BELLATOR NYC PREVIEW: Grocke’s Preview and Predictions for Sonnen vs. Silva, Fedor vs. Mitrione, Chandler vs. Primus

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 will air for free on Spike TV with Bellator NYC airing afterwards on PPV. In this column I’ll be covering the PPV portion of the event.

The main event is a legends fight between Chael Sonnen who will be making his second appearance for the promotion against Wanderlei Silva who last fought in the cage back in March of 2013. The co-main event features the return of Fedor Emelianenko taking on veteran Matt Mitione.

The card also features two title fights. Douglas Lima defends his welterweight title against #10 Lorenz Larkin (MMA Torch Rankings) who will be making his Bellator debut. In the lightweight division #7 Michael Chandler puts his title on the when he takes on Brent Primus. Also on the card is the highly decorated wrestler and top prospect Aaron Pico taking on Zach Freeman.

The PPV portion of the event starts at 9PM CT.

Main Card 

Wanderlei Silva (35-12) vs. Chael Sonnen (28-15-1) – Light Heavyweight 205 lbs.

Current Odds: Sonnen -160; Silva +130

It’s been over four years since Wanderlei Silva competed in the cage. The forty year old Brazilian beat Brian Stann by knockout in a slugfest at UFC on Fuel 8 back in March of 2013. Silva has been inside the cage with the biggest names in MMA throughout the years.

Although Chael Sonnen’s last fight was at Bellator 170 back in January of this year, he hasn’t had his hand raised in victory since he beat Mauricio Rua in 2013. Sonnen is 1-4 in his last five fights and looked terrible in his most recent fight against Tito Ortiz.

What should MMA fans expect from two forty year olds who are well past their primes? You can expect the “Axe Murderer” to come out on fire and throw hands looking for a quick knockout. Silva is an aggressive brawler and always has been. He is comfortable in the pocket and throws his strikes from all angles.

Sonnen will try to avoid standing with Silva and utilize his wrestling to get the fight to the ground. Although they are both forty years old, Sonnen is the much healthier forty year old. Both physically and mentally.

If Sonnen can make it out of the first round, his wrestling will allow him to take advantage of the slower and gassed out Brazilian in the later rounds. I think he’ll easily be able to get Silva to the mat and control him there.

So while a first round knockout win for Wanderlei Silva won’t surprise me, I’m going with Sonnen to fight smart, get the fight into the later rounds and get the submission.

Pick: Sonnen by submission

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

Current Odds: Mitrione -130; Emelianenko ev.

After losing three fights in a row, stemming back to 2010 while in Strikeforce, MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko has rattled off five straight wins. The forty year old Russian’s most recent fight was against Fabio Maldonado at EFN 50 where he won by majority decision in a fight that some thought he should have lost. The Red Devil Sport Club product has twenty-eight finishes in thirty-eight wins.

After consecutive losses to Ben Rothwell and Travis Browne, Matt Mitrione left the UFC and signed with Bellator. Mitrione is 2-0 under the Bellator umbrella, first beating Carl Seumanutafa at Bellator 157 and then Oli Thompson at Bellator 158. Both wins were by KO/TKO. The thirty- eight year old American fighter boasts ten finishes, all knockouts, in eleven career wins.

Although Fedor is at least ten years past his prime, he still has the ability to put anyone’s lights out. The problem is he doesn’t possess the granite chin that once allowed him to walk through anyone’s punches. While I expect Fedor to stand and trade with Mitrione, I think his best chance of winning is by getting the fight to the ground. Should he get Mitrione to the ground he’ll easily be able to outwork him while looking for a submission.

Mirione will be the quicker fighter with the ability to move inside and out more fluidly causing Fedor to miss a lot. Both men have heavy hands with one punch knock out power. This is a tough fight to predict because I can see either fighter scoring the knockout. The question is, which one of them lands first? Mitrione knows he has to avoid the ground and win the fight on the feet. With little confidence I think he gets it done and finishes the Last Emperor.

Pick: Mitrione by KO/TKO

Douglas Lima #10 (28-6) vs. Lorenz Larkin (18-5) – Welterweight 170 lbs.

