Bellator MMA comes to Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, this Friday night (Feb. 19, 2016) with Bellator 149: "Shamrock vs. Gracie 3," which will air live on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET.
Bellator likes to refer to cards like this as "tent pole" events. And settling a score that dates back to the first-ever UFC event between Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie is likely to garner a big response. If an Openweight fight between two mixed martial arts (MMA) legends doesn't pique your interest, though, maybe the Heavyweight grudge match between Miami, Fla.,-area street brawlers Kimbo Slice and Dada 5000 will.
After all, Dada 5000 says it couldn't possibly be more personal.
The Spike TV-televised main card is, overall, well rounded. Key match ups in the Featherweight and Light Heavyweight divisions will shake up the pecking order for future championship matches, and the mercurial Melvin Guillard will try to rebound from a devastating injury in a Lightweight showdown with Derek Campos.
My track record in Bellator 148 predictions left something to be desired; therefore, as I attempt to right the ship for "Shamrock vs. Gracie 3," you can play along at home in the comments section below to see if you can do better.
Here we go:
Openweight: Ken Shamrock (28-16-2) vs. Royce Gracie (14-2-3)
The two fighters involved in this main event have no weight limit, but the critics have definitely weighed in on this fight. It's certainly odd to see a 51- and 49-year-old fighter in a main event, but unlike Shamrock's bout last June, the two men are well matched in age and style. Both are hailed as submission specialists who helped reinvent the public's understanding of what fighting is in the earliest days of UFC, and their 36-minute draw at UFC 5 set a record that will never be broken thanks to modern era five-round, five-minute limits.
A mark in Shamrock's favor is that he took a fight last year, while Gracie has not competed since defeating Kazushi Sakuraba (and subsequently testing positive for anabolic steroids) back in 2007. A mark in Gracie's favor is that he holds the only win in this trilogy so far, submitting Shamrock with a rear-naked choke at UFC 1 in 1993. The fact that both Shamrock vs. Gracie fights happened more than 20 years ago may give you cause to pause in considering whether anything can be drawn from those fights relevant to Bellator 149 and MMA as we know it.
Gracie ran off a series of Openweight wins in early UFC because of the novelty of MMA at the time, when fighters were actually billed as specialists in one style, then pitted against each other to see which style would prevail. Of course Brazilian jiu-jitsu would prevail when nobody knew submission defense. That's what made Shamrock vs. Gracie so intriguing in the old days, though: They both knew the game and how to play it. If this were a jiu-jitsu match with submissions only, I'd tip the scale toward Gracie, but the literal scale will tip toward the heavier and stronger Shamrock in this match.
Then again, I have been wrong before.
Final prediction: Ken Shamrock defeats Royce Gracie via technical knockout
265 lbs.: Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson (5-2) vs. Dhafir "Dada 5000" Harris (2-0)
Call this fight whatever you want, just don't call either man, "Sally." Much has been made of the fact these two men have a long and bitter history, which means they are taking this fight seriously whether anybody else is or not. They're taking it seriously, and Bellator MMA is taking it seriously, so I'm taking it seriously. Putting their (inflated) street fighting records aside, Kimbo Slice has more professional combat experience. And last year's fight with Shamrock was more dangerous than either man expected.
Dada 5000 will tell you that doesn't matter. He has always touted the fact that he's physically and mentally tougher than his former friend, and now at last he has the chance to prove it. He'll also tell you that his lack of experience or the fact he beat up "garbage dudes" doesn't matter since Slice didn't fight young elite Heavyweights in their primes, either. There's one prediction I can't possibly be wrong about though -- no matter who wins this fight, it won't go the distance. Harris might get the benefit of the doubt as the younger (38 to 42) -- and possibly stronger -- man. I'll take Kimbo's boxing experience to make him the more accurate and deadly striker.
Final prediction: Kimbo Slice defeats Dada 5000 via first round knockout
145 lbs.: Daniel Pineda (21-11) vs. Emmanuel Sanchez (12-2)
Sanchez has picked up split decision wins in two consecutive fights, including a surprisingly close Bellator 145 bout with Justin Lawrence. You may disagree with his fight style, but all he does is win no matter what. Sanchez has never been knocked out nor submitted in his entire professional MMA career.
Pineda's experience edge matters, though, with more than twice as many professional fights on his resume. And he returns to Bellator after a stint in UFC and a three-fight win streak in Legacy FC. He's been submitted in more than 50 percent of his losses, though (six out of 11), while Sanchez gets the submission in a little less than 50 percent of his wins (five out of 12).
Final prediction: Emmanuel Sanchez picks up another split decision win
155 lbs.: Melvin Guillard (32-15-2, 2 NC) vs. Derek Campos (15-6)
It's not nice to say a fighter's washed up. In fact, say it to his or her face and you're liable to be punched in the mouth. Say it to "Young Assassin" Melvin Guillard and you're liable to be cussed out then punched in the mouth. Will he knock you out with that punch, though? Recent history suggests otherwise. Guillard used to be among the elite Lightweights on the planet, but he's only won three of his last 10 in modern times. He was "very confident" facing Brandon Girtz in his Bellator debut, but he suffered yet another set back.
The good news for Guillard is that Derek Campos is struggling as well, winning only one of his last four fights, finished by a punch or a submission in all of his defeats. Both are currently middling at best in Bellator's crowded 155-pound division and need this win badly to get back into contention. But, I like Campos in this fight simply because there is less tread worn off his tires than Guillard, who I honestly believe should consider retirement at this point.
Final prediction: Derek Campos finishes Melvin Guillard via technical knockout stoppage
205 lbs: Emanuel Newton (25-9-1) vs. Linton Vassell (15-5, 1 NC)
These men already have history together and Newton got the better of it in his last successful Light Heavyweight title defense. Both men had a chance to work their way back into contention, but lost in the Bellator 142 tournament and now have to reset their title ambitions.
I scored their first meeting even going into the fifth round, but Vassell lived up to his "Swarm" nickname in the early rounds. And if he does it again, this fight may go his way. On the other hand, Newton's spinning backfist has dropped many foes, and he's about as tough as they come in this game.
It will be close.
Final prediction: Linton Vassell wins via unanimous decision
That's a wrap!
MMAmania.com will deliver live coverage of Bellator 149: "Shamrock vs. Gracie 3" this Friday night, with real-time results throughout the evening followed by Spike TV fights at 9 p.m. ET.
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