Patricky "Pitbull" Freire (Jeff Vulgamore/Combat Press)

Bellator 183: Henderson vs. Pitbull Preview and Predictions

Bellator MMA starts its strong run of four events within five weeks with Bellator 183, which takes place at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday, Sept. 23.

The main event pits former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson against Patricky Freire. Henderson is coming off a loss against Michael Chandler for the Bellator lightweight title in November. That fight sent Henderson to 1-2 in Bellator, with his lone win coming over Patricky’s brother, Patricio. Freire is coming off a victory over UFC veteran Josh Thomson at Bellator 172 in February.

The co-headliner features heavyweight Roy Nelson, who makes his own switch to the Bellator banner. Nelson goes up against a man who knows how to spoil debuts, Javy Ayala.


The card just keeps giving. Paul Daley seeks to notch his 40th victory when he faces UFC vet Lorenz Larkin. Daley last fought in May against one of the best welterweights on the planet, Rory MacDonald. Daley lost to MacDonald by submission. Larkin made the move from the UFC to Bellator and immediately fought for the welterweight title against Douglas Lima. While a valiant effort, Larkin’s performance wasn’t enough. He lost to Lima by unanimous decision.

The promotion will also bring in some of its very own homegrown talent to grace the card. Lightweights Goiti Yamauchi and Adam Piccolotti take a spot on the main card. Meanwhile, featherweight Aaron Pico will look to regain his bright prospect status against Justin Linn.

The Bellator 183 preliminary card takes place on beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET. The main card airs live on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET.

Benson Henderson meets Patricky Freire in the evening’s headliner. Can Henderson regain his UFC form in this fight?

The UFC champion form that Henderson once held might be a little too much to ask for at this point. However, he could regain the form that made him one of the best fighters in either division where he has fought.

Henderson already fought Patricky’s brother, Patricio, in August 2016. That fight ended when Patricio sustained a leg injury and couldn’t continue. The fight was strongly in favor of Patricio up to that point. The Brazilian was able to make Henderson look past his prime. Henderson rarely instigated. He looked to try to counter. Patricio was effective in landing some good kicks that helped stave off any sort of offense Henderson put forth.

Patricky fights a tad differently than his brother. He likes to go for the knockout blow and turn fights into efficient brawls. That would be extremely detrimental in this fight. Henderson is almost assuredly going to look to set a slow tempo and counter as many shots as he can. Patricky needs to follow the footsteps of his brother and circle on the outside and engage at his leisure. In other words, the Brazilian needs to lead the dance.

Henderson should look to utilize his wrestling and ride it to a decision victory. Freire is a good opponent on which Henderson can build an argument for a third title challenge. Whether or not Henderson can actual capitalize and get the belt is a different story.

Can Javy Ayala play spoiler to another big Bellator acquisition when he meets fellow heavyweight Roy Nelson?

He can, but he probably won’t. Ayala proved he had power when he made short work of Sergei Kharitonov in his last fight. That wasn’t a fight Ayala by any means was projected to win, but he came out and landed the one shot to assure himself the victory. That most likely won’t happen here.

Nelson has some sort of adamantium chin that makes him impervious to the knockout. He has only two knockout losses in his entire career — once in 2008 to Andrei Arlovski and again in 2014 to Mark Hunt. Ayala’s striking and power are hardly on the same level as Arlovski and Hunt.

In his recent career arc, Nelson has decided to rely on throwing the right hand. He provides no setup and no technique. Instead, he’s just winging in that right to knock out his opponent. If it happens, cool. If it doesn’t, well, he loses.

Over three rounds, Ayala should be able to outpace Nelson. However, Nelson will most likely win the early two rounds with some power of his own before Ayala overtakes him in the third round as Nelson’s gas tank empties.

Nelson hasn’t looked good in his last few fights, which means there is hope for Ayala. However, Nelson also has a wealth of experience that makes it hard to pick against him.

Lorenz Larkin failed in his Bellator welterweight title bid against Douglas Lima. Does he get back on track and start climbing the ladder again in his clash with Paul Daley?

Daley isn’t doing himself any favors by accepting this fight. He gets another tough name after a loss to Rory MacDonald in May. Larkin should win this fight. Larkin is the more well-rounded fighter, whereas Daley is a one-trick pony — if he doesn’t land a power shot early, then there isn’t much more to fear.

Larkin should be able to take this fight to the mat early and often. He should aim to wear down Daley over three rounds. It’s imperative for any fighter, Larkin included, to keep Daley on his back. Daley’s power is something for every fighter to fear. It only takes one shot to knock out somebody.

Larkin will probably have a little trouble climbing back up the ladder. He most recently lost to Lima for the belt, and now the welterweight division has a certain fighter who came over from the UFC to contend for the title. Larkin will most likely need one more win to secure the challenge. However, this fight should set him back on the right track.

Aaron Pico entered Bellator as a blue-chip prospect, but he stumbled hard in his Bellator (and pro) debut. Will he continue to be a bust?

Let’s back the truck up on calling Pico a bust. JaMarcus Russell is a bust. Most of the New York Knicks are busts. Pico has had only one fight. To call him a bust this early is wildly egregious.

Losing happens in MMA. The sport is wildly unpredictable. If this was boxing, sure. In boxing, one loss makes a huge difference. In MMA, not so much. Pico didn’t get an easy opponent in his first match. Zach Freeman is a veteran and should have been seen as a wild mismatch for the debuting Pico.

Justin Linn is another tough opponent for Pico. He has a rich background in the Resurrection Fighting Alliance, one of the better developmental leagues in the country. Linn is on a two-fight skid, though.

It’s hard to say what to expect out of Pico this time around. Pico has a great wrestling background, but that obviously didn’t even come close to shining through in his last fight. His entire game looked like it needed to be reworked. Luckily, the American Kickboxing Academy is a great camp, which should be instrumental in helping Pico to overcome and adjust.

Fight Picks

Fight Pick
Main Card (Spike TV, 9 p.m. ET)
LW: Benson Henderson vs. Patricky Freire Henderson
HW: Roy Nelson vs. Javy Ayala Nelson
WW: Paul Daley vs. Lorenz Larkin Larkin
LW: Adam Piccolotti vs. Goiti Yamauchi Yamauchi
FW: Aaron Pico vs. Justin Linn Pico
Preliminary Card (, 6:30 p.m. ET)
BW; Ricardo Vasquez vs. Justin Tenedora Vasquez
LHW: Mike Ortega vs. Tony Johnson Johnson
Women’s FlyW: Brooke Mayo vs. Kaytlin Neil Mayo
FW: Brandon Laroco vs. Gaston Bolanos Bolanos
Women’s FlyW: Corina Herrera vs. Jaymee Nievara Nievara
WW: Alex Lopez vs. Fernando Gonzalez Trevino Lopez
LW: Luis Jauregui vs. J.J. Okanovich Okanovich
FlyW: Anthony Castrejon vs. Daniel Gonzalez Gonzalez