Lyoto Machida stands in a world of his own. He was criticized by fans of his tactical fighting style, but he wisely dismissed these critiques. His style has taken him far in his MMA career, catapulting him into the conversation as one of the best light heavyweights of all time. Before Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, it was Machida that gave karate serious chops in reputation after landing a crane kick on Randy Couture at UFC 129 in 2011 and winning the light-heavyweight title after just seven fights in the UFC. Machida has been billed as the underdog many times throughout the years, and he now finds himself in an eerily similar position as he prepares to face Phil Davis on Friday night in the headliner of Bellator 245.
Machida suffered his first loss in the Bellator cage roughly one year ago in a split decision against Gegard Mousasi. Many of Machida’s fights in Bellator have come against well-accomplished and established fighters whose best years were well behind them. Davis, in comparison, is on the right side of 35 years of age and has defeated Liam McGeary twice to maintain his title-contender status.
Cat Zingano makes her debut with her new promotion after falling from grace in the UFC when she dropped four of her last five fights. A change in scenery can prove beneficial for her, as she hasn’t fought outside of the UFC since 2012. Zingano, who meets Gabrielle Holloway, is out to recapture the glory days when she blitzed two future champions in Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes with back-to-back third-round finishes to get a title shot against then-champion Ronda Rousey.
Bellator 245 takes place at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., on Friday, September 11. The prelims kick off at 8:15 p.m. ET on DAZN, followed at 10 p.m. ET by the four-fight main card on both DAZN and the Paramount Network.
Light heavyweights Lyoto Machida and Phil Davis are set to rematch seven years after their initial encounter. Davis won that first fight by decision. Should we expect a similar fight and outcome this time around?
Since that fateful night when Davis had his hand raised at UFC 163, he has transformed into a much different fighter. While he relied and employed the tactics from his wrestling background back then, there is no indication that he will do the same seven years later. He has now embraced the stand-up game more than ever. There is no better time than now for “Mr. Wonderful.” With his expected and dominant victory over Karl Albrektsson a year ago, he has gone toe-to-toe with every major fixture in the Bellator light-heavyweight title picture.
Without a doubt, Davis wants another whack at the title, with the baton now passed on to the recently crowned champion Vadim Nemkov. By no means is Machida a walk in the park, though, even at 42 years old. Davis has a lot on the line. He needs to win to keep himself in the circle of titans for the possibility of a trilogy fight with Ryan Bader or a sequel with Nemkov. He is winless in three combined encounters against those two men and has a chip on his shoulder. Nemkov was simply the better man in their 2018 contest, where he executed a spellbinding suplex in the middle frame that helped his cause despite Davis’ final push for a finish in the third round. The year 2020 has been a sign of greener pastures for the San Diego native, who reached the Bellator gold crown once and knows he can get there again.
Jon Jones terrorized every opponent and tangled the hopes Davis had for hardware in the UFC, keeping captive the championship rank from 2011 to Davis’ departure in 2016. That mojo of greatness has seemingly been passed on to Davis, who has now gotten the best of his opponents in four of his last five fights. He has never looked so comfortable and confident in his fights, often possessing the edge in speed and making sure his mark counts in close exchanges.
Cat Zingano is poised to make her Bellator debut as a featherweight after winning just one of her last five UFC outings. Is she in any real danger of suffering a setback against Gabrielle Holloway?
There is a sense of urgency instilled in the 38-year-old Zingano if she wants to ascend Bellator’s featherweight ladder in the same fashion as she did in the UFC’s bantamweight division. She is still one of the top female fighters in the world, despite her recent setbacks.
It is important to note that this will be Zingano’s first fight in almost two years after suffering an eye injury within a minute into the first round against Megan Anderson at UFC 232. If she is able to cross paths with Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino for a Bellator title fight, it will be a nice feather in her cap. She will have shared the cage with all of the fighters who are considered to be the best of the best — Rousey, Tate, Nunes and Cyborg. This is proof that Zingano is as purebred as a fighter can get, if not for her bone-chilling battle roars after she paid her dues once the final bell rang. The intensity she brings to the sport belongs just as much as Chael Sonnen’s verbal warfare.
This is a big step up in competition for Holloway. While she did have a scrap with Julia Budd at Bellator 133, both fighters were equally inexperienced at the time. Holloway does have the edge in her time in the Bellator cage, but she has not been able to string together a winning streak in her five years since 2013.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
The prelim headliner between Rafael Carvalho and Alex Polizzi.
A view commonly expressed by fighters after a decision didn’t go their way is to say they should never leave the fight in the judges’ hands. This is a sentiment that Polizzi has taken to heart. All 12 fights that he has been a part of as a professional and an amateur have ended in a finish.
It’s very easy to dismiss Polizzi’s unblemished 6-0 professional record, especially since he’s already reached the age of performance peak after picking up fighting as a career just four years ago. That would be a mistake, though. The Legacy Fighting Alliance veteran has the chance to showcase his skills for a bigger audience. The 28-year-old claimed the LFA’s vacant light-heavyweight championship near the beginning of the year with a heel hook of Jamal Pogues to follow up his first-round stoppage of 2017 Dana White’s Contender Series participant Daniel Jolly at Final Fight Championship 40.
America Top Team’s Carvalho has lost three of his last four fights after a marvelous roundhouse-kick knockout of Melvin Manhoef in 2017 unlocked the opportunity to swim with bigger fish like Mousasi, Machida and Nemkov. This three-fight stretch that spanned four years proved to be too much too soon, however.
Main Card (Paramount Network and DAZN, 10 p.m. ET)
LHW: Phil Davis vs. Lyoto Machida
Women’s FW: Cat Zingano vs. Gabrielle Holloway
MW: Ed Ruth vs. Taylor Johnson
WW: Raymond Daniels vs. Peter Stanonik
Preliminary Card (DAZN, 8:15 p.m. ET)
LHW: Rafael Carvalho vs. Alex Polizzi
HW: Tyrell Fortune vs. Jack May
Catchweight (140 pounds): Keith Lee vs. Vinicius Zani
Women’s FW: Leslie Smith vs. Amanda Bell
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