BELLATOR 172 PREVIEW: Grocke’s Preview & Predictions for the Fedor vs. Mitrione headlined event this Saturday on Spike TV

By Michael Grocke, MMATorch contributor

Bellator 172 comes to the SAP Center in San Jose, California on Saturday night. The main event features the return of Fedor Emelianenko. The legendary MMA fighter will make his Bellator debut after signing a multi-fight deal with the organization. The co-main event is a battle of lightweight contenders when Patricky Freire takes on Josh Thomson.

The five fight main card rounds out with veteran Cheick Kongo taking on Oli Thompson in a battle of heavyweights, in the welterweight division Josh Koscheck makes his long awaited Bellator debut when he steps into the cage with Mauricio Alonso and in the women’s flyweight division newcomer Brook Mayo goes up against Veta Arteaga.

The prelims will stream live on starting at 6 PM CT with Spike TV taking over at 8 PM CT for the main card.

Main Card 

Fedor Emelianenko (36-4) vs. Matt Mitrione (11-5) – Heavyweight 265 lbs.

Current Odds: Mitrione -145; Emelianenko +115

Fedor will be coming into his Bellator debut against Matt Mitrione riding a five fight win streak. His most recent win came via decision over Fabio Maldonado many people thought he should have lost. Three of the five wins were first round knockouts.

Matt Mitrione is 2-0 since jumping from the UFC to Bellator. Both wins were stoppages with the first one coming against Carl Seumanutafa at Bellator 157, and the most recent coming at Bellator 158 over Oli Thompson.

After struggling to earn the decision in his fight with Fabio Maldonado, it remains to be seen what he has left for this run. That said, I do expect him to be prepared and put forth a great effort. Mitrione has a tendency to carry his hands low so there’s a chance Fedor can land a big punch and put Mitrione to sleep. Matt has been hurt by lesser opponents. If Fedor is to win, it will be by stoppage. I think Matt Mitrione has more left in the take and will grind out a decision.

Pick: Mitrione by decision

Josh Thomson (22-8) vs. Patricky Freire (16-8) – Lightweight 155 lbs.

Former Strikeforce champion Josh Thomson will be making his third appearance for Bellator when he steps into the cage on Saturday night. He’s 2-0 with two stoppages since leaving the UFC for Bellator. He subbed Mike Bronzoulis at Bellator 142 and most recently he stopped Pablo Villaseca by TKO at Bellator 147. A win here should earn him the next shot at Michael Chandler.

Patricky Freire was riding a modest two fight winning streak until he was destroyed by Michael Chandler at Bellator 157 for the vacant lightweight title. A win here will at least get him back in the hunt for another shot at the title.

I expect Freire to keep the fight standing and try to turn the fight into a brawl. He took the same game plan into his fight against Michael Chandler and that fight was stopped in the first round. Freire isn’t the most technical striker so he tends to leave himself open just asking to get countered.

Josh Thomson has better all-around skills with more ways to win. While it won’t be a walk in the park, I do expect Thomson to come out ahead on the judge’s scorecards in the end. My only hesitation is the possibility of Thomson showing some ring rust early, getting caught with a big shot and getting knocked out.

Pick: Thomson by TKO

Cheick Kongo (25-10-2) vs. Oli Thompson (17-9) – Heavyweight 265 lbs.

After dropping a decision to King Mo at Bellator 134, Cheick Kongo has rattled off three straight wins. All three wins were by decision with the latest coming against Tony Johnson at Bellator 161. A win here keeps him in the upper echelon of Bellator heavyweights.

Oli Thompson was on a five fight win streak until he lost his Bellator debut by getting knocked out in the second round by Matt Mitrione at Bellator 158. Because of Kongo’s style I see Oli trying to push the pace and pick his spots. Of Thompson’s 17 career wins, 13 were by either knockout or submission, so he will go for the finish whenever possible.

Thompson has to be patient and refrain from rushing in giving Kongo the opportunity to capitalize on his mistakes early. Kongo likes to work in the clinch and take the fight to the ground where he can work his ground and pound. Cheick doesn’t possess overwhelming power, of his 25 career wins only 12 were by knockout. Furthermore, of his 35 career fights, 43% of them has gone the distance. Kongo likes to slow the pace and grind his opponents down. I see this fight going like most of Kongo’s fights.

Pick: Kongo by decision

Josh Koscheck (17-10) vs. Mauricio Alonso (12-7) – Welterweight 170 lbs. 

After losing five straight fights in the UFC, Josh Koscheck bolted for Bellator in June of 2015. After pulling out of two previous fights due to injury, Koscheck is finally set to make his Bellator debut. Taking into account his age, injuries and recent performances it’s impossible to predict what we’re going to see out of Josh Koscheck on Saturday night.

Mauricio Alonso will be making his second appearance for Bellator. He lost his debut to Nick Pica by decision at Bellator 142. Since that loss he’s gone 2-0 on the regional circuit with his latest win coming by way of decision against Justin Baesman. Alonso returns in search of his first win under the Bellator banner.

I expect this fight to take place primarily on the ground. Grappling and wrestling are both fighter’s strengths. The question then becomes who has the better cardio. Again, I don’t know what to expect from Koscheck but if his recent fights are any indication of where his skills are then backing him in this or any fight isn’t possible.

Pick: Alonso by decision 

Brook Mayo (0-0) vs. Veta Arteaga (2-1) – Flyweight 125 lbs. 

Brook Mayo makes her Bellator debut after going 5-1 as an amateur. Three of her five wins were by either submission or knockout. She takes on Veta Arteaga who is making her third appearance under the Bellator banner. She is 1-1 with Bellator, dropping a decision to Anastasia Yankova at Bellator 161 in her most recent fight. All four of Arteaga’s career fights have gone the distance.

Pick: Arteaga by decision 

Prelims Quick Look

Tokov over France

Terry over Douglas

Jackson over Gonzalez

Cardenas over Vargas

Sumner over Vaesau

Rocha over Reger

Do over Escalante

Ramirez over Murphy

Herzog over Sano

Bolanos over Perez

Okanovich over Vaovasa

Tenedora over Reyes

Enjoy the fights!

CHECK OUT THIS PREVIOUS PREVIEW ARTICLE: BELLATOR 170 PREVIEW: Grocke’s Preview & Predictions for the Sonnen vs. Ortiz headlined event airing live on Spike TV Saturday night

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