Bellator 212: “Salute the Troops” airs tomorrow night (Fri., Dec. 14, 2018) from Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, Hawaii, featuring a Lightweight title defense in the main event of the evening that is so long overdue it almost doesn’t feel real that it’s finally happening.
Let’s break it down:
155 lbs.: Brent Primus (8-0) vs. Michael Chandler (18-4)
This all started on June 25, 2017, at Bellator 180 in Madison Square Garden. Then-defending Lightweight champion, “Iron Mike” Chandler, was ready to collect his fifth straight win against the previously undefeated Brent Primus, but then the unthinkable happened. Primus landed a precise kick that wobbled his left leg and left him unsteady on his feet. Despite barely being able to stand, Chandler roared back and hurt Primus with a right hand, but as he continued to limp and stumble, referee Todd Anderson paused the match. And on the advice of the ringside doctor, the bout was stopped moments later. Indeed, Primus officially became a world champion via technical knockout at 2:27 of round one.
Several opportunities to make the rematch since fell through, including Bellator 197 earlier this year, and every step of the way Chandler blasted Primus as “heartless” and a “part timer” in the sport. Given Primus hasn’t taken a single fight until now since winning the Lightweight title it’s very hard to argue with at least one of Chandler’s two points. Unless a monster tsunami rises from the ocean and takes Honolulu off the map, we’ll finally find out if he’s right about the other point and see just how much “heart” Primus has in a rematch.
The Oregon-born, raised and trained Primus stands 5’10” with a 73” reach and mixed bag of finishes — two knockouts, four submissions, two decisions. Of those two knockouts one was actually the doctor’s stoppage mentioned above, so his power in the striking department can be questioned. Chandler’s power, on the other hand, cannot be disputed. He has knocked out seven foes, submitted seven more, and only four wins went to the judges scorecards. Even notoriously tough brawlers like “Pitbull” Patricky Freire have fallen to the power of his right hand.
In addition, Chandler’s two return fights since losing the title have both been convincing, from a brutal beatdown of Goiti Yamauchi for a lopsided unanimous decision to a strangulation of Brandon Girtz in a match Primus bowed out of. He has looked so good that the loss of his title now seems like even more of a fluke than it did in New York City. Meanwhile, because of his sheer inactivity, there’s little of Primus to compare against him, and split decision wins in two of his last three fights don’t suggest an ability to dominate over five rounds if it even lasts that long. There was no reason on paper to pick Primus the first time and sadly for the champion there’s even less reason to do so now.
Final prediction: Michael Chandler whoops ass until scoring a technical knockout in round two
205 lbs.: Frank Mir (18-12) vs. Javy Ayala (10-7)
This is another fight that is unlikely to go the distance. Already the loser of three straight, Mir has competed just once over the last two years, getting destroyed by Fedor in just 48 seconds back in April. Ayala, meanwhile, has been more active over that same span, but he lost a decision to Roy Nelson then got knocked cold by Cheick Kongo in May. You can put as much sugar and honey on this fight as you like, including the fact Mir is a former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) title holder and Ayala once finished Kharitonov, but the fact is neither of these fighters are even near the middle of Bellator’s Heavyweight division. The only deciding factor to me is that Mir actually tagged Emelianenko with a punch in their fight that he admitted hurt him, and if Kongo can rock Ayala, I suspect Mir will too in a fight that should end quickly ... and dramatically.
Final prediction: Frank Mir knocks out Javy Ayala in round one
145 lbs.: Derek Campos (19-7) vs. Sam Sicilia (15-9)
Campos was on a four-fight roll before Patricky Pitbull stopped him cold at Bellator 194 earlier this year. That may have motivated him to drop down from Lightweight to Featherweight, and if so, it could work well against Sam Sicilia. Campos stands 5’9” and has a 68” reach, while recent Bellator newcomer Sicilia is 5’8” with a 67” reach. Not only does that make the weight a better fit for Campos, he benefits from fighting a fighter on the decline who has lost four of his last five bouts dating back to 2015. As long as he makes a successful weight cut and isn’t dried up like a raisin this will go Campos’ way.
Final prediction: Derek Campos scores a third round technical knockout
125 lbs.: Alejandra Lara (7-2) vs. Juliana Velasquez (7-0)
Alejandra Lara had the honor of being the first woman to challenge Ilima-Lei Macfarlane for the women’s Bellator Flyweight title, but easily got outclassed in that fight and hasn’t been heard from since. This will mark her most active year since 2015 though as Lara has previously taken approximately one bout a year until now. Other than her debut and last year, Velasquez typically has two fights a year, and this will be her second of 2018 following an impressive technical knockout of Rebecca Ruth in April. The young Lara (24) stands 5’7” with a 68” reach, while the elder Velasquez (32) stands 5’6” with a 67.5” reach. As Mike Goldberg would say other than their age, “everything else is virtually identical.”
Velasquez has finished 57 percent of her opponents (three knockouts, one submission) in a thus far flawless career. Lara has fought more though and has finished 66 percent (three knockouts, three submissions). The most telling thing for me though is what doesn’t show up in the stats — how one-sided Lara’s loss to the champion was. When she’s faced older fighters — even if they have relatively the same number of professional bouts — they clearly don’t have the same level of experience between fights in the gym. I suspect what was true with Macfarlane is perhaps even more true with Velasquez — when “everything else is virtually identical” it’s that hard work outside of the cage that gives one woman the edge.
Final result: Alejandra Velasquez wins via technical knockout in round three
145 lbs.: A.J. McKee (12-0) vs. Daniel Crawford (10-2)
I’d like to say the Englishman Crawford has a chance here ... but if I did I’d be lying. For “Mercenary” McKee this is simply a “stay busy” fight until he finally gets a world title shot against Emmanuel Sanchez. Crawford already lost his Bellator debut to Pedro Carvalho by split decision, and if that’s the best he can muster at anything above the BAMMA level, I don’t see him beating McKee. McKee stands 5’10” and has a 73” reach, while Crawford is at least one inch shorter in height with an undisclosed reach I don’t see closing the range of McKee with his hand speed and devastating kicks.
Final result: A.J. McKee wins via first round knockout
That’s a wrap!
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