BELLATOR 168 PREVIEW: Grocke’s Preview & Predictions for the “Beltran vs. Sakara” headlined event on Spike TV (4 p.m. ET)

By Michael Grocke, MMATorch contributor

Bellator 168 takes place in Florence, Italy at the Nelson Mandela Arena on Saturday afternoon. The original main event was a rematch between Rafael Carvalho and Melvin Manhoef, but an injury to Carvalho forced the fight to be scrapped. Alessio Sakara vs. Joey Beltran now moves up to the main event slot.

The co-main event is another light heavyweight bout as Phillipe Lins takes on Kleber Raimundo Silva. The main card rounds out with John Salter vs. Claudio Annicchiarico in a battle of middleweights. In the lightweight division Goiti Yamauchi takes on Valeriu Mircea and a late addition to the card Ed Ruth steps into the cage for the second time in his career as he faces off against Emanuele Palombi.

The main card starts at 4:00 p.m. ET on Spike. 

Main Card

Alessio Sakara (18-11, 2 NC) vs. Joey Beltran (17-13, 1 NC) – Light Heavyweight 205 lbs.

While neither fighter is close to competing for the title, this should be a fun fight. Alessio Sakara comes into Saturday’s main event looking for his third win in a row. Both of his previous two wins came by way of knockout, with the latest over Brian Rogers at Bellator 152. The UFC veteran has been in the cage with the division’s best, including Chris Weidman, Brian Stann and Thales Leites, just to name a few.

Joey Beltran is 3-3 over his last six fights. He took a decision loss to Chase Gormley at Bellator 155 in his most recent bout. Beltran trains with Bellator light heavyweight champion Phil Davis, so maybe he’ll have a new wrinkle or two and surprise Sakara.

While both fighters are past their prime, Alessio Sakara has more going for him in this fight. Not only is he the more skilled fighter at this point, but he’ll also have the advantage of having the home town crowd in his corner.

Pick: Sakara by TKO

Philipe Lins (10-1) vs. Kleber Raimundo Silva (12-7) – Light Heavyweight 205 lbs.

Brazillian star Philipe Lins is 3-1 and has yet to see a fight go the distance under the Bellator banner.  After sustaining an injury and losing to Kelly Anundson at Bellator 122, Lins returned at Bellator 159 and defeated Guilherme Viana by TKO. After Saturday’s fight expect Lins to be a contender for the lightweight title.

Kleber Raimundo Silva steps in for injured Pietro Cappelli to take on Lins. He enters the fight losing two of his previous three fights, and after Saturday I expect that to be three of his last four. Like many of the fights on this card, I don’t expect this one to be very competitive. Lins is clearly the more skilled fighter and has more ways to win this fight.

Pick: Lins by TKO

John Salter (12-3) vs. Claudio Annichiarico (0-1) – Middleweight 185 lbs.

If Claudio Anniciarico makes it out of the first round then he should consider himself lucky. He lost by a first round knockout against Junior Orgulho at Fight or Nothing – Road to Bellator back in April of this year. Now, he steps into the cage against a veteran with fifteen fights under his belt.

John Salter enters the fight riding a four-fight winning streak. His most recent win was a first round submission of former champion Brandon Halsey at Bellator 156. All twelve of Salter’s victories ended inside the distance. This is a huge mismatch.

Pick: Salter by submission

Goiti Yamauchi (31-9) vs. Valeriu Mircea (12-3) Lightweight 155 lbs.

Goiti Yamauchi is 4-1 in his last five fights. He split his last two, losing to Bubba Jenkins by decision at Bellator 151, and submitting Ryan Couture at Bellator 162. Although three of his last four were by submission, it’s his grappling that Mircea should be worried about.

Valeriu Mircea will be looking for his fifth win in a row when he steps into the cage. Three of his last four wins were finishes. Mircea takes a big step up in competition when he faces Yamauchi. He’ll have the crowd on his side, but will it be enough?

Pick: Yamauchi by submission

Ed Ruth (1-0) vs. Emanuele Palombi (5-2) – Middleweight 185 lbs.

Three-time NCAA national champion and four-time All-American wrestler Ed Ruth takes an extremely short notice fight and will take on local fighter Emanuele Palombi on Saturday afternoon. Ruth won his only fight in Bellator by beating Dustin Collins-Miles by TKO at Bellator 163. Ruth looked fantastic in his debut, and I expect the same in this fight.

Saturday’s fight will be Emanuele Palombi’s first fight under the Bellator banner. He comes in riding a three-fight winning streak. All three victories were first round finishes. Palombi will have his hands full when he goes up against Ed Ruth, regardless of the timing in which he took the fight.

Pick: Ruth TKO

Enjoy the fights!

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