Bellator 235: “USO Presents - Salute the Troops” comes to Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, Hawaii, tomorrow night (Sat., Dec. 20, 2019), streaming live online via DAZN. A legendary “Warmaster” of mixed martial arts (MMA), Josh Barnett, will make his promotional debut against a fellow former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) veteran, Ronny Markes, in the Heavyweight main event, which is free for all military service personnel and families.
Let’s break it down!
265 lbs.: Josh Barnett (35-8) vs. Ronny Markes (19-7)
After a three-year layoff from active competition, Barnett, 42, returns to the fight game having just celebrated a birthday in November. There was no time to sit down and eat cake for “The Warmaster,” though. Barnett was hard at work getting into his best physical shape, and as a former UFC Heavyweight and Pancrase Openweight champion, that’s something Barnett has never been short on (sometimes to his own detriment). He comes into the promotion with a clean slate and a hunger to win not seen since he beat Andrei Arlovski in 2016. At 6’3” with a 78-inch reach and outstanding “catch as catch can” wrestling technique, he’s a monster on the feet and the ground for any opponent.
Youthfulness definitely benefits Markes in this bout, being 11 years the junior of Barnett at 31 years old. At 6’1” with a 75-inch reach he could compete at either 205 or 265 pounds, but he’s actually fought as high as Super Heavyweight, winning a King of the Cage title in the process. Consistency is not his hallmark, though. He’s had a journeyman’s career competing in UFC, World Series of Fighting (WSOF), Shooto and most recently Professional Fight League (PFL), among others. Although he went on a 14-1 run to start his career, his 5-6 record since includes three knockouts and two submissions. His track record is to lose to any opposition above his level — Yoel Romero, Brandon Halsey, Thiago Santos, etc. He’s missed weight a remarkable number of times as well. With all these deficits simply being younger is not enough of an asset.
Final prediction: Josh Barnett submits Ronny Markes with a kimura in round one
170 lbs.: Joey Davis (6-0) vs. Chris Cisneros (19-10)
Barnett is fond of the phrase “I tell it like it is,” so out of respect to the legend I feel I should be just as honest with all of you about this fight. Joey Davis is being fed a tomato can so he can remain undefeated. I’d like to give “The Maverick” Chris Cisneros more credit than that, but I’ve looked at the numbers, I’ve looked at his fights, and I just can’t do it. He’s lost three straight bouts coming in to face Davis. He hasn’t knocked anybody out in three years. He hasn’t submitted anyone in six years. He had one other fight in Bellator eight years ago and got finished by Ben Saunders. To suggest Cisneros has even a shadow of a chance against Davis would be to disrespect the fact that Davis was a flawless 133-0 in his collegiate wrestling career and has knocked out 66 percent of his opposition as a professional fighter.
Final prediction: Joey Davis via first round technical knockout
125 lbs.: Alejandra Lara (8-3) vs. Veta Arteaga (5-3)
It’s hard to come by contenders in a division the undefeated Ilima-Lei Macfarlane has cleaned out. In fact, Macfarlane has already defeated both Alejandra Lara and Veta Arteaga in title defenses — the former at Bellator 201 and the latter earlier this year at Bellator 220. Nevertheless, with her title fight against Kate Jackson headlining the same venue on Saturday night it behooves Bellator to showcase its talent at 125 pounds. Although Lara is only 2-2 over her last four fights, one loss was a split decision and the other was the aforementioned title fight. There’s not much to learn from her win over a sub-500 opponent at Bellator 225, but the young (25) Colombian fighter still seems to have more upside. Indeed, 50 percent of her wins come by knockout and that kind of power is hard to come by in the smaller weight classes. Veta Arteaga is tough, but at 5’4” she’s not got either the size or reach of the 5’7” Lara, and unless she can press Lara to the cage and take her down it won’t go her way.
Final prediction: Alejandra Lara via third round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Toby Misech (10-6) vs. Erik Perez (19-6)
This is the Bellator MMA debut for “Goyito” Erik Perez, a former UFC fighter who was inexplicably let go off of three straight wins who has since gone on to win two more bouts in Combate Americas. He finishes almost 66 percent of his wins (four knockouts, eight submissions) and has a natural flair for showmanship that Bellator obviously couldn’t pass up on. Don’t be surprised if he wears a lucha libre mask to the cage. Misech is a durable if unspectacular fighter who tends to lose to anyone half decent (Ricky Palacios, Eduardo Dantas, et cetera). Perez is more than half decent so the result is fairly obvious.
Final predictions: Erik Perez via first round submission
145 lbs.: Tywan Claxton (5-1) vs. Braydon Akeo (3-0)
If you’re looking to add a little excitement to a card, “Air” Tywan Claxton is your man. He won four of his first five fights by knockout including some spectacular displays that are now permanently part of the Bellator MMA highlight reel. Unfortunately for Claxton his unbeaten streak came to an end when Emmanuel Sanchez submitted him in a first round bout for the Featherweight Grand Prix. Now he has a chance to return the favor and hand Braydon Akeo his first loss. The recent open invitation tryout in Hawaii put Akeo on Bellator’s radar, and in his short career he’s finished 66 percent of his fights via strikes. Will that be enough to propel him past a former collegiate wrestling standout who seems to have a natural gift for the stand-up game? Unless he can out-wrestle him the way Sanchez did, the answer is, “No.”
Final prediction: Tywan Claxton via second round technical knockout
That’s a wrap!
MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator Salute the Troops tomorrow with a main card at 10 p.m. ET on DAZN/Paramount Network. To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.