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Bellator 189 predictions, preview for 'Budd vs Blencowe 2' on Spike TV

Budd vs Blencowe 2
Arlene Blencowe
Bellator MMA

Bellator 189: “Budd vs. Blencowe 2” takes place tomorrow night (Fri., Dec. 1, 2017) at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla., featuring a champion who will make her first defense of the Featherweight title live on Spike TV against an opponent who already knows her well.

In addition, Friday’s card features two exciting Middleweight bouts as the division continues to shuffle the deck before the impending “Carvalho vs. Sakara” title match. Indeed, an impressive performance could put somebody next in line behind Gegard Mousasi for a world title shot.

Let’s break it down:

145 lbs.: Julia Budd (10-2) vs. Arlene Blencowe (10-6)

In one of the toughest fights of her career to date and certainly the closest scored, Julia Budd edged out a majority decision at Bellator 162 in 2016. Blencowe put the pressure on Budd in the first round and landed more shots, while Budd took her down in the second round and worked hard to sink in a rear naked choke. The third round is the one you could have scored for either woman, and one judge apparently decided to score it for neither, leading to an unusual 29-29.

Budd rebounded from that fight to turn in a strong performance against Marloes Coenen to become the inaugural Featherweight champion at Bellator 174. As the division continues to build up more women to fight for the title, a rematch with Arlene Blencowe makes the most sense. Budd needs to dominate Blencowe to prove their first fight was a fluke. Blencowe wants to become the third person to beat Budd — the other two are Ronda Rousey and Amanda Nunes.

The champion stands 5’8” with a 67” reach while Blencowe stands 5’5” with a 66” reach. Blencowe proved in their last fight that a negligible reach advantage is equivalent to none at all, so “The Jewel” Budd needs to keep “Angerfist” Blencowe away with her feet instead of her hands. Blencowe in turn needs to be patient and wait to cut angles instead of bull rushing Budd and opening up takedowns for the champ. Each woman has only one win by submission so it’s an unlikely finish, but they are nearly equal in knockouts (Budd has four, Blencowe five). My hunch is that we’ll have a fight that goes the distance where Budd makes less mistakes.

Final prediction: Julia Budd retains the title by unanimous decision

185 lbs.: Rafael Lovato Jr. (6-0) vs. Chris Honeycutt (10-1, 1 NC)

The first and most important thing to tell you about Rafael Lovato Jr. is that only three American black belts have won the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship — BJ Penn was the first and Lovato was the third. Aside from his pedigree and numerous gold medals in competition, Lovato has become a MMA sensation in Bellator, with neither of his two promotional wins lasting longer than two minutes. In fact one bout was only 13 seconds long. It’s hard to say what Lovato’s ceiling is at this point until he’s tested by tougher competition.

“The Cutt” Chris Honeycutt is the perfect way to find that ceiling. He’s on a four fight win streak, he’s finished half of his wins (five out of 10) by knockout, and he just scored a finish on former UFC fighter “King” Kevin Casey. Lovato is a big guy in BJJ figurative and literally at 6’1” with a 77.5” reach, realistically a Light Heavyweight who cuts to 185. Honeycutt is 5’10” and 73” in reach, but an excellent wrestling record before MMA and more experience in the sport since gives him certain advantages over Lovato. If we learned anything from his two fights with Paul Bradley though it’s that mental lapses can cost him, which is why I see a takedown from Honeycutt leading directly to a submission for Lovato.

Final prediction: Rafael Lovato Jr. wins via guillotine choke in round one

185 lbs.: Hisaki Kato (8-2) vs. Chidi Njokuani (17-5, 1 NC)

This is a fight that almost guarantees fireworks -- 88 percent of Kato’s wins (seven of eight) come by knockout, while almost 60 percent of Njokuani’s wins (10 of 17) come by knockout. All Bellator has to do is put these two Middleweights in the cage, ring the bell, and film the outcome. Both men have provided plenty of highlight-reel material in the past and have the potential to do it again at any time. The edge goes to Njokuani though and not just because of his height and reach advantage (6’3” to 6’1” and 78” to 74”), but because of Njokuani’s outstanding kickboxing record. That creates an experience deficit in terms of footwork and timing that Kato can’t overcome.

Final prediction: Chidi Njokuani wins by third round technical knockout

160 lbs. David Rickels (18-4, 2 NC) vs. Adam Piccolotti (9-1)

David Rickels was scheduled to face Brennan Ward in October, but a late injury forced the “Irish Bad Boy” out of the card and canceled David Rickels’ fight. Adam Piccolotti was scheduled to face Derek Anderson in Thackerville, but he too suffered a late injury, so Bellator is making the best of both situations by pairing the two together in a catchweight fight. Piccolotti had been on a steamroll through the Lightweight division until Goiti Yamauchi submitted him at Bellator 183.

Piccolotti is well diversified with two knockouts, four submissions and three decisions and holds a black belt in jiu-jitsu. Rickels is even more diversified with six wins in each category, but his modus operandi is to brawl until they fall. He’ll have a slight size advantage over Piccolotti in this contest but unlike Ward he doesn’t have an opponent who will fight him in a phone booth and play to his strengths. This could wind up being the closest fight on the card — or it could end very quickly.

Final prediction: Adam Piccolotti wins via split decision

145 lbs.: Sam Sicilia (15-8) vs. Marcos Galvao (18-8-1)

This is a bonus prelim fight preview! Sicilia is coming off three straight losses in UFC before his Bellator MMA debut, including a disappointing decision defeat to Gavin Tucker. Things aren’t going much better for Galvao, who looked to improve his career by moving up to Featherweight and instead being dominated by Emmanuel Sanchez. As Mike Goldberg likes to say “everything is virtually identical” in terms of height and reach, but if you’re going to edge it in any direction I’d go with former champ Galvao returning to his winning ways and handing Sicilia a fourth loss.

Final prediction: Marcos Galvao takes a unanimous decision

That’s a wrap!

MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 189 tomorrow with Spike TV fights starting 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.