Bellator 163: "McGeary vs. Davis" takes place tomorrow night (Fri., Nov. 4, 2016) at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., featuring a Light Heavyweight battle between undefeated champion Liam McGeary and No. 1 contender Phil Davis. McGeary will look to prove himself against a former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Top 10-ranked fighter, while "Mr. Wonderful" will look to prove he's championship caliber. The five-fight Spike TV broadcast also features the promotional debut of a Heavyweight legend from Pride FC and two competitive Welterweight contests with ranking implications (not Marloes Coenen).
Let's break it down:
205 lbs.: Liam McGeary (11-0) vs. Phil Davis (16-3, 1 NC)
It's a cliche in MMA to say a fight is "a long time in the making," but that applies to this fight without sounding absurd. McGeary has been out of action for more than one year since tapping out Tito Ortiz with an inverted triangle choke. After that fight, McGeary was sidelined with knee troubles as the rest of the division waited patiently for his return. Davis won the right to face McGeary that same night and reaffirmed that status with a win over King Mo at Bellator 154.
"Mr. Wonderful" is more than ready and willing to go after holding on to his shot for this long.
A healthy and ready McGeary is not going to be an easy puzzle for Davis to solve. McGeary has obvious physical advantages at 6'6" with an 81-inch reach, but at 6'2" with a 79" reach Davis is both figurative and literally within striking distance size wise. Still, these are tools McGeary has put to good use as an undefeated fighter, enjoying a well balanced diet of knockouts (five) and submissions (five), only going the distance the night he won the title. The confidence of a champion should not be underestimated, let alone one who has yet to taste defeat.
Davis stands a better chance of overcoming McGeary's strengths than Ortiz. He's been known for his wrestling since high school, and a shorter stature just means he can get to the knees faster. Because he only has three knockouts people tend to assume he's one dimensional in that aspect, which is a mistake Francis Carmont still regrets. This will be a guessing game on both sides. Will Davis threaten the takedown and blast McGeary when he sprawls? Will McGeary welcome the ground game and use his long limbs to fish for submissions? Davis needs to be quicker on the draw, and McGeary needs to be cautious but not overly conservative. This should be a dandy.
Final prediction: Liam McGeary retains in a close unanimous decision
265 lbs.: Sergei Kharitonov (23-5) vs. Javy Ayala (9-5)
Kharitonov has several nicknames, including "Paratrooper," reflecting both his days in the Russian Airborne Troops and the fact he is still technically on active duty. Pride FC fans will probably think of him as "The Russian Mercenary," though, for the way mowed down opponents, racking up 13 of 23 wins by knockout and another nine by submission. He owns victories over Andrei Arlovski, Fabricio Werdum and Alistair Overeem, among others. And at 36 years, old he's still young enough to make a run in any organization. In fact, he could quickly be in the picture for the vacant Heavyweight title.
Ayala's nickname is "Eye Candy," but he's got a sweet punch to boot, knocking out half (three out of six) of the Bellator opponents he has faced. Don't discount his submissions, either, as he finished Raphael Butler with a rear-naked choke in little more than one minute. Still, one can't help but suspect that with losses in two out of his last three fights, Bellator is setting up Ayala to be the fall guy in Kharitonov's debut. Ayala matches up well statistically, though -- Kharitonov is 6'4" and Ayala a bit shorter at 6'1." And at 76," Kharitonov only has one-inch reach advantage. Both tip the far end of the Heavyweight scale and pack that extra weight into heavy blows. It's gonna be a slobberknocker.
Final prediction: Sergei Kharitonov wins via first round knockout
170 lbs.: Brennan Ward (13-4) vs. Saad Awad (19-8)
Ward likes to get in there fast and let his hands do the talking, taking eight of his 13 wins by way of knockout. It is that reckless abandon that has also caused "Irish Bad Boy" to make critical mistakes, such as getting caught in Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos' heel hook at Bellator 153. Meanwhile, Awad would go on to finish the exact same foe shortly afterward at Bellator 154, but dropped a close unanimous decision to Derek Anderson at Bellator 160. Awad no longer has sole ownership of being the only man to beat Will Brooks, but he's a dangerous striker at either 155- or 170-pounds, so Ward is going to need a disciplined approach this time ... or maybe he'll just blitz and hope for the best.
Final prediction: Saad Awad via second round technical knockout
170 lbs.: Paul Daley (38-14-2) vs. Derek Anderson (14-2, 1 NC)
Here we have another one of those age-old MMA cliches of "experience versus youth." The numbers don't lie, though -- Daley has 38 wins in his 33 years, but Anderson has worn less tread off the tires at 26 years old and barely a third as many total fights. Anderson has a height advantage at 6'0" to 5'9," but Daley has a reach advantage at 76" to 74." Daley knocked out four of his last six opponents, only having his win streak snapped by Douglas Lima. Early in his career, Anderson was a submission specialist (six wins), but he has developed a decent striking technique (five finishes) to go along with it. Still, they call Daley "Semtex" for a reason -- he can end any night with one explosive punch.
Final prediction: Paul Daley via first round knockout
That's a wrap!
MMAmania.com will deliver live coverage of Bellator 163: "McGeary vs. Davis" tomorrow 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.