ECOCHARD’S BELLATOR 160 PREVIEW & PREDICTIONS: Henderson vs. Pitbull, Anderson vs. Awad, Karakhanyan vs. Jenkins, Walker vs. Mckee

By Matt Ecochard, MMATorch contributor

Cody Walker (7-2) vs. AJ Mckee (4-0) – Featherweight Bout:

Walker vs. Mckee is a battle of two very tall featherweights who both love to stand and trade. AJ Mckee has never been out of the first round with 3 KO wins and 1 by the way of submission. Walker has been through some adversity in his career and definitely has more experience than Mckee. This is a lined up as a sturdy test for Mckee at age 21, but Bellator wouldn’t put such a young promising talent in with a fighter they didn’t think he could come out victorious against. If the fight hits the mat Walker has a better chance than on the feet. Look for a fun war between two young competitors.

Prediction: AJ Mckee via KO in Round 1

Georgi Karakhanyan (24-6-1) vs. Bubba Jenkins (11-2) – Featherweight Bout:

The next fight of this main card features a featherweight rematch in which Karakhanyan won their first fight in the first round by guillotine choke. Georgi Karakhanyan is a high level submission artist who has really only lost to the top 5 featherweights while in Bellator, most recently Daniel Weichel and Pat Curran. Bubba Jenkins is touted as a top prospect by Bellator, he is a D-1 All-American and champion and he has quickly added good striking and submission skills to his game.

Georgi Karakhanyan is always going to be dangerous on the mat, but he has looked a little deflated in his last two losses. Bubba Jenkins has a high upside as he is only 28, still learning technique and entering his prime. Jenkins will most likely look for the takedown, in doing so he needs to keep his head in close and stay tight to avoid submissions. Through three rounds it may be hard to do, but it seems like the last year has been kind to him and he might have made the necessary adjustments to steal back his most recent loss.

Prediction: Bubba Jenkins via Unanimous Decision

Derek Anderson (13-2) vs. Saad Awad (19-7) – Lightweight Bout:

Derek Anderson is a fairly tall lightweight at six feet tall. He has dangerous striking and an equal submission game to back it up. His Bellator career has been largely positive with duel wins over Patricky Freire and only losses to Marcin Held and undefeated fighter Brent Primus. Saad Awad is an always dangerous fighter but can’t seem to get the big wins he needs to get to that title fight. His most recent loss is to Patricky Freire, a man that Anderson has beat twice. That should be telling enough that he just doesn’t have the skillset needed to take out Anderson. Awad is hard to finish so watch for a decent striking battle between the two, but if Anderson wants to take it down his longer limbs should help him out there as well.

Prediction: Derek Anderson via Split decision

Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (25-3) vs. Benson Henderson (23-6) – Main Event Lightweight Bout:

Benson Henderson is returning to the division that he ruled over in the UFC for over a year. Look for a hungry and motivated Henderson to come out to prove he still has what it takes for him to hold gold around his waist. Patricio Freire has always been a staple of Bellator’s featherweight division and is taking a risky fight moving up to face the bigger man in Henderson. “Pitbull” has vicious knockout power, nasty chokes and the gas tank and heart to stay in any fight. This win would be huge for either fighter and makes for an interesting main event.

Henderson needs to use his controlling skills in the clinch and wrestling departments to hold Freire at bay and shutdown any offense he might bring. Henderson’s chin has become slightly more fragile over the last couple years and he needs to protect it from the power “Pitbull” possesses. Freire can come out with the win here if he can shrug off the wrestling from Henderson and keep the bout at a boxing distance. I wouldn’t count either of these fighters out of this bout. If “Pitbull” wins it’ll be by a finish in the middle rounds. Henderson is the more likely option via a decision, as Freire has shown vulnerability to high level grapplers that can take him to a decision.

Prediction: Henderson via Unanimous Decision

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