Bellator 175: "Rampage vs. King Mo" takes place tomorrow night (Fri., March 31, 2017) at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., featuring Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal, who after three years to stew over a decision loss that many saw as bad judging is ready to get his revenge against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.
With four additional fights set for the live broadcast on Spike TV, though, Lawal will have to wait his turn. And you can’t blame Bellator for banking on the name value of the headline fighters to try and push up other prospects. Two fights in particular seem clearly designed for that purpose.
Let’s break it down:
265 lbs.: Quinton Jackson (37-11) vs. Muhammed Lawal (20-6, 1 NC)
Lawal famously said there “ain’t no weight class” at 235 pounds when turning down the possibility of a Catchweight fight. He’s famously said a lot of other things about Rampage, too, before this rematch emerged. Meanwhile, Bellator changed presidents and directions. Tournaments are gone and “tent poles” are in, and the fights that will draw the biggest television audience and live event ticket sales are the ones that get made. That’s precisely why Lawal is getting this rematch and Jackson is promising to shut his mouth once and for all.
Can the match live up to the bluster? That remains to be seen. Lawal’s had several bad breaks against Phil Davis and Mirko Cro Cop, but he’s still arguably one of the best wrestlers in the company and eight out his last 10 overall. You could argue age is creeping up on him at 36, but to do so you’d have to note Jackson is 38, and fights at Heavyweight because he just doesn’t want to cut any more and likes the match ups the class can offer. With a five-fight win streak Jackson could probably challenge Davis if he wanted to, but he wants to have fun and make money.
The most fun Jackson can have is when opponents stand and bang with him, but Lawal didn’t oblige him last time. And no matter how much they say to build up this fight, I don’t expect him to here, either. His strategy was effective even if the judges (or the fans) felt otherwise. Lawal may have to concede a size and strength edge to Jackson at Heavyweight, but he did so with Kongo, too, and still earned the decision. That’s the Catch 22 with Lawal, though — his most effective fights are often the least exciting to watch. If getting the winner’s bonus and his revenge matters more, he’ll play it smart and shoot for takedowns. If he doesn’t, it’s Jackson’s fight to lose.
Final prediction: Muhammaed Lawal wins via split decision
145 lbs.: Emmanuel Sanchez (14-3) vs. Marcos Galvao (18-7-1)
“Effective and exhausting” also fits Emmanuel Sanchez, who has gone to decision in his last five wins — usually a split decision — but he’s even gotten a majority decision of late. That was one of Sanchez’ wilder fights, but it got a little too wild as he got deducted a point for illegal knees. Still good on Sanchez for trying to turn up the tempo and get fans a little more excited about his fights, which may bode well for this unexpected match up.
Former Bantamweight champion Marcos Galvao literally has nothing to lose here since a loss at Featherweight probably doesn’t hurt his standing at 135 pounds, while a win over a larger opponent (he’s 5’7” and Sanchez is 5’9” even ignoring reach and weight class) could actually see him leapfrog over the injured Darrion Caldwell for a rubber match with Eduardo “Dudu” Dantas if he’s still the champion after Bellator 177. It might take several impressive wins in or outside of the weight class though given Dantas knocked him out the first time and pummeled him the second.
It may seem like Galvao has more to gain and Sanchez has more to lose, but Sanchez needs this win to get a streak going, as each time he’s had a two or three fight win streak going in Bellator it gets snapped with a loss. Given the perception that he’s a grinder and not super exciting, it may require more than three wins in a row to finally get a Featherweight title shot. He probably shouldn’t get one if he blasts the smaller Galvao for coming up in weight to face him, but if Freire gets injured before his rematch with Straus and he wins this quick, he can put his name out there. “Quick” is unlikely, though, as he hasn’t ended a fight early since 2014.
Final prediction: Emmanuel Sanchez wins via unanimous decision
265 lbs.: Sergei Kharitonov (23-6) vs. Chase Gormley (14-5)
Things didn’t go well for “The Russian Mercenary” Kharitonov in his Bellator debut and that’s an understatement. The 36-year-old needs to have a stellar showing in his second outing to prove it was worth Scott Coker’s time and Viacom’s money to bring him to the United States. He has a five-fight win streaking coming in, but that’s gone now, and I don’t think anybody was crowing about his big victories over John Delgado or Tyler East with all respect to both men. Kharitonov’s value is his legend — He’s the guy who knocked out both Alistair Overeem and Andrei Arlovski ... and even outlasted Fabricio Werdum in a split decision.
Chase Gormley doesn’t have signature names like that on his record. Here’s what he does have -- he’s almost as big as Kharitonov (6’3” to 6’4”), he’s three years younger, and he has a one inch reach advantage at 77.” If Javy Ayala can do it, Chase Gormley can do it, too ... and he knows it. He has won seven of his last eight fights and only the knockout to Dan Charles should give you pause. Either Gormley makes his name here and jumps into contendership for the vacant Heavyweight title, or Kharitonov reasserts the value of his name in 2017 and keeps cashing Bellator’s checks.
Final prediction: Gormley beats Kharitonov via knockout
155 lbs.: Steve Kozola (7-0) vs. Jake Roberts (7-1)
It must be tiring to have the same name a very famous pro wrestling “Snake” for Jake Roberts, but “The North County Nightmare” never looked it until he got outworked by Carrington Banks in his first pro loss. With six of seven wins by finish (two knockouts, four submissions) he’s still a legit badass at Lightweight; however, undefeated “Thunderbeast” Kozola can boast six knockouts against just one submission, with four of his last five ending in the first round and the other in round two. If Kozola can bring that excitement to this televised card then he instantly joins the mix of Michael Chandler’s contenders. Roberts can get back in the driver’s seat by handing Kozola his first loss, but trying to slug it out with Kozola seems ill advised. He’ll want to turn this fight into a grind.
Final prediction: Steve Kozola wins via second round technical knockout
145 lbs.: Noad Lahat (10-2) vs. Lloyd Carter (10-8)
This is the easiest prediction of the whole card top to bottom. Lahat is a proven finisher with the kind of charisma that could easily make him a Featherweight star for Bellator. Carter is a journeyman fighter who could even beat a past his prime Miguel Torres his last time out. He’s been subbed in 62% of his losses (five of eight) and Lahat has finished 50% of his wins (five of 10) the exact same way. Ladies and gentlemen that says it all.
Final prediction: Noah Lahat wins via rear-naked choke
That’s a wrap!
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