In the second half of a weekend doubleheader, the Bellator Bantamweight World Grand Prix comes to a conclusion as current interim champion Raufeon Stots takes on Patchy Mix in the main event. Both Stots’ interim title and the Grand Prix title will be on the line in this five-round affair.
Stots earned his place in the final by picking up a decision victory over Danny Sabatello, a fight that ended somewhat controversially, with one judge scoring the bout for Sabatello despite every fan in attendance and watching on television knowing that Stots was the deserving winner. Mix became a finalist by defeating Magomed Magomedov via technical submission in his semifinal bout, notching his twelfth career victory by submission.
In the co-main event, hometown star Ilima-Lei Macfarlane will try to fully right the ship, after dropping two of her last three bouts and missing weight in the one fight she did win over that stretch. It is no gimme fight for Macfarlane in her home state of Hawaii, as she meets rising star Kana Watanabe. The well-rounded Watanabe holds a professional record of 11-1, with the sole blemish coming against Liz Carmouche. She has shown throughout her career that she is a complete mixed martial artist, scoring three wins by knockout and four each by submission and decision.
Also on the main card is the return of Aaron Pico. The last time Pico fought, he lost by TKO due to a shoulder injury, the latest in a long line of setbacks that have stalled his promising career. He looks to get back in the win column against James “The Alley Cat” Gonzalez. Gonzalez has fought once previously under the Bellator banner, notching a win over Cody Law. He also picked up a victory on the PFL Challenger Series in his most recent fight. The Matt Serra and Ray Longo trained fighter will try to score the biggest victory of his career this weekend.
The Bellator 295 preliminary card airs live on YouTube, or by clicking the picture above, starting at 8 p.m. ET, followed by the main card on Showtime at 10 p.m. ET. Let’s take a look at the preview and predictions.
Raufeon Stots and Patchy Mix meet in the final of the bantamweight Grand Prix; which fighter leaves with tournament gold?
The only fighter to beat Raufeon Stots is Merab Dvaslishvili. That’s crazy. If nothing else, it shows the depth of talent in the bantamweight division across mixed martial arts, not just inside the UFC. This showdown between Stots and Patchy Mix is not only for the Grand Prix championship and the interim Bellator bantamweight championship but the winner of this fight could definitely make a claim at being the best 135-pound fighter in all of MMA.
This clash is a showdown between a stand-out wrestler in Stots and a high level submission grappler in Mix. Let’s just all hope that this fight gets to the mat early, and we can see some exciting scrambles throughout the contest. For me, it is going to be tough for Stots to survive for 25 minutes on the ground with Mix. It just doesn’t take much of a mistake for Mix to snatch a neck or a limb and then do whatever he needs to in order to try and take it home with him.
It won’t shock me if Stots is well ahead on the judges’ scorecards late in the fight when Mix pulls out all the stops to try and get the finish. He could jump on a guillotine late and either force a tap or put Stots to sleep in order to claim the belt. One way or another, Mix gets the submission win and wins the bantamweight Grand Prix championship.
Ilima-Lei Macfarlane has the most wins of all women in Bellator history; does she expand her lead and earn her eleventh win inside the promotion?
I don’t think so. Frankly, Ilima-lei Macfarlane is on the back side of her career. She’s just 33 years old, but she is a fighter who peaked earlier than most and thus she has begun to slide backwards at a younger age than most fighters. I think her days of holding a title are gone, and, while she’s not going to be a lay-up for anyone she faces, her record will begin to sour, as I expect her to trade wins and losses with many other top flyweights.
Kana Watanabe will prove to be too much for Macfarlane on Saturday. Despite being older than her opponent, Watanabe is the fresher fighter coming into this bout, and she has proven that she is elite. Her lone professional loss came against current champion Liz Carmouche, and she bounced back nicely by submitting Denise Kielholtz after that loss. Watanabe will be better than Macfarlane wherever the fight goes from start-to-finish en route to a decision victory
Aaron Pico fights for the first time since injuring his shoulder against Jeremy Kennedy; how does he fare in his return?
Who the heck knows? Aaron Pico is maybe the most confusing fighter in recent memory. There was so much hype around him when he signed with Bellator that many established fighters wouldn’t even step into the cage with him. This led to him being fast-tracked by the promotion, which normally does a nice job slowly building their prospects. When he lost his debut, it was kind of written off as too-much-too-soon against a bigger fighter, and then he went on a tear of body-shot knockouts leading into his fight with Henry Corrales. Losing by knockout to Corrales, and then to Adam Borics, really stopped the hype train.
After retooling and moving to the famous Jackson-Wink gym in New Mexico, Pico looked like the bright prospect that everyone thought he was over his next several fights. But shoulder injuries are tricky. Speaking from experience, even a relatively minor injury can leave you permanently less than 100-percent. I don’t think Brandon “Six Gun” Gibson did him any favors violently shaking his arm trying to get it back in the socket. There’s a ton of questions about Pico’s future, and, even with a good performance this weekend, I don’t think they will all be answered. All that said, I do expect him to come away with a win and at least begin to get back on track.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Bobby King vs. Aalon Cruz. Honestly, neither one of these fighters are going to wear Bellator gold around their waists, but they do deliver fan-friendly performances. They both have a knack for being in entertaining fights, most of which go the full distance. I expect King to pull out the victory, but he will have to walk through fire to get the win. Tune in early for this one.
|Main Card (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET)|
|BW Grand Prix Final: Raufeon Stots vs. Patchy Mix||Mix|
|Women’s FlyW: Ilima-Lei Macfarlane vs. Kana Watanabe||Watanabe|
|FW: Aaron Pico vs. James Gonzalez||Pico|
|FlyW: Ray Borg vs. Kyoji Horiguchi||Horiguchi|
|Preliminary Card (YouTube, 8 p.m. ET)|
|FW: Mads Burnell vs. Justin Gonzalez||Burnell|
|LW: Yancy Medeiros vs. Charlie Leary||Medeiros|
|FW: Kai Kamaka III vs. Adli Edwards||Kamaka III|
|Women’s FlyW: Sumiko Inaba vs. Veta Arteaga||Inaba|
|FW: Keoni Diggs vs. Weber Almeida||Diggs|
|LW: Bobby King vs. Aalon Cruz||King|
|HW: Davion Franklin vs. Kasim Aras||Pick|
|Women’s FlyW: Ilara Joanne vs. Bruna Ellen||Ellen|
|WW: Alexey Shurkevich vs. Masayuki Kikuiri||Shurkevich|