Bellator’s first card of the new year features some of the organization’s better fighters and is being headlined by a pair of ex-UFC trash talkers. The event will also mark the end of Tito Ortiz’s career, so no matter what the results, the night will be one of significance. The following are previews and predictions for the main card on Spike TV on Saturday night:
Spike TV Bellator Main Card
Derek Campos (17-6) vs. Derek Anderson (14-2) – Lightweight Bout
Two staples of Bellator’s lightweight division kick off the main card. Derek Campos has only lost to Patricky “Pitbull” Freire, Michael Chandler and Brandon Girtz, three rather impressive names in the division. Early last year Campos became one of two men to knockout Melvin Guillard, showing off his strength and technical skills on the feet. Derek Anderson had a hiccup with a loss to Brent Primus and a no-shame loss to Marcin Held via triangle choke. Anderson also likes to keep the fight standing for the most part, but he will be the taller, longer fighter. Campos might look to take the fight to the ground where he should have the more significant advantage. Anderson will try to stay at range and pick apart Campos. This bout will most likely see a decision as both men are hard to finish with Anderson being just a hair slicker.
Prediction: Derek Anderson via Split Decision
Georgi Karakhanyan (26-6-1) vs. Emmanuel Sanchez (13-3) – Featherweight Bout
Emmanuel Sanchez is getting one of the toughest fights of his career against Georgi Karakhanyan. Both of these men like to grapple, but Karakhanyan is a world class Jiu-Jitsu fighter. Karakhanyan should be in control of this fight where it goes, as he has really come through with his striking over the last year and that paired with his dangerous ground game should leave him a threat against Sanchez. Sanchez has never been finished, but Karakhanyan is really quite the finisher. Look for Karakhanyan to finish it off on the ground after a mostly stand up fight in the first round.
Prediction: Georgi Karakhanyan via Submission Round 2
Ralek Gracie (3-0) vs. Hisaki Kato (7-2) – Middleweight Bout
A typical Gracie vs. striker match is happening when Ralek Gracie returns for the first time in over six years to take on Hisaki Kato. Spending over six years away from the sport will not do you any favors, even when your last name is Gracie. Coming back against such a strong and high level striker in Kato will likely not end well for Gracie as Kato has the power to finish anyone. Gracie will come out and look for the takedown instantly, if he gets it he will likely get the submission fast. If the bout stays standing it will be a short night for Gracie with Kato just shredding him apart. Gracie has never been knocked out and Kato has never been submitted. I trust Kato’s takedown defense and power more than I trust Gracie’s chin. This should be a fun fight while it lasts.
Prediction: Hisaki Kato via KO Round 1
Paul Daley (38-14-2) vs. Brennan Ward (14-4) – Welterweight Bout
Paul Daley competes for the first time since losing in July to Douglas Lima against “the Irish Bad Boy” Brennan Ward in a bout that should be nothing short of fireworks. Daley has some of the strongest hands in the welterweight division in any organization. Brennan Ward is one of the most exciting fighters that Bellator has, having never seen a decision in his Bellator career dating back to 2012. Ward tends to lose when he gets too reckless, but in those moments he also has great success. Daley doesn’t have much to offer his opponents besides the thought of being knocked out cold. The Muay Thai of Daley will be his biggest threat against the bigger and taller Ward. Ward is fast paced, but Daley should be the more threatening fighter.
Prediction: Paul Daley via TKO Round 1
Tito Ortiz (18-12-1) vs. Chael Sonnen (29-14-1) – Light Heavyweight Main Event
In an odd main event that would have been better suited for 2011, Tito Ortiz will say goodbye to fight fans as he will fight his retirement fight against fellow veteran Chael Sonnen. Tito Ortiz, in the last five years has gone 3-4, and didn’t fight for all of 2016. Sonnen is 3-3, but hasn’t fought since the end of 2013. The stylistic match-up should be interesting, but neither of these men should be fighting on Saturday and both should likely be retired a couple of years ago.
Tito Ortiz is known for his intense rivalry with Chuck Liddell and it really did help popularize the sport. The fight on Saturday isn’t about his contributions to the sport, it is about what he can still bring forth in 2017. Ortiz has always had a solid wrestling base, but his ground and pound has allowed him to achieve the majority of his victories. His submission defense isn’t the best and his chin hasn’t held up with age. He got a very nice surprise submission victory over Alexander Shlemenko in 2014, but between that and his victory over Ryan Bader in a similar fashion, he hadn’t won a fight since 2006 against Ken Shamrock. The only other victory was against Stephan Bonnar, another man past his prime.
The wrestling of Chael Sonnen is his bread and butter, with some decent submission skills and ground and pound tossed in there for a pretty solid overall game. On the feet, Ortiz will likely pick apart Sonnen, but if Sonnen can get the fight to the ground, I don’t think Ortiz will be able to last more than a couple of minutes with him. As long as Sonnen shows up in shape and ready to fight and doesn’t take the match too lightly, he should be able to win with relative ease. Ortiz’s retirement has a good chance of being spoiled. Either way this fight should be as entertaining as it can be with these two fighters. I’m going with Sonnen in what could be called a slight upset.
Prediction: Chael Sonnen via Submission Round 2