Bellator 234: “Kharitonov vs. Vassell” comes to Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Nov. 14, 2019, airing via tape delay in the United States the following evening (Fri., Nov. 15, 2019). Heavyweights duel in the night’s top fight as one seeks to extend his legend, while the other hopes to derail a slow decline.
Let’s break it down:
265 lbs.: Sergei Kharitonov (30-7, 2 NC) vs. Linton Vassell (19-8, 1 NC)
“Paratrooper” Sergei Kharitonov may as well be dropping in by air on his unsuspecting opponents at this point. He’s gone unbeaten in his last eight fights and just finished Matt Mitrione in a main event rematch. Aging seems to effect every weight class in mixed martial arts (MMA) other than Heavyweight, where as long as you’ve got decent stand-up and effective takedown defense you can stay relevant into your mid-40’s. Therefore, Kharitonov may just be starting his run toward a world title at 39 years old. So long as he keeps winning a title shot is not only eventual but inevitable.
The direction Linton Vassell is heading in is not a third title shot — it’s a pink slip. “The Swarm” tried to stop a two fight slide by moving up from 205 pounds and lost his third consecutive fight instead. I was a fan of Vassell going up to Heavyweight and I still am — at 6’4” with an 82-inch wingspan he’s highly suited to the weight class. Not having to cut weight should have made him stronger and more dangerous, but unfortunately it didn’t give him more cardio. He’s had plenty of time to correct this mistake since March, and yet all of his momentum is going in the wrong direction while all of Kharitonov’s is going in the opposite. Newton’s First Law explains the outcome nicely.
Final prediction: Sergei Kharitonov wins by knockout in the second round
155 lbs.: Roger Huerta (24-11-1, 1 NC) vs. Sidney Outlaw (13-3)
Speaking of fighters who don’t realize that staying in motion is a deficit, the ever-moving Roger “El Matador” Huerta lives for excitement and dies by its metaphorical sword. When you’re always coming forward you make it far too predictable what you’re going to do next, which is why Benson Henderson choked him out and Patricky Freire knocked him out. You might think Sidney Outlaw was brought in to help him turn things around, but Outlaw hasn’t lost a contest since facing Gregor Gillespie and earns 50 percent of his wins via submission. That doesn’t bode well for a man who seems to have a lot of energy and not much ring IQ.
Final prediction: Sidney Outlaw wins by armbar in round one
185 lbs.: Austin Vanderford (8-0) vs. Grachik Bozinyan (10-3)
After a successful transition to Middleweight, Austin Vanderford seems comfortable with staying at this weight going forward and probably will be until he faces someone the size of Anthony “Rumble” Johnson making a ridiculously dangerous weight cut. Since Vanderford stands 5’11” and his opponent Grachik Bozinyan stands 6’0,” this isn’t the time he rethinks his life choices. Bozinyan finishes 67 percent of his opponents by submission, but provided Vanderford avoids being swept after his trademark takedowns, his nasty ground and pound should prove to be Bozinyan’s downfall.
Final prediction: Austin Vanderford via third round technical knockout
170 lbs.: Haim Gozali (11-6) vs. Artur Pronin (16-3)
“Israel Batman” Haim Gozali is currently on a three-fight win streak at 46 years old and remains one of the most popular figures in the sport in his native country to this day. He’s facing a man 15 years his junior who is on a seven fight win streak in Artur Pronin, but given Pronin specializes in the ground game (56 percent of his wins) the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt undoubtedly feels he is invincible on home soil if that’s the game Pronin wants to play.
Final prediction: Haim Gozali wins by submission in round one
155 lbs.: Aviv Gozali (3-0) vs. Zaka Fatullazade (14-8)
On paper, Haim’s son Aviv Gozali faces an even bigger challenge in the vastly more experienced Fatullazade, but look more closely and you’ll see he’s facing a man who was knocked out in under two minutes just two months ago. Aviv’s ground game is even better than his father’s because he’s young and fearless — he’s the type to pull guard to START a fight just to go for a quick submission.
Final prediction: Aviv Gozali wins via submission in round one
That’s a wrap!
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