Bellator 173: "McGeary vs. Fields" takes place tomorrow night (Fri., Feb. 24, 2017) at SSE Arena in Belfast, northern Ireland. Former Light Heavyweight champion Liam McGeary makes his first stop on the road to redemption in the Spike TV-televised main event as he takes on last-second replacement, Brett McDermott.
As you might expect for an international Bellator event, the card has been loaded up with locally-popular fighters who train at Straight Blast Gym, so both James Gallagher and Sinead Kavanagh will look to remain undefeated in key bouts airing on Spike.
Let's break it down:
205 lbs.: Liam McGeary (11-1) vs. Brett McDermott (7-4)
Light Heavyweight fighter Liam McGeary's first loss as a pro was more crushing than most. Not only did he drop the title to Phil Davis, he did so in a fight where he was dominated in each and every round. Ouch. After a one-sided defeat, it's hardly surprising that the promotion would offer the former champ a fight in which he could be equally dominating. Those plans fell apart, though, as Chris Fields withdrew with an injury earlier this week, causing Vladimir Filipovic -- and then Brett McDermott -- to step up on short notice. Fight fans may recognize McDermott as the man who got knocked out by "King Mo" on the first Rizin' show.
Even though McGeary may in theory be drawing a much more dangerous opponent, I won't be calling for the upset here, despite several surprising losses on last week's card. McGeary still holds a size edge at 6'6" vs. 5'11," and while McDermott has finished six of seven wins (with six knockouts), McGeary has finished all but one of his victories -- the one that crowned him champion. The physical gifts make him a difficult test for anybody who doesn't have the wrestling pedigree of Davis and the ability to keep McGeary on the ground. McDermott has also been tapped out in 50 percent of his losses, and submissions are something of a specialty for the former champ.
Final prediction: Liam McGeary defeats Brett McDermott via rear-naked choke
145 lbs.: James Gallagher (5-0) vs. Kirill Medvedovsky (7-3)
Things seem to keep on rolling for "The Strabanimal" James Gallagher. Although he fought a cautious and careful bout against the more experienced Mike Cutting in his Bellator debut, he stepped up his game at Bellator 169 to score a finish via rear-naked choke. For those following his career, it seems that Bellator is carefully building him up fight by fight trying to create a star, and Kirill Medvedovsky represents another opportunity to keep him undefeated and get a roaring local response from a passionate and proud crowd of Irish fight fans.
As with Cutting, though, Gallagher can't afford to look past Medvedovsky and his experience advantage. He didn't look good against Georgi Karakhanyan, but that just illustrates how a young fighter (24) can be smoked by a veteran (31). At only 20 years old, Gallagher should give Medvedovsky the same respect going in. He probably doesn't want to keep the fight standing since he has yet to knockout an opponent, which Medvedovsky has done twice, and Gallagher has tapped out 80 percent of his opponents thus far. If he wrestles his way to a win, he'll deliver just what Bellator and Spike want.
Final prediction: James Gallagher wins via unanimous decision
140 lbs.: Sinead Kavanagh (4-0) vs. Iony Razafiarison (1-1, 1 NC)
Sinead Kavanagh got an unexpected opportunity to join Bellator 169' main card and took full advantage, earning her first Bellator win. Seeing the reaction she got from the crowd in Dublin no doubt encouraged them to book her for Belfast, and Iony Razafiarison is just about as hand-picked of an opponent as you can get. She hasn't won a fight since 2013 and Kavanagh will have an easily discernible size advantage at 5'6" vs. 5'3." Kavanagh is going to be the bigger, more muscular, fighter and should quite easily blast straight through her opponent. Anything other than a dominant win would be a huge upset.
Final prediction: Sinead Kavanagh wins via first round technical knockout
170 lbs.: Alex Lohore (10-1) vs. Colin Fletcher (13-7)
This showdown squeaks in just under the wire to make the televised broadcast on Spike TV. "Da Kid" Lohore is a French prospect with six straight wins and vicious hands, finishing 50 percent of his wins by knockout. Fletcher is a journeyman fighter who may be best remembered for his time on The Ultimate Fighter, followed by a two-fight stint in UFC, losing to both Norman Parke and Mike Ricci before being cut. He's lost two out of his last three, and to be honest, I'm not expecting that much from the Sunderland native here in Belfast.
Final prediction: Alex Lohore wins via knockout
145 lbs.: Shay Walsh (14-4) vs. James McErlean (6-3)
This is allegedly a Featherweight fight, although McErlean outweighs Walsh by almost 10 pounds. It's hard to know what to make of a fight with that much of a physical mismatch, although Walsh is the more experienced fighter and seems well diversified in his arsenal with six knockouts, five decisions and three submissions. On the other hand, Walsh got creamed by Tom Duquesnoy just 75 seconds into his last fight, while McErlean comes in on a three-fight win streak, both of his last two by decision. I think Walsh is walking into a buzzsaw and taking this fight was a bad decision.
Final prediction: James McErlean wins via submission
That's a wrap!
MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 173 tomorrow night, with results throughout the evening starting on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET. Meanwhile, to check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.