Bellator 200: “Carvalho vs. Mousasi” takes place tomorrow night (Fri., May 25, 2018) at SSE Arena in London, England. A Middleweight who has never lost in Bellator faces a former Strikeforce and DREAM champion, while an undefeated Welterweight with “Venom” in his veins takes on a “Caveman” from the United States. This card has all the dynamite it needs even without local favorite Paul “Semtex” Daley.
Let’s break it down:
185 lbs.: Rafael Carvalho (15-1) vs. Gegard Mousasi (43-6-2)
Middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho hasn’t lost a fight since 2011, his DEBUT as a pro in mixed martial arts. You might think that would be a bigger deal than it is. Unfortunately Carvalho has been handicapped by controversial fights and international title defenses that air on tape delay, diminishing his opportunities to shine as a star. Although this is yet another fight that will be time shifted for broadcast on Paramount Network, Carvalho’s opponent is a huge opportunity to raise his stature with both the casual fans and the hardcore MMA followers.
In a career spanning over 50 fights, Gegard Mousasi has been everywhere and done nearly everything an athlete in this sport can accomplish other than winning a UFC title. He seemed to be headed in that direction with a five fight win streak under his belt before his surprising jump to Bellator in 2017. Given his pedigree as a two weight class DREAM champion and former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champion it only took one Bellator victory to put him into contention albeit a controversial one. The normally easy-going Mousasi did not take criticism of his win kindly.
If Mousasi is looking to answer the critics of his last performance there would be no better way to do so than by handing Carvalho his first loss in almost a decade. If you’re not that familiar with the king of 185ers in Bellator though here’s a news flash — that’s not an easy ask. He’s a broad and thick 6’3” with a 78” wingspan, and just looking at him I’m often surprised he makes the Middleweight cut. It probably helps that he’s still 31 years young. When you consider that Mousasi has been a champion at both 185 and 205 lbs. and he stands 6’2” with a 76” reach, that should tell you just how much weight Carvalho cuts for his title defenses. He always makes the mark though and then finds it with his strikes.
In the end this is the classic case of experience versus exuberance. Although they are only a year apart in age, they are a WORLD apart in terms of fights, and there’s no question at all that Mousasi has fought higher caliber opponents. He’s beaten Ovince Saint Preux, Dan Henderson, Mark Hunt, Jacare Souza and Vitor Belfort just to name a few. 23 of 43 wins (53%) have come by knockout and 12 of them (28%) by submission. Mousasi’s accuracy and ground game are kryptonite to even the hardest hitters and deadliest jiu-jitsu black belts. The biggest advantage in Carvalho’s pocket may simply be that he hasn’t worn as much tread off his tires as the experienced Mousasi. The bad news is that blowing through Alessio Sakara isn’t the kind of experience Carvalho needed to prepare for a world class fighter. Until now Carvalho has outmatched almost every opponent before the fight even started -- not this time.
Final prediction: Gegard Mousasi collects another belt for his trophy case via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Michael Page (12-0) vs. David Rickels (19-4, 2 NC)
If the last two fights didn’t already have you salivating this one should definitely kick your combat sports hunger into overdrive. Michael “Venom” Page is the undefeated phenom of the Welterweight division, and while his last fight left fans wanting more, his usual M.O. is flashy highlight reel finishes. Only two of his twelve fights have gone the distance. Rickels has gone to a decision seven times but “The Caveman” would much rather bang out a stoppage by any means necessary. In fact even though he’s got six submissions on his record, Rickels hasn’t tapped anybody out since Bellator 53 in 2011. On paper this has the makings of a quick and decisive bout either way and while I love Rickels’ propensity to sprawl and brawl, it’s the roundhouse kicks and flying knees of Page that will win the day.
Final prediction: Michael Page hits the button and turns the lights off on Rickels in round one
205 lbs.: Phil Davis (18-4, 1 NC) vs. Linton Vassell (18-6, 1 NC)
“Mr. Wonderful” Phil Davis would love to get the Light Heavyweight title back but he’s got two problems: the champion Ryan Bader has already beaten him twice, and in any case unavailable as he just fought in the Heavyweight Grand Prix two weeks ago. What’s a brother to do? Fight two time No. 1 contender “The Swarm” Linton Vassell instead. Vassell is ALSO on a quest for redemption after a defeat by Bader, so neither man can get what they want without going through the other. You know their stats well by now but in brief: Davis is 6’1” with a lanky 79” reach, Vassell is even bigger at 6’4” and 82”. What Davis lacks in stature to his opponent he makes up for in his superb wrestling pedigree, but Vassell has shown great improvement in that facet of his game. The biggest edge I can give here to Davis is strictly on the basis of the world class talent he’s faced in the past and trains with at Alliance MMA at present.
Final prediction: Phil Davis wrestles his way to a three-round unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Anastasia Yankova (5-0) vs. Kate Jackson (9-3-1)
A late addition to the main card that was originally scheduled for the Bellator app preliminary bouts, the popular and beautiful Yankova is a prospect on the rise who is dangerous on the ground and still developing in her stand-up. The more experienced Jackson will test that chin as a home grown favorite from Cornwall with five wins by knockout. Unfortunately she did not look good against Valerie Letourneau which may not bode well for her in the future. Letourneau looks like the fighter she always could have been in UFC at her “natural weight” and at 5’5” that may be even more true for Yankova. It all depends on how much Jackson revamped her striking since that humbling Bellator 191 loss.
Final prediction: Anastasia Yankova wins via split decision
163 lbs.: Aaron Chalmers (3-0) vs. Ash Griffiths (4-5)
This fight is on the main card because Chalmers is a reality TV show star who actually managed to parlay that into a successful MMA career, going 3-0 in the BAMMA promotion. He’s been granted the opportunity by BAMMA to fight for Bellator and in turn Bellator has granted him the opportunity to wax and tax a scrub. Ash Griffiths hasn’t won a fight in three years and tomorrow won’t be the night he turns things around. If anybody ought to be pursuing a career in reality television it’s him.
Final prediction: Aaron Chalmers wins via first round technical knockout
185 lbs.: Mike Shipman (11-1) vs. Carl Noon (7-2)
Mike “Seabass” Shipman has run off 11 straight wins since a loss in his pro debut, earning finishes in all 11 of those fights (seven knockouts, four submissions). That’s obviously what earned him the spot on this card, but Lancaster’s Carl Noon shouldn’t be overlooked. He’s been out of action for a long time (seven years according to Sherdog) but before a loss at BAMMA 7 seemingly derailed his career he had run off seven straight wins including three knockouts and three submissions. Shipman is the heavy favorite here but Noon is one hell of an X factor since there’s no way of knowing what kind of ammo he brings to this fight after so long and whether or not he’s still capable of firing it off in rapid succession.
Final prediction: Mike Shipman wins by second round anaconda choke
That’s a wrap!
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