The middle finger to the UFC and to Dana White in Bellator continues on Saturday night. One of the stronger cards we’ve seen from the folks over at the Viacom-owned fighting organization takes center stage with the UFC card from Japan being the day before. How nice of them. What isn’t going to be nice for the MMA giant is to watch their competition throw on a free card that includes some very recognizable names that were staples in the UFC main cards not too long ago. If you look away from the big names on the card, you see a can’t miss prospect trying to rebound from the most humbling experience he has faced in his young career, along with a former UFC champ looking to climb back up the ladder to Bellator gold. Let’s take a look at three fights that you should hold off the bathroom break for.
1 Paul Daley vs Lorenz Larkin
If you’ve been around MMA long enough, you know the name Paul Daley. The Englishman striker has one of the meanest left hooks you will ever see and used it to rise up the ranks as a young prospect. His violent finishes put him on the map right away when he blasted Duane Ludwig back in 2007.
He eventually got himself into the UFC and two knockout victories later, he had his career-defining moment. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a positive one as he was booted from the UFC after he took objection to Josh Koscheck grinding him down for three rounds on the mat. He then decided that way after the final bell was his best opportunity to sleep the always-button-pushing Koscheck. Dana vowed he would never fight in the UFC again, and shockingly, kept that promise.
His results have been mixed since, as we’ve seen him lose to Nick Diaz (in an instant classic), Tyron Woodley, and Doug Lima, while defeating Andre Santos, Dennis Olson, Andy Uhrich, and then proceeding to punch Brennan Ward’s head off. He got his big Bellator moment last May but looked listless in a whitewashing defeat at the hands of
Patrick BatemanRory McDonald.
Opposing him will be the always flashy and exciting Lorenz Larkin. Larkin is a fighter that always seems to be right on the cusp of greatness, just to have it snatched from him by a top contender. His striking is world class and the velocity at which he kicks is scary at times. He burst onto the scene back in Strikeforce, losing a fight to a prime King Mo in which he gave Lawal all he could handle for a round and half. He followed it up with a huge win over Robbie Lawler. He looked to be hitting his stride when he beat Jorge Masvidal in a close fight and the KO’ed Neil Magny. Bellator pounced on the hot Larkin immediately after, only to see him drop a decision right away to Douglas Lima in his Bellator debut.
Both guys have a lot to prove in this fight. The waters at Bellator aren’t as deep as they are in the UFC at welterweight right now, and a decisive win by one of these guys gets them right back on the map. Neither one likes the ground game, so expect a firefight right from the get-go. Losing to Lima and McDonald isn’t anything to be ashamed of, but Daley looked exceptionally bad and Larkin will be out for blood. I don’t expect this fight to see the final bell.
2 Aaron Pico vs Justin Linn
Aaron Pico was supposed to Bellator’s next star at 145lbs, but someone forgot to tell Zach Freeman that. He ran right over Pico in 24 seconds and knocked the expectations down a rung or two. It doesn’t mean that Pico can’t succeed and challenge for a world title one day. Look at Kevin Lee over in the UFC is a prime example of that. After losing by KO on the undercard of McGregor and Aldo, he put his nose back to the grindstone and worked his way up to the upcoming interim title fight with Tony Ferguson. Pico is going to have to show this same resolve, and it starts with his bout against Linn.
What we have learned about Justin Linn in Bellator is that he doesn’t like the second round, as he refuses to go there. Neither one of his first two fights got there as he lost by submission to Matthew Lopez and beat an injured Adrian Cruz, both in the first round of his first two Bellator fights. Linn will be a live body in front of Pico, and as Aaron learned in his last fight; you can’t make mistakes at this level, and hype does you no favors when the door shuts. It will be interesting to see how he rebounds from his debut loss.
Read more: Aaron Pico on Bellator 183 bout: “If I relax, let my shots go, I feel like I knock him out.”
3 Benson Henderson vs Patricky Freire
Henderson was the first real free agent coup that Bellator staged with the UFC. Henderson has held UFC gold and many thought he was coming to come impose his will in Bellator. Not so much. He is 1-2 in his first three Bellator fights, and the one that he did win, was due to an injury to Patricky’s brother, Patricio. Andrey Koreshkov won every second of his fight with “Smooth” and Michael Chandler dominated early, faded late, and held on for the win in Benson’s last fight.
Patricky is on a bit of a different path to this fight. He too fought Chandler, but was hit so hard that he looked like he was unplugged in the first round. After being highlight reeled, he came back to stop the ultra-tough Josh Thomson; something that is no easy feat to do (just ask Nate Diaz).
Patricky comes for blood and Benson does not. Freire is going to come out like him and his brother always do, and try to put their opponent away quickly and violently. Henderson will try to smother the radioactive offense of Patricky and look for his openings in the top game. Henderson is almost impossible to finish, but the same could have been said for his UFC counterpart, Josh Thomson, and we all know now how that ended up.
Read more: Patricky ‘Pitbull’ Freire looking to ‘make a statement’ against Benson Henderson at Bellator 183
This Saturday’s card has a plethora of fighters seeking redemption. Daley and Larkin are both coming off losses and looking to get back in the mix. Pico is looking to prove that he deserved all those nice things that everyone said about him, while his opponent looks to prove that he isn’t a stepping stone. Henderson and Freire are both looking for another fight with Chandler, and will have to prove that the second go-round will be better. Tune in Saturday night to see which guy starts his next climb and which guy falls down the ladder.
Which of these three fights are you looking forward to the most? Let us know in the comments!
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