For the first time ever, Bellator MMA is putting on a pay-per-view (PPV) event later this evening (Sat., May 17, 2014).
After initial PPV plans faltered for Bellator 106 because of Tito Ortiz's injury, the promotion will deliver Bellator 120: "Rampage vs. King Mo" from Landers Center in Southaven, Mississippi.
In a battle between two men who have shared a healthy rivalry over the years, former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight champion Quinton Jackson battles former Strikeforce 205-pound kingpin Muhammed Lawal in the main event. Their bout will serve as the organization's Season 10 light heavyweight tournament final, with the winner moving on to challenge current champion, Emanuel Newton, later this year.
After Eddie Alvarez had to bow out of his fight against Michael Chandler with a concussion, the interim Lightweight championship will be on the line as the former champion now meets Will Brooks in the co-main event. Also on the card, a potential squash match for the ages sees Bellator middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko move up to light heavyweight to take on 39-year-old Bellator debutant Tito Ortiz.
Rounding out the PPV main card is the Season 10 heavyweight tournament final between Blagoi Ivanov against Alexander Volkov and a showdown between highly touted prospect Michael Page against Ricky Rainey in the show opener.
It's time for some predictions!
205 lbs.: Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (34-11) vs. Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal (12-3, 1 "No Contest")
Whether or not this feud is genuine, Bellator Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney feels it's a good enough reason to put their battle on PPV.
Even though "Rampage" blitzed through Christian M'Pumbu and Joey Beltran in his two Bellator bouts, he's lost his competitive edge. It can be found again. However, losing three consecutive UFC bouts before he signed with Bellator didn't help his chances for convincing purposes.
"King Mo" has piled up a record of 4-2 in the organization, with Newton serving as his Kryptonite. Lawal looked decent against Mikhail Zayats and his big wins in the promotion saw him finish Jacob Noe and Seth Petruzelli with punches.
The problem with Lawal is he may be unable to compete well against a striker of Jackson's caliber. This isn't to say "Rampage" is the best pure boxer in mixed martial arts (MMA), but he's had a little more success as of late when it comes to standing and banging.
Therefore, "Mo" needs to resort to his wrestling and by taking down his opponent, he could really do some damage there. Once Lawal is in a dominant position, he's tough to shake off. Since "Rampage" left UFC because he was frustrated with wrestlers, chances are he won't engage in a set of grappling duels. It's a shame, since Jackson was a good wrestler early on in his career and if he fought smarter over the years by using all of his tools, he could have been far more successful in the latter half of his career.
With that being said, either fighter can still rock the other with punches. It wouldn't be surprising if "Rampage" knocked out "Mo," yet it would be a little shocking if Lawal stopped Jackson with his strikes. It becomes a stylistic match up where one fighter is a better wrestler and the other is a better striker.
The upset can happen here, since Lawal is the underdog and he could grind out a win by outmuscling Jackson. It may not be pretty, but if he gets the job done and wins the grudge match, what does he care?
Final prediction: Lawal def. Jackson via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Michael Chandler (12-1) vs. Will "Ill Will" Brooks (13-1)
Ever since Alvarez pulled out of the rubber match against Chandler, it's as if nobody cares about this fight.
Chandler is a former Bellator lightweight champion who can easily compete against the best 155-pound competition in the world. He has one loss on his record (Alvarez at Bellator 106) and he's been mopping the floor against his adversaries in Bellator.
Brooks is the Season 9 lightweight tournament winner and he's definitely worthy of a championship bout.
Nonetheless, it doesn't mean he will do particularly well against his foe later tonight.
If Chandler doesn't underestimate "Ill Will," he's either going to punch his way to success or submit Brooks in devastating fashion to recapture the (interim) belt. Brooks isn't an easy ride, and with nothing to lose after being inserted in the co-main event on one week's notice, the Illinois native is going to take it to Chandler.
I don't see Brooks troubling the former champion on the feet, but he can try taking down Chandler early and often. Easier said than done, since Chandler may be a better wrestler, yet Brooks has no choice but to tie up his foe and try to exhaust him by taking away some of his thunder.
