pound king Giorgio Petrosyan will use his experience advantage to best Superkombat titleholder Amansio Paraschiv. The aforementioned Kielholtz will make the first defense of her belt against Martine Michieletto, who, despite holding the WKU Muay Thai World Title, already has double-digit losses on her record with only half the fights of the champion.
However, fight fans should get competitive fights in the match-ups of John Wayne Parr against Nando Calzetta and Mustapha Haida against Enriko Kehl.
Australia’s Parr is one of the most experienced fighters on the planet and has plenty of scars to show it. He squares off with Italy’s Calzetta, who has amassed over 50 career wins and multiple WKA belts along the way. Parr’s experience should tilt the bout in his favor, but it’s common for Parr to get dragged into wars regardless of his opposition.
The Haida-Kehl fight should be the night’s most evenly matched. Haida fell against Ghajji in a 75-kilogram bout at Bellator Kickboxing 1, but he rebounded with a win over Kike Bonnin at the promotion’s third event and then captured the ISKA 72.5-kilogram title by beating Johane Beausejour at the promotion’s most recent card in Florence. Now he slides down to 70 kilograms, where he holds a past win over legend Andy Souwer. Germany’s Kehl has flirted with the top 10 in the past, but he has struggled against the upper echelon of the sport’s deepest weight class. Haida is exactly the type of opponent that Kehl needs to beat to rise in the division, but the Moroccan fighter won’t be an easy task for the German.
Bellator 176 Fight Picks
Main Card (Spike TV, 3 p.m. ET)
MW Championship: Rafael Carvalho vs. Melvin Manhoef
Catchweight (130 pounds): Anastasia Yankova vs. Elina Kallionidou
LW: Djamil Chan vs. Valeriu Mircea
BW: Giorgio Belsanti vs. Vando de Almeida
LW: Samba Coulibaly vs. Mihail Nica
Bellator Kickboxing 5 Fight Picks
Main Card (Spike TV, 5:15 p.m. ET)
Giorgio Petrosyan vs. Amansio Paraschiv
Denise Kielholtz vs. Martine Michieletto
John Wayne Parr vs. Nando Calzetta
Mustapha Haida vs. Enriko Kehl
Gaston Bolanos vs. Luca D’lsanto
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