Bellator 157 "Dynamite 2" comes to Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo., tomorrow night (Fri., June 24, 2016), live on Spike TV with a card that starts at 8 p.m. ET. The main event for the evening is a heavyweight bout between Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Satoshi Ishii.
Jackson returns for his first fight since a brief hiatus away at UFC 186 last April, during a period in which Jackson was engaged in a legal battle over his status with Bellator. Having settled those issues this February, Jackson returns to face Ishii, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist in judo.
"Dynamite 2" will also see a new champion crowned in the lightweight division following the unconditional release of Will Brooks. Michael Chandler and Patricky "Pitbull" Freire step up in the co-main event to fill that vacancy.
In addition to Bellator MMA fights there will be a three bout Bellator Kickboxing card immediately following "Dynamite 2" on Spike TV. For the largest preview in my time with MMAmania.com let's break it all down:
185 lbs.: Joe Schilling (27-8) vs. Hisaki Kato (6-2)
The stat line here is a little confusing so allow me to be of assistance -- Schilling's 27-8 record is for kickboxing whereas Kato's 6-2 record is for MMA -- which makes sense given Kato has never had a kickboxing match before now. He HAS had a MMA match with Schilling before though and won that fight with a Superman punch. Schilling is getting the chance to avenge that loss in a forum more suitable to his style of fighting which isn't surprising -- he's 2-5 in seven MMA bouts. Schilling has a height and reach advantage here so clinch breaks plus no elbows give him that little something extra to put him over the top and even the score.
Final prediction: Joe Schilling by unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Raymond Daniels (11-3) vs. Stefano Bruno (23-2-1)
You can't put a bigger locomotive on a hype train than "The Human Highlight Reel" for Daniels in the Bellator press release. He went undefeated as an amateur at 17-0, then won his Bellator Kickboxing debut with a knockout 30 seconds into round one. If the hype is as real as his highlight reel he'll need to prove it against the veteran Bruno, who had a "Fight of the Year" contender with Hosam Radwan in GLORY last year. Bruno won by TKO at 2:37 of the second round and he'll need a similar performance here to derail the hype. I favor Bruno's experience over Daniels' hype.
Final prediction: Stefano Bruno by third round TKO
125 lbs.: Keri Melendez (3-1) vs. Sarah Howell (0-0)
Speaking of favoring experience you have to like the fact Melendez trains with her husband and his famous Skrap Pack teammates, which gives her about as much schooling in precision striking as any fighter could hope for save for the last names Mayweather, Ludwig and Roach. That's just too much of an edge for the newcomer Howell to have a realistic chance, although she does maintain an interesting blog where she balances the challenges of being a mother and a fighter. It's hard not to like her -- it's just even harder to pick her to win.
Final prediction: Keri Melendez via first round knockout
265 lbs.: Quinton Jackson (36-11) vs. Satoshi Ishii (14-5-1)
Even though Jackson got his start in combat sports as a wrestler, and over a third of his wins (13 out of 36) come by decision, "Rampage" prefers to be known as a stand-up fighter with knockout power. That power accounts for 44% of Jackson's victories (16 out of 36). His last four fights have been a 50/50 split between these two methods of victory. It is worth noting that Jackson turns 38 on June 20, four days before this fight takes place, and given the number fights he's already had in his career we may be nearing the tail end of Jackson's run.
Ishii got his post-Olympic career in MMA off to a rough start with a loss to Hidehiko Yoshida, but overall he's 70% of his professional fights (14 out of 20) so he's doing pretty well on the whole. Of his five losses four come by KO, including two notable losses to Mirko Cro Cop and one to Fedor Emelianenko. It may be more noteworthy that his most recent loss comes in his last fight against Jiri Prochazka at the inaugural Rizin Fighting Federation show, being finished 96 seconds into the first round.
If Bellator was looking for an opponent tailor made to stand and bang with Jackson and subsequently lose that exchange Ishii seems to be the man. He's only got one knockout in his entire career, and six of his fourteen wins are by submissions, so if Ishii stands any chance of winning he's got to judo throw Jackson to the ground and quickly take a mount. Jackson's always been a large muscular Light Heavyweight, and he'll likely be even bigger for this fight not having to cut weight, so there's little to no chance Ishii wins in a clinch. The odds are not in his favor here.