If not, Chandler should steamroll through him and win the title a second time.
Final prediction: Chandler def. Brooks via submission
205 lbs.: Alexander "Storm" Shlemenko (50-7) vs. Tito "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" Ortiz (16-1-1)
Good Lord ... where do we begin?
First off, I have to give Ortiz credit for not pulling out of this bout, citing what could have been his 306th injury. Still, how on Earth can Ortiz win this fight having not competed inside a cage in almost two years?
His opponent is the reigning Bellator middleweight champion. And if Shlemenko doesn't struggle with the additional weight, it would be equally the biggest victory of his career and the most meaningless one.
Indeed, "Storm" can defeat a fading legend tonight, but don't kid yourself -- this isn't a superfight by any means. This is a freak show fight made for Japan. Let's just hope "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" comes out unscathed.
Maybe Ortiz can put everyone's foot in their mouths by stunning Shlemenko with a good shot like he did to Ryan Bader at UFC 132 or even ground-and-pound his opponent on the mat for three rounds. However, there's a better chance he gets back with Jenna Jameson than that ever happening.
"Storm" will most definitely trouble the former UFC light heavyweight champion with his combinations. And seeing how Ortiz has responded to body shots in his last couple of losses, the Russian can do serious damage to his liver.
Final Prediction: Shlemenko def. Ortiz via technical knockout
265 lbs.: Blagoi Ivanov (11-1, 1 "No Contest") vs. Alexander "Drago" Volkov (21-4)
Bellator Season 10's heavyweight final features the two best heavyweights in the promotion not named Vitaly Minakov. The winner of this scrap will challenge the current champion in the near future, so look for a bit of desperation from both.
Ivanov is an undefeated fighter with a Sambo world championship under his belt. Not only has the Bulgarian come back from the brink of death after being stabbed in 2012, but he's also mustered up four wins in Bellator since then, including three submission victories.
Volkov was a former champion who has knockout power in both his hands and feet, since his kicks from a distance are deadly. He can put forth a good combination and his size will always be an advantage.
Stylistically, this match up favors Ivanov. He has to be super careful when he's shooting in, yet the Bulgarian isn't going to engage in a boxing match against his opponent. He's going to pit him against the fence and try to take him down right from the get-go.
You can't underestimate Ivanov's submission victories and if he's able to close the distance against Volkov and avoid a few uppercuts and hooks, he can book his place against Minakov.
With that being said, unless Ivanov relentlessly chases the submission, this fight could be a yawner of epic proportions if the SK Absolute Bulgaria product is content with dominating "Drago" on the ground.
Final Prediction: Ivanov def. Volkov by unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Michael "Venom" Page (5-0) vs. Ricky "The Sniper" Rainey (9-2)
This fight is certainly going to dazzle the crowd to commence the action on what could turn out to be a mediocre PPV offering.
Page is the flashy striker you've been hearing about who has already drawn comparisons to Anderson Silva and Jon Jones. He dances like Michael Jackson, shuffles like "Prince" Naseem Hamed and he's got strikes that will make your jaw drop. He's finished all five of his opponents thus far in his career, and he's one of the top welterweight prospects in the sport.
Rainey is a good striker who usually does his best work utilizing his reach from the outside and he's capable of knocking opponents out with his powerful punches.
This fight could be the dark horse of the entire card, since there's a slim chance it's going to a decision. You have two guys who like to keep their distance and rush in with bad intentions when the time is right.
"The Sniper" is a lot slower, though, and if "Venom" decides to experiment and throw a few flashy strikes his way, they could connect more often than not. Page can't be too overconfident in his striking, since one foolish mistake could cost him the fight.
However, this is the Englishman's fight to lose, and with all the hype he's generated in his native England, expect him to impress in his second fight on American soil.
Final prediction: Page def. Rainey via knockout
That just about does it.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the Bellator 120 main card on fight night (Sat., May 17, 2014), with quick results for the "Prelims" matches, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET. The main card PPV is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.