Bellator 196: “Henderson vs. Huerta” takes place tomorrow night (Fri., April 6, 2018) at Budapest Sports Arena in Budapest, Hungary. Two former Lightweight champions will put their reputations on the line in a main event that will be a return to glory for one man and a steep fall from grace for the other. It promises to be a very interesting card on Paramount Network.
Let’s break it down:
155 lbs.: Benson Henderson (24-8) vs. Roger Huerta (24-9-1, 1 NC)
There is a great deal on the line for “Smooth” Benson Henderson here. He was highly touted coming into Bellator MMA as both a former WEC and UFC Lightweight champion, and was leaving UFC off of back-to-back wins in his move up to Welterweight. Since that time though Henderson has gone 1-3 and even a return to Lightweight did not work out against either Michael Chandler or Patricky “Pitbull” Freire. A third straight loss would not only be embarrassing for the fighting legend but would in all honesty render him incapable of being used as a headline fighter on any future Bellator cards.
In fact Henderson only got this spot due to an undisclosed injury to James Gallagher, forcing Scott Coker to get in touch with former UFC star “El Matador” Roger Huerta. We’ve come a long way since the days when Huerta was the first ever MMA fighter to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. A largely successful UFC run led to a largely inglorious Bellator one, going 1-2 in three fights, but he didn’t fare any better in ONE Fighting and went 2-3 in five straight appearances. Even his good numbers are deceiving. On paper he appears to have a two fight win streak but in his last bout Hayder Hassan was disqualified for delivering illegal elbows. Ouch.
Neither man is exactly elderly in mixed martial arts as they are both 34 years old, but Father Time is not being kind to their skill sets. A continual influx of hungrier fighters are passing these old lions by, and the cruel irony is that another loss for either one is a moment for serious introspection about whether or not to continue in the sport. Each man has name value but that gets diminished by each defeat, making you think they should be coaching instead of competing. As Mike Goldberg is fond of saying “everything is virtually identical” as each stands 5’9” with a 70-71” wingspan, but if I had to make a one dollar wager with a friend I’d go with Roger Huerta. Having wars with hard hitters like Chandler and Pitbull has done Henderson no favors, and when Huerta WAS in his prime he was a gutsy big swinging mas guapo brawler who finished 12 opponents by knockout. I’ll pick Henderson to be unlucky no. 13.
Final prediction: Roger Huerta wins his Bellator return by technical knockout
145 lbs.: Adam Borics (6-0) vs. Teodor Nikolov (11-1)
The aforementioned Gallagher injury shook up this card and pushed this fight out of the headline spot. Even though Adam Borics has only had one Bellator fight, he is a submission artist (four out of six wins, 67%) who finished his last bout with a rear naked choke. Borics also has the support of a raucous home country crowd cheering their native son on. Nikolov is a Russian fighter with three knockouts and eight submissions, coming in on six straight wins, the last four coming in the ISFA (International Submission Fighting Association) with cards run in Bulgaria and Macedonia.
Borics boasts a frame that would suit a Lightweight and even many Welterweights at 5’11”, and in a division where speed kills you absolutely have to be first out of the gun. That may help Nikolov as the smaller man at 5’9”. Both men have made their name largely on lesser circuits but Borics has the advantage of having fought under Bellator’s bright lights in terms of his nerves. Borics should be energized by being featured so prominently on this card in front of his home country fans, while Nikolov is a last second addition to a card that has been plagued by numerous changes who may be ill prepared for such a stressful fight on short notice.
Final prediction: Adam Borics wins via first round rear naked choke
125 lbs.: Denise Kielholtz (1-1) vs. Petra Castkova (3-2)
This Flyweight contest features two fighters heading in opposite directions. Although kickboxer turned MMA fighter Denise Kielholtz lost by armbar back in 2015, she turned things around and scored a scarfhold armbar submission last November. Her impressive 18-2 kickboxing record includes three straight Bellator wins, one of which made her the inaugural women’s flyweight champion. It’s not hard to picture Bellator booking a champion vs champion fight in the future against Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, but her MMA record needs to be more comparable to her kickboxing one to make that happen.
Meanwhile Petra Castkova is a Prague based fighter who is fighting for relevance after two losses in her last three fights. She has yet to finish an opponent, taking all three of her pro wins via decision. Even though she dwarfs Kielholtz in size at 5’7” versus 5’3”, that seemingly presents a difficult weight cut for Castkova versus Kielholtz, which may in part contribute to her record of poor performances. Considering the audience for the evening includes fans attending Bellator Kickboxing 9, Kielholtz will be suitably motivated to put on the kind of striking clinic fans already know her well for.
Final prediction: Denise Kielholtz wins via first round technical knockout
145 lbs.: Brian Moore (10-6) vs. Giorgio Belsanti (7-6-1)
Here are two Featherweights with fairly middling records, although the once hapless Giorgio Belsanti has shown improvement of late with two straight wins and three out of his last four overall. The Italian scored a win in his promotional debut at Bellator 176, so he has a little momentum going his way, but as mentioned with Gallagher before Moore is a SBG product who trains and fights a higher caliber of competition. He got to the third round with A.J. McKee, longer than most other Featherweights last, while Belsanti’s last opponent was so mediocre the bout wasn’t even televised. I don’t expect Brian Moore to put on a technical clinic, but I expect he’ll outlast Belsanti.
Final prediction: Brian Moore finishes Giorgio Belsanti via third round KO
175 lbs.: Ed Ruth (4-0) vs. Ion Pascu (17-7)
A late addition to the card sees decorated Penn State wrestler Ed Ruth (three national championships) return to the cage following a second round knockout of Chris Dempsey on his home campus. He takes on the even LATER edition of Ion Pascu, a change that moved this fight to a catch weight of 175 lbs. Pascu is coming off back to back BAMMA wins and has knockouts in nine of 17 wins (53%). Ruth is taller (5’11” to 5’9”) and may be bigger coming off a smaller than usual weight cut, but Pascu’s cage edge and his SBG Ireland credentials are not to be overlooked. Ruth says he wants to fight more experienced guys to show he’s always improving his overall game and moving up the ladder. He gets his wish here.
Final prediction: Ed Ruth scores a technical knockout in the third round
That’s a wrap!
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