Bellator MMA returns to the site of "Warren vs. Galvao" -- WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla. -- this Friday night (Nov. 20, 2015) for another Spike TV-televised card of excitement dubbed, Bellator 146: "Kato vs. Manhoef."
The event is another transitional show for Bellator to determine contenders in multiple weight classes. Some fans may be nonplussed by the lack of title bouts, but Hisaki Kato vs. Melvin Manhoef is the kind of striking battle that has bang for the buck potential, as are many of the five featured fights.
Let's break it all down:
185 lbs.: Hisaki Kato (5-1) vs. Melvin Manhoef (29-12-1)
Some fighters who walk this Earth seem destined to end fights with just one punch. We already know about "No Mercy" Melvin Manhoef -- a violent man who finishes 93 percent of his wins (27 by KO/TKO) -- but we learned the same about promotional newcomer Hisaki Kato back in June when he fought Joe Schilling. His leaping Superman punch was decisive and devastating, instantly making Kato a Middleweight title contender in a division searching for stars.
Manhoef has at times been poised to be that star. Unfortunately, he has traded exciting wins with disappointing losses, never fully seeming to emerge as the dominant force. At 39-years-old, the clock is ticking for Manhoef; in fact, another loss here could permanently derail his hype train. It would, in theory, be a third straight loss were it not for the Alexander Shlemenko fight being nullified.
Ordinarily I would favor the hard-hitting Manhoef in a pure striking battle, but for me the bloom is off that rose. Kato is no spring chicken himself at 33, but he's much younger in combat fatigue with only six fights compared to the 40+ that Manhoef has had in mixed martial arts (MMA). Combine that with Manhoef's kickboxing record and it suddenly feels like the tires are threadbare and about to rupture at the first bump in the road. Hisaki Kato is a big bump.
Final result: Hisaki Kato wins via third round technical knockout
145 lbs. Bubba Jenkins (9-2) vs. Jordan Parsons (11-1)
Bubba Jenkins seemed on the verge of a title shot back in January, but a loss to Georgi Karakhanyan (more on that here) made him have to reset and regroup. After beating Joe Wilk at Bellator 139 (more on that here), Jenkins is back on the path ... and back on a Spike TV main card. He's probably still behind Georgi Karakhanyan as a future challenger for Daniel Straus, but then again, Karakhanyan may want a rematch with Patricio Freire bad enough to forego it for now.
Meanwhile, Jordan Parsons exploded onto the Bellator scene thanks to a knockout four seconds into round two at Bellator 117, which he followed up with an arm-triangle choke at Bellator 137. The two victories suggested he had the credentials and potential to be in a bigger spotlight. He and Jenkins are both in search of a defining win in the co-main event of Bellator 146, one that could enable them to cut ahead of the line to fight the champion.
"Pretty Boy" Parsons is hard to get a read on with three knockouts, three submissions and five decisions. At least we know he's a versatile fighter. The same can be said of Jenkins with four knockouts, three submissions and two wins that went the distance. What we do know about Jenkins is that he was an incredible collegiate wrestler, so unless he gets caught the way he did against Karakhanyan, I see him striking to set up takedowns. Parsons has shown knockout power, but he did it against a journeyman fighter in his Bellator debut. And Jenkins hasn't been knocked out in two years.
Final result: Bubba Jenkins wins via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Chidi Njokuani (13-4, 1 NC) vs. Ricky Rainey (11-3)
I'm pretty well inoculated to the brutality of MMA by now, but Chidi "Bang Bang" Njokuani still managed to shock me at a live event in Lincoln, Neb., when he hit a vicious elbow strike to the spine of Chris Heatherly. First came the referee, then came the doctor, then came the stretcher to take Heatherly out of the cage to the hospital.
Thankfully, Heatherly recovered from the blow, but that's not something I ever want to see live again.
Njokuani reeled off three straight wins following that "No Contest" bout -- and Bellator clearly sees him as a prospect -- but for Rainey's sake, I hope Njokuani remembers the unified rules of MMA under the brightest lights of his career. Although he's a proven finisher with 62 percent of his wins via (technical) knockout (eight out of 13), Rainey earned the nickname "Sniper" for his pinpoint striking accuracy, too, finishing 7 of 11 wins (63 percent) the same way. This one ends when someone's lights go out.
Final result: Chidi Njokuani bangs out a second round knockout
155 lbs.: Brandon Girtz (13-4) vs. Derek Campos (15-5)
Speaking of fighters where the bloom is off the rose, I'm no longer impressed with Campos after losses in two out of his last three fights. Yes, he did blow out Estevan Payan at Bellator 126, but my opinion of Payan's prospects is even lower than Campos. It's a shame this fight wasn't on "With a Vengeance," though, because "Cold Roll" Girtz is out to avenge a loss at Bellator 96, a fight for which Campos didn't even make weight. I think Girtz has his number here.
Final result: Brandon Girtz defeats Derek Campos via unanimous decision
205 lbs.: Houston Alexander (16-12-1, 2 NC) vs. Guilherme Viana (6-2)
Houston Alexander has made as much out of two Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) wins in 2007 as any Light Heavyweight in history. His track record since has been up and down, but his name and his reputation for knockout power have endured. Indeed, Alexander lives and dies by the sword, winning 75 percent of his fights by the power of the punch and losing 50 percent of them the same way. Viana hits hard, too, finishing 67 percent of his wins, and both men are coming off a loss. The bottom line here is to not expect a technical fight.
Final result: Guilherme Viana wins via third round technical knockout
That's a wrap!
MMAmania.com will deliver live coverage of Bellator 146: "Kato vs. Manhoef" this Friday night, with real-time results throughout the evening followed by Spike TV fights at 9 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.