Bellator heads to Thackersville, Okla., and the WinStar World Casino for Belator 233 on Friday night. The main event of the evening takes place in the middleweight division, where John Salter meets Costello van Steenis.
Salter has been one of the best fighters in Bellator’s middleweight division, where he’s won all but one fight in his tenure with the promotion. The UFC veteran is coming off a victory over Chidi Njokuani in his last fight, but that was almost a year ago. Van Steenis has won six straight bouts, including four under the Bellator banner. In those four fights, van Steenis has three finishes, including a second-round knockout of Mike Shipman.
In the co-headliner, Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal comes out of retirement for one more fight, which takes place at a catchweight of 195 pounds against Andrew Kapel. Lawal is currently on a three-fight skid, with his last fight coming in April at Rizin 15. Kapel is a much different story. The 20-fight veteran is on a four-fight winning streak, and this will mark his Bellator debut.
Two additional fights round out the main card. In the women’s featherweight division, Leslie Smith takes to the Bellator cage for the second time when she goes up against Arlene Blencowe. At heavyweight, Tyrell Fortune, one of Bellator’s brightest prospects, collides with Azunna Anyanwu.
The Bellator 233 preliminary card airs live on Bellator.com and DAZN at 6:15 p.m. ET. The main card follows on the Paramount Network and DAZN at 9 p.m. ET.
Costello van Steenis is a homegrown Bellator talent who is now undefeated through four appearances with the promotion. Is the middleweight up-and-comer ready for a challenge against someone of John Salter’s standing?
Over his Bellator tenure, van Steenis has shown that he is ready for a challenge like this. He has become one of Bellator’s brightest prospects coming over from Europe, and this is the next step he needs to take if he really wants to become a contender. Salter is an experienced fighter who has competed multiple times in Bellator as well as the UFC. This will be the toughest test to date for van Steenis.
Salter is one of the best fighters in Bellator’s middleweight division. He has dispatched just about every opponent he has faced since joining the promotion. The only opponent to beat him in his Bellator run is the current middleweight champion, Rafael Lovato Jr. Salter also holds a distinct advantage in this fight due to his great grappling game that will definitely give van Steenis fits if the contest goes to the ground.
Van Steenis has faced a similar threat in Chris Honeycutt, who utilized his wrestling game to cause trouble for van Steenis throughout their encounter. Honeycutt didn’t emerge victorious, though, as van Steenis took the fight by majority decision. Salter is a better version of Honeycutt, who drafted the blueprint on how to stop the undefeated run of van Steenis.
Lovato is an even better grappler than Salter, and that was the difference maker in their fight. Van Steenis doesn’t have this same advantage working in his favor. Salter should win, but van Steenis can improve his own odds for a huge victory if he can keep this fight on the feet or remain in top control on the mat.
Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal is on a three-fight skid and has won just two of his last seven bouts. Is his catchweight affair against Andrew Kapel the equivalent of a softball to get Lawal back in the win column?
I hate to say any fight is a softball, but this is a clear meatball down the middle for Lawal to crush. This is Lawal’s last fight before retirement, and he and the promotion are looking for a way to allow him to go out on top.
The 38-year-old’s losing streak started off with a setback against future dual-weight champion Ryan Bader. It then escalated in a loss against former Bellator light heavyweight champ Liam McGeary. Finally, Lawal traveled across the Pacific Ocean and fought at Rizin 15, where he lost to Jiří Procházka, a man he had already beaten three years earlier.
Lawal has the edge in this fight with his background in wrestling. He should also enjoy an advantage on the feet. Kapel hasn’t faced someone of Lawal’s caliber so far in his career, and now he has to do it on the big stage in his Bellator debut. Kapel is riding a four-fight winning streak that includes three submission victories, but it will be nine months since Kapel’s last fight. The 34-year-old has fought sparingly since the beginning of 2018, too. That just adds to the advantage for Lawal.
King Mo needs to keep his chin protected. If he can use his wrestling edge and tuck that chin, then he should be in for an easy final victory.
Four featherweight ladies make an appearance on this show. On the main card, Leslie Smith battles Arlene Blencowe. During the prelims, Janay Harding collides with Amanda Bell. Which woman delivers the most impressive performance of the evening?
Smith is a good candidate to have the most impressive performance of the evening. She has experience in the UFC and has now made the move to Bellator. She’s fighting Arlene Blencowe, who is one of the better fighters in Bellator’s featherweight division. Blencowe has challenged for the Bellator featherweight title, and the failed title bid remains her lone loss in the promotion. Blencowe is now riding a two-fight winning streak, with her most recent victory coming over the aforementioned Bell. This fight could likely decide the next challenger in this division.
Smith is going to bring it in this fight, too. She likes to turn her fights into brawls. Fans are going to like what they see. Smith excels with a very fan-friendly style. Smith has a big advantage and should be able to take the victory.
In the prelim affair, we don’t have the same experience levels or rankings inside the division. Bell is 2-2 with the promotion and is coming off the loss to Blencowe. Harding, 25, is still young and also took a loss in her last fight.
There is a lot for both women to work on in this fight. Both fighters are going to look to strike, and they have the opportunity to land the knockout. Harding’s size advantage makes her the favorite, and she should win the exchanges on the feet en route to the win.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Tyrell Fortune and Azunna Anyanwu.
Fortune is making huge strides in the heavyweight division and is starting to shed the prospect label. He is becoming one of the bigger threats in the division. His wrestling — he has a collegiate background — is definitely something to watch. He has made improvements in his striking as well. Fortune is undefeated. This fight might be overlooked, but it is definitely one to watch.
Main Card (Paramount Network/DAZN, 9 p.m. ET)
MW: John Salter vs. Costello van Steenis
Catchweight (195 pounds): Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal vs. Andrew Kapel
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