Gegard Mousasi (L) vs. Rory MacDonald (Bellator MMA)

Bellator 223: Mousasi vs. Lovato Preview and Predictions

A return to the United Kingdom is in the cards for Bellator MMA. The promotion brings an eight-fight main card to the SSE Arena in London for Bellator 223.

In the main event of the evening, the middleweight title is on the line when champion Gegard Mousasi goes up against undefeated Rafael Lovato Jr. Mousasi has won eight straight fights, dating back to his time in the UFC. He defended his Bellator crown against the company’s welterweight champion Rory MacDonald at Bellator 206, where Mousasi won by second-round TKO. Lovato’s most recent fight came against John Salter, who fell to the world champion Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt via rear-naked choke in the third round.

Paul Daley fights on his home soil in the welterweight co-headliner against Erick Silva. Daley looks to get back to his winning ways after losses in his last two fights. The knockout artist is just 2-3 in his last five outings. Silva has recorded the same mark over his last five appearances. The Brazilian is coming off a decision loss to Yaroslav Amosov at Bellator 216.


The main card features an additional three middleweight fights. Charlie Ward takes on Justin Moore, Fabian Edwards looks to remain undefeated when he meets Jonathan Bosuku, and Mike Shipman fights Costello van Steenis. Meanwhile, James Gallagher and Jeremiah Labiano square off at a catchweight of 140 pounds. In addition, Melvin Manhoef returns to action at light heavyweight, where he faces Kent Kauppinen. Aaron Chalmers and Fred Freeman round out the main card in another catchweight contest, this one taking place at 160 pounds.

The preliminary card action will air on at 6:30 p.m. ET. The main card follows on DAZN at 9 p.m. ET.

After ending his UFC stay with five consecutive wins, reigning Bellator middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi has gone undefeated through three fights on his way to the title. Now, he puts the strap on the line against Rafael Lovato Jr., who has yet to lose a pro MMA fight. Which fighter extends their streak?

Lovato is a great fighter in his own right, but Mousasi has to be the one to extend his streak and retain his belt. While undefeated, Lovato simply hasn’t fought someone at Mousasi’s level — mostly because there really isn’t anyone else at that level in Bellator for him to face. This is a far different beast than John Salter.

Lovato can win this fight if he dominates on the ground. The BJJ black belt’s strong background in grappling — he even beat Jakes Shields in a grappling match and, of course, has numerous medals in BJJ competition — helps him in this fight. However, Mousasi has beaten good grapplers before.

The experience edge is a huge gap in this fight, too. Lovato has only nine fights in MMA, compared to 53 bouts for Mousasi, who has been a champion across three separate promotions.

Mousasi is going to dictate how this fight is contested. Even in the UFC, Mousasi has often been an unstoppable fighter. He has hit peak form in his striking, registering six of his eight victories in this current run by way of knockout. Mousasi should dominate this fight from start to finish.

This card features two women’s flyweight bouts, albeit on the prelims. Will any of the four fighters involved emerge as a potential title contender?

If any of these fighters is going to emerge as a title contender with a win, it will be Kate Jackson.

Denise Kielholtz and Bryony Tyrell don’t have the same pedigree as Jackson or the victories to make an argument for a crack at the belt. Tyrell is currently on a two-fight skid and sits at 1-3 over her last four fights. Even a win will leave her just below .500 in her last five fights. Kielholtz has excelled more in kickboxing than in MMA. Her reputation as a top kickboxer is the only possible factor in her getting a shot at the title. Tyrell doesn’t have the grappling to take Kielholtz out of her comfort zone, and she won’t be able to handle the pressing nature of the kickboxer’s striking attack. Kielholtz should win this fight by utilizing those kickboxing skills, just like she has in her other two career MMA victories.

Jackson, who is the likely winner against Lena Ovchynnikova, is 2-1 in Bellator and enters this bout on the heels of a victory of Anastasia Yankova. Two of Jackson’s losses have come against UFC-caliber foes in Valérie Létourneau and former UFC strawweight champ Joanna Jędrzejczyk. She was also a semifinalist on season 23 of [i]The Ultimate Fighter[/i]. Her current foe, Ovchynnikova, has seen a mixed bag of results since signing with Bellator and hasn’t beaten anyone of note in her tenure with the organization. Jackson should be able to extend her Bellator run to 3-1, which will definitely help her land near the top of the heap of flyweight challengers in the promotion.

Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?

Honestly, we’ve barely scraped the surface of the main card. The fight between Fabian Edwards and Jonathan Bosuku is a great pick, for example. Edwards has remained undefeated with six career finishes. He is coming off a victory over Falco Neto via a first-round stoppage due to upkicks. The man simply knows how to utilize all available options in his striking arsenal, and he’s also finished three fights by submission.

Fight Picks

Fight Pick
Main Card (DAZN, 9 p.m. ET)
MW Championship: Gegard Mousasi vs. Rafael Lovato Jr. Mousasi
WW: Paul Daley vs. Erick Silva Daley
Catchweight (140 pounds): James Gallagher vs. Jeremiah Labiano Gallagher
LHW: Melvin Manhoef vs. Kent Kauppinen Manhoef
MW: Michael Shipman vs. Costello van Steenis Shipman
MW: Fabian Edwards vs. Jonathan Bosuku Edwards
MW: Charlie Ward vs. Justin Moore Ward
Catchweight (160 pounds): Aaron Chalmers vs. Fred Freeman Chalmers
Preliminary Card (, 6:30 p.m. ET)
LW: Chris Bungard vs. Charlie Leary Bungard
MW: Kevin Fryer vs. John Redmond Fryer
BW: Nathan Greyson vs. Frans Mlambo Greyson
WW: Galore Bofando vs. Keith McCabe Bofando
WW: Walter Gahadza vs. Oliver Enkamp Gahadza
LW: Terry Brazier vs. Alessandro Botti Brazier
Women’s FlyW: Kate Jackson vs. Lena Ovchynnikova Jackson
FW: Nathan Rose vs. Luke Ord Rose
WW: Justin Burlinson vs. Wendle Lewis Burlinson
Women’s FlyW: Denise Kielholtz vs. Bryony Tyrell Kielholtz
LW: Alfie Davis vs. Jorge Kanella Davis