Current Odds: Larkin -185; Lima +155

Lorenz Larkin makes his Bellator debut with an immediate title shot on Saturday night. The former UFC veteran is coming off of two consecutive wins. He beat Jorge Masvidal by split decision at UFC Fight Night 88 and then finished Neil Magny in the first round at UFC 202. The Millennia MMA product is 4-1 in his last five fights with three of the wins by TKO. Eleven of his eighteen career wins are by KO/TKO with seven by decision.

After losing his welterweight title to Andrey Koreshkov at Bellator 140, Douglas Lima returned to the Bellator cage at Bellator 158 where he beat Paul Daley earning him a rematch with Koreshkov. Lima made the most of the opportunity by finishing Koreshkov in the third round in stunning fashion. Koreshkov won the first two rounds and was also ahead in the third until he got sloppy and Lima caught him and finished him. Lima is 6-1 under the Bellator banner with five of those wins via KO/TKO.

This should be an excellent fight. Larkin is a deadly striker who prefers to stand and bang with his opponents. He punches with power and mixes up his offense well with kicks, punches and elbows. He is also very athletic so cardio won’t be an issue.

While Lima isn’t on the same level as Larkin when it comes to striking, he’s still very good. He possesses knockout power as he demonstrated in his second fight with Koreshkov. Where Lima does have the advantage is on the ground. I don’t think Lima can win standing with Larkin, but if he has success getting Larkin down consistently he should be able to win rounds.

This is a tough one to call as well, and I’m a bit surprised to see the odds trending higher in Larkin’s favor. I think Larkin wins the fight, but I’m not ready to lay the price on him.

Pick: Larkin by decision

Michael Chandler #7 (16-3) vs. Brent Primus (7-0) – Lightweight 155 lbs.

Current Odds: Chandler -800; Primus +500

The seventh ranked lightweight Michael Chandler had a stretch where he lost three fights in a row. Granted they were against some of the best in Eddie Alvarez and Will Brooks twice. Since those three losses back in 2013-14, Chandler has now won four in a row. During the four fight win streak he beat Patricky Freire at Bellator 157 by knockout in the first round to become a two-time Bellator lightweight champion. He successfully defended the belt in his latest fight by beating former UFC champion Benson Henderson by split decision at Bellator 165.

Brent Primus is undefeated as a professional with a 7-0 record. The Sports Lab product only has one KO/TKO in those seven wins, but he does have four submissions. The American prospect’s most recent fight was at Bellator 153 where he defeated Gleristone Santos by split decision.

This is tough spot for Primus. His strength is his Jiu-Jitsu but with Michael Chandler’s superior wrestling it’s going to be tough for Primus to get the fight to the ground. This will force Primus to have to stand and trade with the champion which will not go well for him. Chandler will successfully defend his title, the only question is, what will the finish be?

Pick: Chandler by TKO

Zach Freeman (8-2) vs. Aaron Pico (0-0) – Lightweight 155 lbs.

Current Odds: N/A

The story in the build-up to this fight has been all about uber-prospect Aaron Pico, and rightfully so. But let’s not forget he is stepping into the cage for the first time against a fighter with ten professional fights under his belt. Zach Freeman will be making his Bellator debut on Saturday night in New York City. He’s 1-1 in his last two fights. Most recently he lost a decision to Thiago Moises at RFA 44.

It’s curious to me that Bellator would pit Pico who is a phenomenal wrestler against a submission fighter like Freeman. Pico will most likely rely on his wrestling and try to control Freeman on the ground, but it’s on the ground where Freeman is most dangerous. Perhaps the twenty year old phenom will rely on his boxing skills and pick Freeman apart on the feet. Either way I’m sure Scott Coker has thoroughly thought this one through and is confident Pico will make his MMA debut a successful one.

Pick: Pico by decision

Enjoy the fights!

NOW CHECK OUT A PREVIEW OF THE SPIKE CARD: BELLATOR 180 PREVIEW: Grocke’s Preview and Predictions for Spike TV’s free card with Davis vs. Bader, Gallagher vs. Machida

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