BELLATOR 180 PREVIEW: Grocke’s Preview and Predictions for Spike TV’s free card with Davis vs. Bader, Gallagher vs. Machida,

By Michael Grocke, MMATorch contributor

Bellator MMA makes its way to Madison Square Garden in New York City for the first time for Bellator 180 and Bellator NYC. Bellator 180 airs on Spike TV prior to the promotions big PPV event. In this column I’ll be previewing and predicting the outcomes of the free portion of the card.

The main event features the #3 ranked light heavyweight Phil Davis defending his title against #5 ranked Ryan Bader (MMA Torch Rankings). Bader will be making his debut for the promotion on Saturday night stepping in for the injured Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal. The co-main event features top prospect James Gallagher taking on Chinzo Machida in a pivotal featherweight bout.

The four-fight main card rounds out with Neiman Gracie going up against Dave Marfone in the welterweight division and in the women’s flyweight division Alice Yauger takes on the debuting Heather Hardy.

The prelims will stream live on starting at 5 PM CT with Spike TV taking over at 7 PM CT for the main card.


Phil Davis (17-3) #3 vs. Ryan Bader #5 (22-5) – Light Heavyweight 205 lbs.

Current Odds: Davis -125; Bader -105

Phil Davis’s last fight in the UFC was against Ryan Bader at UFC on FOX 14 where he lost by split decision. Since then Davis is 4-0 under the Bellator banner. His most recent fight was at Bellator 163 where he beat Liam McGeary by unanimous decision to win the light heavyweight title. On Saturday night he faces Ryan Bader for the second time, this time in a Bellator cage.

Scott Coker gave Bader this title fight only after the original challenger, Muhammad Lawal pulled out. Bader comes into the fight riding a two-fight win streak and winning seven of his last eight. His most recent fight was at UFC Fight Night 100 where he finished Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in the third round.

In the majority of Ryan Bader’s fights he enters them knowing he is the superior wrestler. Against Phil Davis that won’t be the case. The former Penn State standout wrestler will use his wrestling advantage to try and get Bader to the ground and try to maintain control while grinding out a win. This certainly isn’t the most exciting style to watch, but for Phil Davis it’s the style that got him to the top of the division. In their first bout Bader was successful in defending most of Phil’s take down attempts, which ultimately won him the fight.

Bader is going to want to keep this fight standing. He is the better striker and packs more power in his punches. If he can consistently stuff the take down attempts and take Davis out of his game plan I see Bader winning the fight. Because their first fight was only three rounds Bader’s cardio held up. This fight is five rounds so I’ll be interested to see how well his cardio holds up here. My hunch is he will have success stuffing Davis’s take downs early, but as the fight progresses into the championship rounds I think Phil is going to start having success. I see the barrage of leg kicks that Davis is going to throw start having an effect on Bader giving Phil the opportunity to score with take downs while grinding out the win.

Pick: Davis by decision

James Gallagher (6-0) vs. Chinzo Machida (5-2) – Featherweight 145 lbs.

Current Odds: Gallagher -200; Machida +160

James Gallagher brings his undefeated record to the United Sates for the first time in his career. The twenty year old Irishman is 6-0 as a professional with five of those wins coming via submission with one decision. His most recent fight was at Bellator 173 where he subbed Kirill Medvedovsky in the first round with a rear naked choke.

Chinzo Machida enters his fight against Gallagher riding a four-fight winning streak. He’s 2-0 under the Bellator banner with both wins coming by way of KO/TKO. His most recent win came at Bellator 170 against Jamar Ocampo. Four of Machida’s five wins are by KO/TKO with one decision.

The key for Machida is to stay on his feet. As long as he remains standing he’ll be able to use his karate based attack. However, Machida can easily be taken down. If he finds himself on the ground with Gallagher it will become a big problem. If somehow Machida has success defending the take down and keeping the fight standing he has a chance to out strike Gallagher.

I don’t see that happening here though. I expect Gallagher to have success on the ground leading to a finish and continuing on the path to becoming one of Bellator’s young breakout stars.

Pick: Gallagher by submision

Dave Marfone (5-2) vs. Neiman Gracie (5-0) – Welterweight 170 lbs.

Current Odds: Gracie -850; Marfone +550

After going 2-0 in WSOF, Neiman Gracie signed with Bellator and has won his first three fights under the promotion. His last fight occurred at Bellator 163 where he submitted Rudy Bears with an armbar in the first round. The twenty-eight year old product of Renzo Gracie Jiu-Jitsu has four wins by submission with one decision.

Dave Marfone will be making his Bellator debut when he steps into the cage with Gracie on Saturday night. The thirty year old amassed a 5-2 record on the regional circuit with three wins by KO/TKO, with one submission and one decision.

Gracie is more than an 8-1 favorite and those odds still aren’t high enough. Marfone must avoid the ground at all costs. He has to keep the fight standing and lure Gracie into a slug fest. Obviously that’s easier said than done. I don’t see Marfone spending enough time on his feet to make a difference in this one. Look for Gracie to get the fight to the ground rather easily and get the tap.

Pick: Gracie by submission

Alice Yauger (4-5) vs. Heather Hardy (0-0) – Flyweight 125 lbs.

Current Odds: N/A

Boxing star Heather Hardy makes her MMA debut when she faces Alice Yauger. Hardy’s original debut was supposed to occur under the Invicta FC banner back in January but her opponent, Brieta Carpenter was forced to pull out of the fight due to injury. Invicta FC only signed the boxing star for that one fight and since her opponent pulled out, she was free to sign elsewhere. Their loss, is Bellator’s gain. Hardy is undefeated and is the current WBC International Female Super Bantamweight title holder.

Alice Yauger makes her second appearance for Bellator on Saturday night. She lost her debut to Jessica Middleton by decision at Bellator 171. Although Yauger’s record is below .500, she has fought stiff competition. Seven of her nine career fights have gone the distance.

Clearly Hardy is going to want to keep the fight standing. Yauger will want nothing to do with standing with Hardy and will want to get the fight to the ground as quickly as possible. If she has success taking Hardy down things could get interesting.

I can see Yauger making this a fight and she will no doubt be motivated to spoil the debut of Hardy. Heather will find herself in some dangerous spots, but ultimately her striking skills will be the difference.

Pick: Hardy by KO/TKO


Rizzo over Da Silva

McKenna over Salgado

Mickle over Giacchina

Couture over Gozali

Desir over Grebb

Enjoy the fights!


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