Bellator Season Six Preview – Bantamweight Tournament… Continued
Last week I previewed the entire Bantamweight tournament, but I will reiterate those picks again this week just to make sure I didn’t feel the need to do some serious flip-flopping over the past seven days. Also, Bellator 66 will bring both the second Featherweight semi-final and third title bout of this season to us, in a rather deep card for the promotion’s standards.
The title bout is likely the most intriguing and closely contested of any that have been lined up, as the Askren/Lima fight didn’t turn out nearly as competitively as I had expected, but as the inimitable Gus Johnson always says, “Sometimes these things happen in MMA”. The nice thing about this sport is that there’s always another week and another card to make it for the last one, so here we go.
I’m going to quote what I had written last week in regards to the remaining Bantamweight quarterfinals, and then add some thoughts based on what I’ve heard/read since I wrote them:
While the Bantamweight fights this week all feature newcomers to the Bellator tournament, next week’s bouts feature four fighters who have all participated in previous 135lb tournaments. Alexis Vila made some serious noise last tournament, by knocking Joe Warren into another sphere of reality before bowing out in the final to Eduardo Dantas. Luis Nogueira on the other hand exited the tournament in the first round, as he failed to get anything substantial going against Ed West. Vila has a different style than West, but presents many of the same issues in that Nogueira will struggle mightily to get the fight to the ground and cannot win a striking battle. Alexis Vila is the clear pick in this bout, and with his wrestling and power presents a difficult test for everyone else in the field.
I don’t really have much to add to this, other than the fact that Vila opened as a rather small favourite (currently sitting at -180, with Nogueira at +150) surprised me. I suppose that with Vila being on the wrong side of 40, I can understand some people having the expectation that he my start to fade, but I just don’t think Nogueira is the type of guy who has the tools to make it happen. He is very much like Vila in his style that he looks for huge winging punches and has a decent wrestling base to fall back on. The problem for Nogueira is that aside from those tools, he doesn’t bring the type of varied, sustained offence that really troubles the Cuban (like Eduardo Dantas). Vila is a bigger puncher, and better wrestler. Should Alexis find himself struggling in the stand up, he can take this fight down whenever he chooses and Nogueira’s lackadaisical bottom game will be his undoing.
The aforementioned Ed West will take on Marcos Galvao in the final first round match, in what is an intriguing clash of two men who are well-seasoned grapplers but will likely take place on the feet. Galvao is a Nova Uniao BJJ black belt and multiple time world champion, but despite those credentials has never won an MMA bout via submission. West on the other hand does not possess the grappling credentials of his foe, but has notched nine of his 17 MMA wins by tapout. However, West also employs a high volume kicking game coming from his Tae Kwon Do background, so is happy to keep fights on the feet. He would be best served to take that route against Galvao, who while a serviceable striker has proven chinny in the past, and is nowhere near as dangerous standing as on the ground, regardless of what his submission total may say. If West plays this smart, uses his wrestling and movement to keep it standing and works his kicks, he should be able to stymie any real offence Galvao can bring to him.
I’ve actually been interested to read that most people favour Galvao in this bout, given a few factors. 1) He is not going to finish West. 2) West is not going to finish him. 3) Judges hate Galvao. 4) Judges love West. As I mentioned, West employs a high-volume kicking offence. Judges eat that up. On the other hand, Galvao can be a rather anemic offensive fighter at times despite normally moving forward, and it has hurt him in many decisions. I think this will be another case of that, as West moves around kicks to the legs and body, and just racks up points on a Galvao who doesn’t offer back a ton of resistance. The odds on this fight see Galvao at -145 and West at +115. Since I’m picking West outright, it would follow that I like that line.
There is a nice, tidy way to tie these fights together, and that would be by showing the Vila/Galvao and West/Nogueira bouts from last tournament, but neither was particularly engaging, so instead let’s watch Joe Warren get brained by Alexis Vila.
The other tournament aspect to this card is the other half of the Bellator Featherweight semi-finals, where Daniel Straus (-435) looks to make it to a final again as he takes on Mike Corey (+325), who surprised Ronnie Mann in the first round of the tournament. I picked against Corey when he was a big underdog to Chris Horodecki, picked against him as a big underdog against Mann, and now he’s a big underdog to Straus. Forgive me if I’m a bit cautious in jumping on the Straus bandwagon in this fight, as while he’s more well-rounded than Corey, so was Mann. Corey’s game is all about getting you down and working tirelessly and effectively from top position. The reason that I lean towards Straus in this fight is because the wrestling and size advantages that Corey held in the two previous fights won’t be present in this bout. We saw that Corey’s striking defence isn’t the most stellar thing he has going for him in getting dropped early in his quarterfinal bout, and I think Straus will be able to keep this bout on the feet – or scramble up from takedowns – and land the more telling blows both from distance and inside the clinch en route to taking a decision.
Finally, Bellator is treating us to another high-level title bout, this time in the Bantamweight division. Originally there were supposed to be two title fights on this card, but Eric Prindle had karma bite him in the ass for getting a gift title shot, and hurt his hand in training forcing a fight of his to be scrapped for the third time this season. I am not upset at all by this turn of events, as it gives the 135ers a chance to move into a feature role. Zach Makovsky (-125) and Eduardo Dantas (-105) should be able to take advantage of this fact and put on an entertaining bout to cap the evening. I look at this fight as a less extreme version of last week’s Askren/Lima bout. Makovsky primarily uses his wrestling and top game, but has better striking and finishing instincts with submissions than the Welterweight champion. Dantas is like Lima in that he possesses a dynamic striking game, crafty guard, and can lack the wrestling to weave the two together. In his Bantamweight final, Dantas found himself taken down early by Alexis Vila – a much more accomplished, but much smaller wrestler than Makovsky – but persevered and as his opponent tired was able to take the final two rounds in order to win the tournament. Against Makovsky he won’t have the same luxury, as the Bantamweight champion has gone hard for five rounds before and will certainly take the young challenger through the ringer in this one. As I said earlier, I see this as a less extreme and more competitive version of the Askren/Lima bout from last weekend, but I see the outcome being similar. Makovsky will be able to get takedows and do enough work on the ground to earn the decision in this one. As a little primer, take a look at one of each fighter’s recent victories; Dantas against Wilson Reis in last season’s tournament, and Makovsky against Chad Robichaud in a non-title bout (the fight starts at the 6:00 mark):
Alexis Vila def. Luis Nogueira via R1 T/KO
Ed West def. Marcos Galvao via Unanimous Decision
Daniel Straus def. Mike Corey via Unanimous Decision
Zach Makovsky def. Eduardo Dantas via Unanimous Decision
This marks the last of Bellator’s Season Six first round matches, and the end of the tournament previews. However, don’t fret, I will be previewing each of the Bellator cards moving forward as the tournaments progress.