Bellator Fighting Championships will head to "The Garden State" this Friday night (April 13, 2012) at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The main card will air live on MTV2 and Epix HD on fight night, beginning at 8 p.m. ET.
Headlining Bellator 65 will be a bantamweight title fight between champion Zach Makovsky and challenger Eduardo Dantas. Makovsky has dominated two non-title "superfights" in the interim while waiting for Dantas to win the Bellator season five bantamweight tournament. This bout should produce some fireworks.
The main card will be opened with a pair of solid season six bantamweight quarterfinal fights featuring former tournament participants. Season five finalist Alexis Vila will take on tough Brazilian Luis Nogueira and former title challenger Ed West battles the always-unlucky Marcos Galvao.
Check out our complete Bellator 65 preview and predictions after the jump:
135 lb. title: Zach Makovsky (14-2) vs. Eduardo Dantas (13-2)
Zach Makovsky has been on fire lately. He decisioned his way to winning the Bellator bantamweight title but he really has put it all together while waiting for the first title challenger to emerge. "Fun Size" handed Chad Robichaux his first career loss and then wiped the floor with Ryan Roberts via north/south choke last October. Makovsky is a ground-focused fighter but has been adding more and more weapons to his arsenal.
Eduardo Dantas is one of the brightest young prospects in the bantamweight division today. He was the top-ranked 135-pounder in Leland Roling's scouting report and lived up to the hype by crushing Wilson Reis and then decisioning both Ed West and Marcos Galvao to win the Bellator season five bantamweight tournament. Dantas trains out of Nova Uniao alongside UFC champion Jose Aldo so he's got some amazing sparring partners to help him progress.
They key for this fight is all about Makovsky's timing on his takedowns. He's got to get deep whenever Dantas tries to throw anything significant and then slam the Brazilian to the canvas to the point where Dantas has no more faith in his own striking anymore. Dantas will likely be working to get up or throw submissions off his back on the ground and in the stand-up, he's likely going to be trying to work timing of his own with that vicious knee of his which could put "Fun Size's" lights out if thrown during a takedown. I think Makovsky can stifle and wear down Dantas over the course of five rounds.
Final Prediction: Zach Makovsky via decision
145 lbs.: Daniel Straus (18-4) vs. Mike Corey (12-2-1)
Daniel Straus advanced all the way to the finals of the season four featherweight tournament before coming up short against Patricio Freire. After defending his NAAFS title during his downtime, he went out and handed Jeremy Spoon his first career loss in a strong quarterfinal performance at Bellator 60 in which he showcased some of his improving striking.
Mike Corey entered this tournament as an alternate for Wagnney Fabiano and then proceeded to make the absolute best out of his opportunity. Corey came back from getting rocked early against Ronnie Mann to go out and completely dominate the Brit with his wrestling and ground and pound, being more than active enough to keep the fight grounded and grind out a unanimous decision victory.
Both featherweights have great wrestling and can likely get up off their backs in a scramble if taken down, so I think that their ground games may neutralize each other. If that happens, Straus is the one who's been really putting in the time and focusing on his striking more lately and he could win that stand-up exchanges. A wildcard, unfortunately, may be the death of Straus' teammate Chris Smith, who passed away from a car accident just last week. Straus should win this fight if his head is in the right place, but he could definitely be distracted.
Final Prediction: Daniel Straus via decision
135 lbs.: Alexis Vila (11-1) vs. Luis Nogueira (12-2)
Alexis Vila made about as emphatic of an impact in Bellator as you can, knocking out the then-featherweight champion Joe Warren in the first round during the season five bantamweight tournament quarterfinals in one of the best clean punching KOs of 2011. He had some trouble against Marcos Galvao but won the decision and then he came up short against Eduardo Dantas in the finals. The former Cuban Olympic wrestler will be hoping to go all the way this time around.
Luis Nogueira is one of the top young Brazilians in Bellator. He has put away everyone in front of him outside of the tournament format but he was unable to defeat Ed West in the quarterfinals last year in a close battle. He bounced back by trouncing Zak Laird inside a minute at Bellator 53 to qualify for this next tournament and he's very motivated to perform better.
Nogueira will be 14 years younger than Vila heading into this bout and he absolutely has to use that youthful speed and dexterity to his advantage. Vila is not a large bantamweight by any means so Nogueira has to try to outwork him in the stand-up and force tough scrambles on the ground. Vila tends to slow down as a fight goes on and Nogueira needs to tire him out if he wants to be successful. I think he's got a realistic shot of upsetting the Cuban here.
Final Prediction: Luis Nogueira via decision
135 lbs.: Ed West (17-6) vs. Marcos Galvao (10-5-1)
Ed West is one of the most confident bantamweights out there. He's got a very aggressive and flashy style which helps him earn favor with the judges. He made it to the finals of the inaugural Bellator bantamweight tournament but couldn't handle Makovsky's wrestling in the finals. In season five, he advanced to the semifinals and had a spirited fight with eventual tournament winner Eduardo Dantas, even rocking the Brazilian but would lose a decision much to his dismay.
Marcos Galvao is highly talented but he's also one of the unluckiest fighters under the Bellator banner. He should have defeated Joe Warren in a "superfight" a year ago, but the judges decided otherwise. After winning his quarterfinal tournament bout against Chase Beebe, Galvao again found himself on the receiving end of a very rough decision against Alexis Vila in the semifinals. He's hoping the MMA gods will be in his favor this time around.
This is a very intriguing match-up and likely the toughest to decide on the entire card. West has several flashy kicks which don't do much damage, but they do impress the fans and judges while Galvao is more of a methodical fighter, working for timing and occasionally moving backwards. I just feel that even if Galvao outstrikes West, he might dig himself into a hole by moving backwards or not being aggressive enough and the judges will nail him again.
Final Prediction: Ed West via decision
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Will there be a changing of the guard with the bantamweight title on the line or will Makovsky reign supreme? Who do you see advancing in the tournament bouts? Do you predict any finishes on this main card?