Final prediction: Quinton Jackson wins via first round knockout
155 lbs.: Michael Chandler (14-3) vs. Patricky Freire (16-7)
The release of "Ill" Will Brooks sent waves through the MMA community, with opinion sharply split between whether or not Bellator was devaluing their own title and disrespecting a champion. The thing to remember in all of this is Brooks was unhappy in Bellator and public about his displeasure, and rather than making us all endure a messy divorce while Brooks courted other promotions, they decided it made more sense to cut bait and start over fresh. In doing so a former champion and a perennial contender step to the front of the line to claim his vacant title.
Michael Chandler was an undefeated juggernaut atop the 155 pound division until he lost the title to Eddie Alvarez. Brooks won the interim title in a fight with Chandler when Alvarez was unable to defend it, and when Alvarez subsequently vacated his title and left for Bellator, Brooks won a second fight with Chandler for the now vacant title. If Brooks was Chandler's kryptonite that problem has now been solved, and with an equal number of wins by knockout and submission (six of each) he's ready for any kind of fight that comes his way.
Out of his seven career losses, one of Patricky "Pitbull" Freire's defeats came to Chandler in the finals of a Lightweight tournament at Bellator 44. It wasn't the last time Freire would come up short right at the moment of his biggest triumph, as he also lost the finals to Marcin Held at Bellator 126. Freire puts together win fight streaks and then things go awry, which makes him the 155 pound version of Muhammed Lawal with similar finishing power (10 out of 15 wins by knockout). As much as I enjoy Freire's work I feel like history has already shown us he'll come up short again.
Final result: Michael Chandler wins the title via unanimous decision
265 lbs.: Matt Mitrione (9-5) vs. Carl Seumanutafa (10-6)
Mitrione has some hype behind him coming off his UFC run, where he had a pretty good run going until Ben Rothwell caught him in a first round choke and Travis Browne beat him after multiple eye pokes. Perhaps Bellator is the place for him to make a fresh start, but at 37 years old the clock is ticking on his career.
The Heavyweight title is vacant right now so Mitrione's got a chance to immediately jump in the mix with a win as does Seumanutafa, a true "live by the sword/die by the word" fighter with 90% of his wins and 67% of his losses coming by knockout. Seumanutafa has the better record over his last three, but Mitrione has been fighting a higher level of competition by comparison, so if he keeps his hands up and his chin tucked this one goes his way.
Final result: Matt Mitrione wins by technical knockout in the second round
145 lbs.: Kevin Ross (31-9) vs. Justin Houghton (7-2)
This fight will be contested under Bellator Kickboxing rules -- that means no takedowns, no elbows, and no long clinches with inactivity. If I can be frank with you the reader it's not my favorite thing to watch but it seems you can't call it "Dynamite" without some kickboxing. Let's give it up to Ross though. "The Soul Assassin" is a decorated kickboxer with multiple world titles who won his Bellator debut in April and made a quick turnaround to fight again in June. Houghton lost his only Bellator MMA fight in 2012, but the Grudge Training Center product shows promise in this arena and will try to make his name by knocking off a legend. I'll be surprised if that happens.
Final result: Kevin Ross wins via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Denise Kielholtz (44-2) vs. Gloria Peritore (10-1-1)
The night's other featured kickboxing fight for Spike pits Dutch striker Kielholtz against a much less experienced foe in Peritore, but like Ross she won her Bellator 152 debut and is coming back to take another fight in St. Louis. She also collected a case full of trophies as an amateur from the likes ISKA and WTKA, which leads me to think the plucky upstart can knock off the experienced veteran here. Her third round knockout of Li Mingrui in April may just be the sign she's coming into her own, but Dutch kickboxers are in a league of their own and Kielholtz will make it a war.
Final result: Peritore wins via another third round knockout
125 lbs.: Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (3-0) vs. Rebecca Ruth (6-1)
Macfarlane will have a smile on her face and quite possibly a flower in her hair as she makes her way to the Bellator cage. The Hawaiian born fighter now lives and trains in San Diego, and while the "Iliminator" has racked up an impressive undefeated record, she's also infamous for fighting a "soccer mom" in her pro debut. Those days are far behind her and Rebecca Ruth is right in front of her, a hard hitter who has won 83% (five out of six) by TKO. This is easily Marfarlane's toughest test to date, and though the hype will be on her Ruth is more experienced and will have a hometown edge fighting in Missouri.
Final result: Rebecca Ruth wins by unanimous decision
That's a wrap!
MMAmania.com will deliver live coverage of Bellator 157 "Dynamite 2" tomorrow 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.