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Bellator 231 predictions, preview for ‘Mir vs Nelson 2’

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UFC 130: Mir vs. Nelson Photo by Al Bello/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Bellator 231: “Mir vs. Nelson 2” comes to Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., tomorrow night (Fri., Oct. 25, 2019), featuring a renewed Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) rivalry between Heavyweight veterans Frank Mir and Roy Nelson inside the confines of Scott Coker’s cage.

Let’s break it down:

265 lbs.: Frank Mir (18-13) vs. Roy Nelson (23-17)

On the strength of their name value this is unquestionably a main event in any arena. And on the strength of their recent performances these fighters have nobody left to face but each other. Frank Mir has been on a four-fight slide, suffering his most humiliating loss to date when journeyman Javy Ayala knocked him out at Bellator 212. Roy Nelson beat Ayala in his Bellator MMA debut, but has dropped three straight bouts since. Nelson may be nearing the tail-end of his career at 43 years old, and at 40 years old Mir isn’t too far behind him.

A normal prediction would involve which fighter has the bigger upside in a fight. In this case, it actually boils down to who has the bigger downside. While Nelson has shown a remarkable resiliency in withering wars, Frank Mir has proven himself susceptible to the least little glove touching his chin. In wrestling ability they’d be closely matched, in Brazilian jiu-jitsu ability Mir would easily be the superior fighter, but being made of glass is not an attribute you want when “Big Country” is standing across the cage. Even though Mir owns the first win in this series, Nelson is clearly the man who has more gas left in his tank.

Final prediction: Roy Nelson via first round knockout

205 lbs.: Phil Davis (20-5, 1 NC) vs. Karl Albrektsson (9-2)

Bellator MMA was supposed to be the place where “Mr. Wonderful” Phil Davis finally reached the peak of his career and asserted his dominance at Light Heavyweight. At Bellator 163 it appeared that his time had finally arrived, but once Ryan “Darth” Bader followed him over from UFC to Bellator, Bader proved he’s still Kryptonite to Davis. Since then the former champion tried to go on a run to earn a trilogy fight, but a loss to Vadim Nemkov took away the chance for a rematch with the “champ-champ” any time soon.

Davis, 35, now finds himself at a career crossroad where title shots will be increasingly elusive given he owns divisional Bellator wins over everyone but the aforementioned Bader and Nemkov, and beating Nemkov in a rematch may be his only hope. In the meantime, he has to take fights just to stay busy, which puts a huge target on his back for every younger fighter who would love to follow in Nemkov’s footsteps and knock off a former champion.

Karl Albrektsson is the new man to get that opportunity.

“King” Albrektsson is an unknown quantity outside his run in Rizin, and while he owns a split decision win over Nemkov, he’s also lost a decision to Valentin Moldavsky and been knocked out by Jiri Prochazka. The good news is that he’s got nearly a decade on Davis at 26 years old, he’s on a three-fight win streak that includes two knockouts, and 77 percent of his wins (seven of nine) are finishes. The danger for Albrektsson is going the distance, and Davis is excellent in situations that go to the judges — 50 percent of his wins (10 of 20) come that way. The way Nemkov turned the tables on Davis was to out-wrestle him, and given how few times Albrektsson has gone the distance compared to Davis that seems statistically unlikely.

Final prediction: Phil Davis via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Ed Ruth (7-1) vs. Jason Jackson (10-3)

The lone defeat on Ed Ruth’s record comes via Neiman Gracie in the Welterweight Grand Prix. He simply wore out Ruth with one submission attempt after another until his defenses finally withered in the fourth round. Ruth bounced back strongly from that showing by blasting the experienced Kiichi Kunimoto earlier this year in Oklahoma. A few successive wins could find him right back in the mix to face either Rory MacDonald or Douglas Lima.

Although Jason Jackson had a stint on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 21 and lost his chance at redemption on Dana White’s “Contenders Series,” he’s currently on a three-fight win streak dating back to Bellator 204. That makes Jackson a worthy opponent for Ruth, particularly given he’s more experienced overall, but Ruth is a three-time NCAA champion from Penn State University. The only time that’s bit him in the ass so far was when he faced someone even more decorated in jiu-jitsu than he was at wrestling. With respect Jackson is neither of those things so there’s a high percentage chance Ruth will take him down and smash his face.

Final prediction: Ed Ruth via second round technical knockout

125 lbs.: Bec Rawlings (7-8) vs. Ilara Joanne (8-4)

If entertainment value alone made fighters winners, “Rowdy” Bec Rawlings would be undefeated as a professional. I say this with an admitted bias given I followed her career back in the Invicta FC days and covered several of her fights live. I was happy to see her make it to the UFC, and in turn equally frustrated by how unsuccessful she was there, finally getting bounced out of the promotion after four straight losses. Since there’s always going to be a place for people with her amount of charisma in combat spots she went to bare knuckle boxing for a while, but I’m much happier to see her return to mixed martial arts (MMA).

Ilara Joanne is not a tomato can for Rawlings to knock over, though. She may be 2-2 in her last four fights, but she’s five years younger than Rawlings and seeking her third straight win in her Bellator debut. The good news for Rawlings is that she’s taller (5’6” to 5’3”) and more experienced in combat sports. That’s also the bad news — Rawlings has been in some brutal wars that may have taken years off her career. Her performance in her own Bellator debut is going to be telling. If she can rekindle the flame of her younger days “Rowdy” will put on a stellar performance and be an instant fan favorite. If she’s handed a lopsided decision by the younger and smaller Joanne, she may be one and done in the promotion.

Final prediction: Bec Rawlings by split decision

265 lbs.: Jake Hager (2-0) vs. Anthony Garrett (3-1)

Jake Hager returns to the Bellator cage for his third fight on Friday night despite splitting his time with All Elite Wrestling on Wednesday nights. Many is the fighter who have tried and failed to pull double duty, ultimately having to give up one for the other — just ask “King Mo” Lawal, among others. Hager benefits from the fact that Bellator MMA has protected him thus far with highly beatable opponents, and given Garrett’s last fight was a technical knockout loss a year ago the decorated amateur (and pro) wrestler should have no problems here.

Final prediction: Jake Hager via ground-and-pound technical knockout in round one

That’s a wrap! will deliver coverage of Bellator 231 tomorrow with a main card at 9 p.m. ET on Paramount Network and DAZN, with “Prelims” undercard bouts starting at 7 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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