Bellator 154: "Davis vs. King Mo" comes to SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., this Saturday night (May 14, 2016), airing live on Spike TV with a five-fight main card that starts at 8 p.m. ET. The featured fight should have happened at "Dynamite 1" in Sept. 2015, but as the old axiom suggests, better late than never.
"Mr. Wonderful" Phil Davis returns to the same venue where he knocked out Francis Carmont in the finals of the recent Light Heavyweight tournament. However, Carmont was actually replacing Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal, who wasn't medically cleared to return because of a rub injury suffered earlier that same evening.
A tumultuous and tragic week in Bellator resulted in this card changing several times. As of this writing it appears to now be finalized, so let's break down the Spike TV-televised main card action:
205 lbs.: Muhammed Lawal (19-4, 1 NC) vs. Phil Davis (15-3, 1 NC)
To put it succinctly, Lawal has nothing to lose and everything to gain, while Davis has little to gain and everything to lose. Lawal has been on the precipice of titles (or title shots) in Bellator several times only to have judges rule against him or be caught by something totally unexpected. Those bad breaks are the fuel that fires his engine, and it's sent him barreling down the road on a seven-fight win streak.
In fact, he smashed through the Rizin Heavyweight Grand Prix in a manner that suggested he won't be slowing down anytime soon.
Davis is the man who wants to pump the brakes. He's already got a title shot at Liam McGeary in the bag after only two fights in Bellator, but he's so confident in his abilities that he'll gamble on "King Mo" with a third. From Davis' perspective, it makes perfect sense. Lawal hits like a mack truck (13 knockouts), but Davis has never been stopped -- all three of his losses are decisions. Davis faced some of the hardest and most dangerous strikers in his UFC stint such as Glover Teixeira and Lyoto Machida, and came up smelling like roses.
What makes Davis "Mr. Wonderful" is his ability to neutralize the strengths of his opponents, forcing them to have a wrestling match instead of a striking battle. And that's a match his opponents usually lose. Lawal has done the same to many of his foes, but the interim title fight with Emanuel Newton stands out as the textbook way to turn the tables on Lawal and outpoint him with the judges.
Regardless, expect this one to be close.
Final prediction: Phil Davis defeated Muhammed Lawal via split decision
170 lbs.: Saad Awad (18-7) vs. Evangelista Santos (21-16)
Another late notice addition to this card sees "Cyborg" Santos make a quick return after submitting Brennan Ward at Bellator 153. He took no damage in a fight that only lasted 30 seconds and was thus an ideal candidate for a quick turnaround. The uphill climb here is for Awad, who normally fights at Lightweight, but is willing to go up to Welterweight in taking it on short notice. It's an interesting chance at redemption for Awad, who was on a three-fight win streak before dropping a unanimous decision to Patricky Freire.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Santos has a suspect chin. They're both 5'10" and have a nearly identical reach, so if Awad is willing to stand and trade he could do what he once did to Will Brooks. If we learned anything from the Ward fight it's that Santos is eager for an opportunity to go to the ground. Awad needs to keep it standing, scramble if Santos manages a takedown, and light him up if he stuffs them. Even though they're both taking the fight on short notice I feel Awad benefits more by not having to cut to 155 pounds.
Final prediction: Awad defeats Santos via technical knockout
170 lbs.: Andre Fialho (6-0) vs. Rick Reger (7-1)
Fialho impressed in his Bellator 150 debut with a knockout in less than a half minute. Reger has never fought in Bellator before, but his record coming in shows promise and his only loss to date was a submission by James Moontasri. Reger gets submissions in 57 percent of his wins (four out of seven), while Fialho gets the knockout in 83 percent of his (five out of six). For those reasons, I'm favoring Fialho as the power striker as long as he follows the Awad strategy to keep it standing.
Final prediction: Andre Fialho defeats Rick Reger via knockout
155 lbs.: Adam Piccolotti (7-0) vs. Ray Wood (6-1)
At this point it's well known who Adam Piccolotti was supposed to fight. He could not have been blamed for withdrawing from this card, but instead opted to soldier on and face a replacement opponent in Ray Wood. This is only Wood's second Bellator fight, but he won the first with a spinning backfist. Piccolotti is a versatile opponent, though, with nearly an equal split in wins by knockout, submission and decision. Wood has only gone to a decision once so he'll probably hope to end it fast, but under these emotional circumstances, I expect Piccolotti to take him the distance.
Final prediction: Adam Piccolotti via unanimous decision
That's a wrap!
MMAmania.com will deliver live coverage of Bellator 154: "Davis vs. King Mo" Saturday night, with real-time results throughout the evening followed by Spike TV fights at 8 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.