FIGHTS TO MAKE NEXT: Bellator 194 edition

Cole Henry, MMATorch Contributor


With Bellator 194 in the books, it is time to look ahead at what could be next for the fighters’ on the main card.

Matt Mitrione def. Roy Nelson via Majority Decision

Matt Mitrione avenged his second career loss by taking a majority decision over Roy Nelson on Saturday. Mitrione made good use of his footwork in the first and second rounds and was able to avoid the big shots from Nelson that ended his night in their first encounter. The third round was a little rougher for Mitrione, who was taken down, and caught in the crucifix position. It was a dominant third round for Nelson, but it was too late and Mitrione got the win.

This of course means that Matt Mitrione will advance into the second round of the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix while Roy Nelson will be forced to watch from home. It was a hard-fought win for Mitrione, but things won’t get any easier from here.

His next opponent for the most part is already decided so my job is going to be easy. He will face the winner of the upcoming Ryan Bader and” King” Muhammed Lawal fight that is scheduled for some time in May.

Lawal and Bader are both decorated veterans, and Bader is the current Light-Heavyweight Champion, so Mitrione has a tough matchup regardless of opponent. It is worth noting though that he will likely enjoy a big size advantage over either man, so he will have that in his favor.

 Fight to make next: Matt Mitrione vs. Winner of Ryan Bader and Muhammad Lawal (2nd round of Heavyweight Grand Prix)

Roy Nelson has had an up and down few years. He hasn’t had back to back wins since a three-fight win streak that ended in 2013 and is just 4-8 since then. Outside of the power in his hands he really doesn’t have many ways to win, and despite his girth. he is usually the smaller man. He has only managed wins recently over guys who are slower than him and can’t avoid his over hand right.

Javy Ayala is the exception, because Nelson did beat him by decision, but Ayala is young and to be fair he isn’t quite on the level of most of Nelson’s previous opponents.

It’s hard to say what’s next for him, but he will fight on. He isn’t likely to challenge for a title in Bellator unless Mitrione wins the tournament and a rubber match is booked, which is possible considering some bitter comments made today by Mitrione concerning Nelson. However, it’s more likely that Nelson competes in attraction type fights for the remainder of his time in Bellator.

I think a fight with Bobby Lashley would be fun, because I want to see Lashley tested, but I don’t think Lashley wants to be tested so I doubt this fight happens. That’s not a slight to Lashley, I just think he’s in a unique situation with his wrestling career. The more realistic fight is Roy Nelson vs. Justin Wren. Wren has a cult following due to his contributions in the Congo, and he is certainly a fighter interested in working his way up the ladder. They have competed before, though it was on the Ultimate Fighter therefore it doesn’t appear on the official record. Nelson won a majority decision, but it was close. A rematch is in order.

Fight to make next: Roy Nelson vs. Justin Wren

Patricky Freire def. Derek Campos via TKO

Patricky Freire can now say that he has two TKO wins over Derek Campos and the second one came faster than the first. Freire was the better fighter Friday night and again proved that he is one of the top fighters in the Bellator lightweight division. He is probably worthy of a title shot but I think that Brent Primus and Michael Chandler already have a date, so Freire will probably have to wait.

In the meantime, I think a rematch with Saad Awad would further clear up the division. Both guys are riding three fight win streaks, and the winner could certainly be next in line for the Bellator lightweight title shot.

Fight to make next:  Patricky Freire vs. Saad Awad

Derek Campos was in the midst of the best run of his career but again stumbled when matched up with Patricky Pitbull. Campos is a main stay of the division though and should be back in short order. Carrington Banks is a relatively unknown fighter, but he has looked good so far in Bellator and I like this matchup for him.

Fight to make next: Derek Campos vs. Carrington Banks

Heather Hardy def. Ana Julaton via Unanimous Decision

I really don’t have much to say about Heather Hardy at this point. She is young in her MMA career and definitely has some room to grow but who doesn’t? She did enough to pick up her second career win, though I’m not sure if it was enough to erase the memory of her last defeat.

Most people were less than pleased with the fight, but what can you expect between two relative rookies? I expect Heather Hardy will get better, but until then she needs to be brought along slowly. I don’t know much about Bruna Ellen, but she has a record like Hardy’s, so this fight makes sense.

Fight to make next: Heather Hardy vs. Bruna Ellen

Ana Julaton is not listed on the official Bellator roster, so her future is unknown.

Vadim Nemkov def. Liam McGeary via TKO

Vadim Nemkov is only 11 fights into his MMA career, but he has already made a bit of an impact. He competed in the Rizin World Grand Prix making it to the second round and overall holds a 2-2 record in the promotion. In Bellator he is off to a hot start with two straight wins and his most recent over Liam McGeary is a huge step in the direction of the title. Nemkov showed off his brutal leg kicks and was able to stop McGeary late in the third round of their bout. In the process he picked up a win over a former Bellator champion, and firmly put himself on the map.

The division isn’t very deep so it’s possible that Nemkov is only a fight or two away from a title shot. Linton Vassell is coming off a title shot loss of his own but is still a top fighter in the division. A win here for Nemkov would be huge, and it’s also a great chance for Vassell to right his ship.

Fight to make next: Vadim Nemkov vs. Linton Vassell

Liam McGeary needs a win. He has gone from being the darling of the division to a guy seemingly struggling to keep himself even semi-relevant. He came onto the scene in a violent manner, and that mean streak led him all the way to the Bellator light heavyweight championship. But since his win over Tito Ortiz in what was the first and only successful defense of his reign, McGeary has struggled in a big way.

He is 1-3 since including the fight where he lost his belt and has now been stopped in back to back fights. His only win during that four-fight stretch was at a 215-pound catch weight against Brett McDermott and it’s been all bad otherwise.

He is 35 but he trains in a great camp and has shown good skills in the past. It is very possible that McGeary can turn things around and I think should start with a fight against one of Bellator’s newest signings. Rafael Cavalcante won a tournament recently in Spain to claim a Bellator contract. I think that McGeary will serve as a fantastic welcoming gift.

Fight to make next: Liam McGeary vs. Rafael Cavalcante

Tywan Claxton def. Jose Perez

Fight to make next: Tywan Claxton vs. Gaston Bolanos

Jose Perez is not on the official roster, so his future is unknown.



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