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Bellator 202 predictions, preview for 'Budd vs Nogueira’ on Paramount Network

Talita Nogueira
Bellator MMA

Bellator 202: “Budd vs. Nogueira” takes place tomorrow night (Fri., July 13, 2018) at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma. The women’s Featherweight champion and the No. 1-ranked division contender will have a showdown in the main event as the “Jewel” of the women’s division seeks to put another diamond in her crown when she takes on an undefeated rising star.

Let’s break it down:

145 lbs.: Julia Budd (11-2) vs. Talita Nogueira (7-0)

Julia Budd has had an eight-year journey through the world of mixed martial arts (MMA) until today, one which included stops in both Strikeforce and Invicta, one which featured fights with pioneers and legends of women’s combat sports like Ronda Rousey (which she lost) and Marloes Coenen (which she won). Suffice it to say that in her career she has faced all of the best women available to her at the time, and tomorrow night’s world title fight will be no exception. She’ll be putting both her Featherweight title and her nine-fight win streak dating back to 2012 on the line.

The difficulty for Nogueira coming in is that Budd is absolutely the best fighter she has ever faced in her young career. She looked impressive in her Bellator debut, but she was facing a career 5-4 fighter at the time. At 5’10” with a 70-inch reach, she’s a tall and lanky Featherweight, but with her takedown game it benefits Budd to be a little shorter at 5’8” with a 67-inch reach. There’s good news for Nogueira, though — that game looked ineffective in her last fight, though it may have been because Arlene Blencowe already knew Budd so well given it was a rematch.

The pressure is on Budd to show and prove why she’s the reigning queen of Bellator at 145. A less than stellar title defense, which the crowd in this same building was booing by the fourth round, left no one satisfied with the split decision at the end of the night. Nogueira literally has nothing to lose in the biggest fight of her life, and with seven out of seven wins by finish (two knockouts and five submissions) there really is no one better to face Budd. A loss for Nogueira won’t reflect badly on her in her first world title match but Budd will go from looking exposed by Blencowe to being exposed by Nogueira if she does what Rousey once did to her — grab an arm and try to rip it off her shoulder.

Final prediction: Julia Budd retains via five round split decision

135 lbs.: Eduardo Dantas (20-5) vs. Michael McDonald (18-4)

Eduardo Dantas is looking to bounce back from a loss against Michael “Mayday” McDonald in the co-main event of the evening. A former No. 1-ranked Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight contender and well rounded fighter with finishes in 83 percent of his wins (15 of 18), the only downside to McDonald is that he has very bad luck with injuries. He’ll look to shake that off and pick up his second Bellator win. It’s a coin flip on paper, though, as the former champion Dantas is 5’10” with a 69-inch reach and 50 percent of his wins being a finish (four knockouts, six submissions), while McDonald is two inches shorter in height, but one-inch longer in reach. The winner is knocking on Darrion Caldwell’s door.

Final prediction: Michael McDonald edges out a majority decision

185 lbs.: Chris Honeycutt (10-2, 1 NC) vs. Leo Leite (10-1)

Leo Leite comes in with something to prove after losing a unanimous decision to Phil Davis in his Bellator debut. It’s still the only loss on his record so that’s a plus, and he’s a multiple time Judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion in international competition, in addition to being a former Legacy FC champion before the promotion merged with Resurrection Fighting Alliance. Chris Honeycutt has something to prove as well after Rafael Lovato Jr. snapped his four fight win streak. The four year promotional veteran has TKO’d four Bellator opponents and was a two time NCAA All-American at Edinboro, so he’s as good on the feet as he is taking foes down. Honeycutt stands 5’10” with a 73-inch reach while Leite stands 6’1” with a 75-inch reach, so the size would seem to dictate Honeycutt wrestles with Leite, but giving a jiu-jitsu champion a chance to work off his back isn’t necessarily wise. Leite only has two technical knockout wins so his stand-up game may be lacking, so if Honeycutt can use footwork and pressure, this one’s his for the taking.

Final prediction: Chris Honeycutt via unanimous decision

265 lbs.: Valentin Moldavsky (7-1) vs. Ernest James (1-0)

This very late addition to the main card of Bellator 202 doesn’t present much opportunity for research either fighter in terms of timing or the record of one of the two men in the fight. James is 6’3” and 265 pounds, so he’s packing some serious meat on his bones, and he hails from the Dethrone camp. His opponent, however, we have a full dossier on. He’s one of those Stary Oskol fighters from Russia (think Fedor) and for a Heavyweight he’s a little bit small (6’1” and 235 pounds), but he’s got great submission skills (three of six wins). I’m going to go with the guy who probably has Emelianenko on his contacts list. The only ding on his record would be that he hasn’t fought since Bellator 181 almost one year ago — that’s a long period to be on the sidelines.

Final prediction: Valentin Moldavsky via second round submission

That’s a wrap! will deliver coverage of Bellator 202 “Budd vs. Nogueira” tomorrow with Paramount Network fights starting at 9 p.m. ET. To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.

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