Bellator 185: “Mousasi vs. Shlemenko” takes place tomorrow night (Fri., Oct. 20, 2017) at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., featuring a main event between former mixed martial arts (MMA) champions Alexander Shlemenko against Gegard Mousasi, who his making his promotional debut after a very successful run with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
Let’s break it down:
185 lbs.: Gegard Mousasi (42-6-2) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (56-9, 1 NC)
It’s staggering to consider that the two competitors in Friday’s main event have well over 100 professional fights between them combined. It’s even more staggering when you consider their respective ages: Mousasi is only 32 and Shlemenko is 33. It’s amazing just how indestructible these two men seem to be, especially given neither one has lost in five straight fights. The only thing that dogs either of these men is the fact Shlemenko failed a drug test, so some might wonder if any of his other performances up to that point were chemically enhanced. Since he tested clean before and after his dominant Bellator 162 win it may be his slate is now clean.
There’s a lot to prove for both men despite their recent win streaks. Only one of Shlemenko’s five wins came in a fight outside of Russia, so it’s hard to believe “Storm” Shlemenko didn’t benefit from some favorable booking via M-1 Challenge. Mousasi has an axe to grind after obliterating one top Middleweight after another via knockout from Vitor Belfort to Chris Weidman, yet despite his dominance he felt he was “getting screwed” on being paid what he was worth. That’s why when push came to shove and his contract ran out Mousasi signed a six fight deal with Bellator so he could show everybody that he deserves the money AND the main event spot.
Who takes advantage of the spotlight in Uncasville to further their agenda and potentially work toward a Middleweight title shot against Rafael Carvalho? Both men are knockout artists, with Shlemenko earning 31 in 56 wins (55%) and Mousasi earning 23 in 42 wins (also 55%). That suggests a coin flip in a striking exchange UNTIL you look at their size. Mousasi stands 6’2” and sports a 76” reach, while Shlemenko is 5’11” with a 71” reach. While Shlemenko was fed suitable opponents for his style including in his Bellator 162 return, Mousasi was facing submission artists like Thales Leites and men who had previously beaten him like Uriah Hall.
A fight is a fight and a win is a win but from where I stand Mousasi has faced and proven himself against much better competition. A failure here would vindicate UFC not matching Bellator’s offer to keep him and I can’t imagine more powerful motivation to do well. What motivates Shlemenko? Maybe he wants the title back at some point, but if he doesn’t earn a title shot, he can go home and get more fights from M-1 Challenge from now until whenever he retires.
Final prediction: Gegard Mousasi wins by technical knockout in the second round
155 lbs.: Ryan Quinn (13-7-1) vs. Marcus Surin (4-0)
Originally “Irish Bad Boy” Brennan Ward was looking for a quick rebound fight after being submitted at Bellator 182 in August, but an expected Welterweight tilt with “Caveman” David Rickels will have to wait as Ward withdrew from this card late due to injury. As a result a brand new fight has been bumped to the main card featuring both a familiar Bellator fight and a new prospect making his promotional debut on Friday.
Ryan Quinn’s tenure goes all the way back to Bellator 15 in 2010, where he picked up his first promotional win by unanimous decision against Matt Lee. Quinn had a mixed record outside of the promotion but inside of it he was 7-0 until he ran into Saad Awad in April. Quinn is an American Top Team veteran with a BJJ black belt, holding four wins by submission, but his opponent Surin is a knockout artist with 50% of fights in his young career leaving opponents flat. When the hard handed Awad tagged Quinn he repeatedly shot for takedowns and got swept. Surin won’t even give him that chance.
Final prediction: Marcus Surin wins by knockout in the second round
170 lbs.: Neiman Gracie (6-0) vs. Zak Bucia (18-8)
The name Gracie carries high expectations, expectations that decorated jiu-jitsu medalist Neiman Gracie has thus far managed to live up to. All but one of his six MMA wins have ended by submission, and a typical bout doesn’t get past the halfway point of the second round. He faces an opponent in Zak Bucia who obviously has more pro MMA experience. Somehow I don’t think any of that is going to matter once Gracie takes him to the ground. I’ve been watching him do this for four years now and he’s as good as billed so unless Bucia starts quick and lights him up standing it will go badly for him.
Final prediction: Neiman Gracie wins via rear naked choke in round one
125 lbs.: Heather Hardy (1-0) vs. Kristina Williams (0-0)
I don’t think we need to expound upon this one for very long. Although their MMA records suggest a nearly equal amount of inexperience it couldn’t be further from the truth. Hardy is an undefeated pro boxer with a 20-0 record nicknamed “The Heat.” She showed exactly what kind of heat she can bring to mixed martial arts by beating Alice Yauger at Bellator 180, and I expect her to showcase more of the same against a fighter ill equipped to make a debut against such a seasoned striking veteran.
Final prediction: Heather Hardy finishes Williams with strikes in round one
125 lbs.: Ana Julaton (2-2) vs. Lisa Blaine (1-0)
Don’t let Ana Julaton’s record fool you. Even though her mixed martial arts line may be middling, the boxer turned MMA fighter compiled a 14-4-1 record in the ring before transitioning to the cage, winning the Women's WBO Super Bantamweight and IBA Super Bantamweight titles in the process. Her hand speed has earned her the nickname “Hurricane,” but the “Hurricane” must face the “Insane” Lisa Blaine on Friday. Even though Blaine only has one pro fight, she beat Tammy Worrick by TKO at 2:23 of the second round, so her hands might be “alright.” It may be a theme here for the Flyweights but I’ve got to pick the boxer with the better striking experience here.
Final prediction: Ana Julaton finishes Lisa Blaine by knockout in the second round
That’s a wrap!
MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 185 tomorrow with “prelim” results at 7:00 p.m. ET and Spike TV fights starting at 9:00 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.