Andrey Koreshkov (19-2) vs Chidi Njokuani (17-4) – Welterweight 170 lbs.
Koreshkov’s best work seems to come when he’s moving his head while coming forward in bursts with a crisp, boxing-based offense, mixing in a knee up the middle or a high kick here and there to keep his foes honest. Expect him to look focused and tighter as his recent title loss to Douglas Lima will have stoked the fires. Njokuani possesses a dynamic Muay-Thai game both at distance and in the clinch, but we’ve seen him shot in on and pressed against the fence even by more pedestrian grapplers. While his win streak on paper looks impressive he may well be in over his head in this fight. If Chidi has a shot at victory it would most likely come by catching Koreshkov with a high kick as he’s slipping mid-combo; though Koreshkov’s forward movement will give Njokuani difficulty in activating the marching Muay Thai sequences that have made him so dangerous against lesser opposition. While a victory here would be quite the coming out party for Njokuani, look for Koreshkov to get back on track with a win and move on to complete his trilogy with Douglas Lima.
Prediction: Koreshkov by TKO in Round 2
Fernando Gonzalez (26-14) vs. Brennan Ward (15-5) – Catchweight 175 lbs.
Ward has a reputation as a fast starter and will most likely do what he always does, throw heavy punches early and look to finish the fight in round one. Though his eagerness sometimes causes him to become loose and sloppy in his striking technique, leading him to eat counters he should have avoided. Gonzalez will enjoy the experience advantage and typically paces himself a little slower, happy to settle in early for a long haul. While Ward is happy to jump on a single leg and rough up his opponent from half guard if the opportunity presents itself, Gonzalez has competed as high as light heavyweight and will most likely not be bullied on the mat or in the clinch. Gonzalez also has an underrated understanding of positional nuance and possesses the capacity to capitalize on a tactical error. Unless he succumbs to Ward’s early onslaught, the most likely outcome is another argument for slow and steady winning the race.
Prediction: Gonzalez by Decision
AJ McKee (8-0) vs. Blair Tugman (9-6) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
The physicality and talent of McKee triumphing over the more highly traveled veteran will most likely be the story of this fight, as promotional handling of McKee indicates Bellator is all in on him as a prospect. Tugman is by no means a bum (and the first of Mckee’s opponents to pass the “Does-he-have-a-wikipedia-page” test) but will most likely be dwarfed in the cage as he has spent the majority of his career one division down at bantamweight. The wrestling pedigree of McKee should give him the comfort he needs to let his strikes fly and fans will most likely be treated to another addition to his highlight reel.
Prediction: McKee by TKO in Round 1
Veta Arteaga (3-1) vs. Bruna Ellen (3-1) – Flyweight 125 lbs.
Bruna Ellen is beginning to show flashes of the fighter she may soon be becoming. Executing such fundamentals as punching her way into level changes and takedowns has demonstrated some savvy on the ground and in the clinch, hitting trips and countering momentum on her opponent’s takedown attempts. Though a lack of head movement and some haywire striking have gotten her clipped while closing the distance. Arteaga possesses a little more discipline in her striking game, and while she has been subjugated in the clinch against the fence before she has maintained the requisite composure to fight her way out of submissions and disadvantageous positions. Arteaga should be just a touch crisper in the cage and that will earn her the victory in what should be a cracker-jack of a main card opener.
Prediction: Arteaga by Decision