Bellator 238: “Budd vs. Cyborg” comes to The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., this weekend (Sat., Jan. 25, 2020), featuring a world champion who has gone undefeated in her Bellator tenure, Julia Budd, facing the most dominant and feared striker in the history of women’s mixed martial arts (MMA), Cris Cyborg, in a gigantic DAZN-streamed main event.
Let’s break it down:
145 lbs.: Julia Budd (13-2) vs. Cris Cyborg (21-2, 1 NC)
Given that both “The Jewel” Julia Budd and Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos were in Strikeforce at the same time, it seems almost inconceivable that the two have never crossed paths before now. It’s worth noting though that Budd went 2-2 in her career during that span, losing via armbar to Ronda Rousey in her most high profile bout. It was only after that defeat that she reinvented herself and went on an 11-fight win streak, running through every opponent she faced in both Invicta and Bellator until she became the inaugural Bellator Featherweight champion in 2017. If anything she has only looked more dominant since claiming the gold.
When it comes to domination, Cyborg practically invented the word in women’s MMA, to the point that more people know her by her nickname than her real name. Even though it was originally on loan from her then husband Evangelista Santos, she has clearly gone on to be the more famous Cyborg of the two. The percentages speak for themselves — 17 of 21 wins by knockout (81 percent) and only two losses in 24 fights (8 percent). Unless your name is Amanda Nunes, standing and trading with her in the center of a cage is a very costly mistake.
At 36 years old for Budd versus 34 for Cyborg, these women are well matched in both age and experience. Budd’s striking is underrated considering she has competed in kickboxing and MMA, scoring 40 percent of her wins by knockout in the former (four of 10) and almost 50 percent in the latter (six of 13). It’s not the fearsome reputation her opponent holds, but at 5’8” with a 70-inch reach she’s equal in size to her opponent with a two-inch reach advantage. There’s also a prevailing belief among prognosticators that Cyborg’s confidence was dented by such a decisive loss to Nunes before the end of her UFC tenure, and weight cutting almost always seems to be an issue for her given her muscular physique.
With over a half-year to prepare for this world title fight since her final bout for Dana White, I’m confident that her own confidence will be well restored and the weight cut will be strenuous but not overwhelming. I also expect Cyborg to fight a very calculated and tactical fight given that Budd likes to pressure opponents and cut angles, taking full advantage of her ability to throw kickboxing strikes that someone moving backward is hard pressed to defend. Knowing that Cyborg will look for Budd to close the distance and counter with a hard overhand right. Budd has a durable chin, but not durable enough for the kind of power Cyborg generates. It won’t end early, but it will end violently.
Final prediction: Cris Cyborg via third round knockout
145 lbs.: Darrion Caldwell (14-3) vs. Adam Borics (14-0)
The Featherweight Grand Prix continues its march through the “Elite Eight” with this second round bout. Former 135-pound champion Caldwell advanced with a strong yet uninspired win against Henry Corrales at Bellator 228. Borics, on the other hand, literally punched his ticket to round two by finishing former 145-pound champion Pat Curran with one second left in round two at Bellator 226. While Kyoji Horiguchi proved to be kryptonite for “The Wolf” Caldwell, “The Kid” Borics remains unblemished to date in his pro career.
Caldwell’s stature and NCAA championship credentials at 149 pounds used to give him an edge over smaller fighters he could overpower standing and take down with ease. Fighting a weight class up means he’s no longer the big fish, and Borics actually stands one inch taller than him at 5’11.” Even though he’ll be punching up his fists will have a shorter distance to travel as Caldwell owns a 74-inch reach, while Borics spans 70.5 inches. Neither is especially proficient at finishing with strikes although Borics holds a slight edge with four knockouts to just two for Caldwell. In submissions they are almost even — five for Caldwell and six for Borics.
The one thing those statistics don’t tell you is that Borics only recently became the powerhouse stand-up striker, having scored knockouts in three of his last four Bellator fights. In fact before joining the league his last knockout had been in 2014 back in his native Hungary. Since he scored those wins over Aaron Pico and Pat Curran you really can’t take anything away from “The Kid.” You can’t say he never faced high caliber competition before Caldwell. You can’t say he never faced world class wrestlers before Caldwell. Being six years younger (26) also gives Borics a speed edge that negates any reach advantage for Caldwell. On paper there’s every reason to favor Borics, but Caldwell could still prove me wrong by turning this into a hump fest round after round.
Final prediction: Adam Borics via second round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Sergio Pettis (18-5) vs. Alfred Khashakyan (11-4)
Signing Sergio Pettis injects much needed fresh blood into Bellator’s Bantamweight division. He can’t consider Alfred Khashakyan a gift wrapped package for his debut, though, much as he might like to. The former competitor on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series may have fallen short in his UFC dreams, but he went on to finish his next three opponents via first round knockout. He’s also much bigger at 5’8” than Pettis, who is small enough to have bounced back and forth between 125 and 135 in his UFC career. Pettis doesn’t exactly come in on a roll either, having dropped three of his last five, though there’s no shame in losing to Henry Cejudo or Jussier Formiga. It should be a measure of my confidence in the Roufusport team that I’m still picking Pettis anyway just because. He’s fought higher level competition in training and in his professional fights than Khashakyan.
Final prediction: Sergio Pettis via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Raymond Daniels (1-1) vs. Jason King (6-5)
Long a legend of the kickboxing circuit, “The Real Deal” Raymond Daniels is only .500 in his professional MMA career, but he spun his way to victory last May and hopes to repeat that in what is essentially a fight in his back yard. To say an 11-fight veteran with wins in three of his last four bouts has no chance would be an abject error. To say that the booking team in Bellator didn’t know what they were doing when they signed Jason King would also be an error. While he’s got a record just above .500 overall, he’s only had one recorded bout outside of Valor Fighting in Tennessee, which means he’s neither well traveled nor has faced the world class level of strikers Daniels has in his career. Expect a flashy finish.
Final prediction: Raymond Daniels via spinning knockout
125 lbs.: Ava Knight (1-0) vs. Emilee Gettys (3-4)
You don’t have to be a professional prognosticator to know where this fight is going either. Ava Knight is a world class boxer with more than a decade of experience and multiple world titles in her trophy case. Emilee Gettys, like Jason King before her, has spent most of her career in Valor Fighting. Clearly Rich Chou or someone who makes matches saw this promotion and thought “They’ll work with us. Let’s get some warm bodies.” Gettys has improved enough to get three straight wins, but she’s still just under .500 overall, and Knight is not going to be fazed by the level of striking she brings to a fight compared to what she’s been through.
Final prediction: Ava Knight via second round technical knockout
145 lbs.: Juan Archuleta (23-2) vs. Henry Corrales (17-4)
Both men are now out of contention in the Featherweight Grand Prix having lost their Bellator 228 fights, but one fighter can save face with a win in his return bout. Of the two, Archuleta has more upside as his loss comes in a world title fight with Patricio Freire, while Corrales lost a boring bout against Darrion Caldwell. In height, age and weight they are “virtually identical” as Mike Goldberg would say, but Corrales has knocked out seven and submitted six, while Archuleta has knocked out 11 and only submitted one of his wins. Archuleta has a “pop” to his striking — the way he winds up, pivots and delivers is close to pinpoint accurate, and even “Pitbull” will tell you he got stung a few times. Corrales is a gritty durable fighter, but doesn’t have nearly the chin or stamina that Freire does.
Final prediction: Juan Archuleta via unanimous decision
That’s a wrap!
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