The weekend is here, and so is another fight night! We’ve got two of MMANews’ finest here to bring you their expert analysis and predictions for the fights scheduled for the main card of tonight’s Bellator 194: Mitrione vs. Nelson event.
Bellator MMA came out swinging in 2018, as they kicked off their Bellator Heavyweight Championship Grand Prix with the event headlined by Chael Sonnen vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson last month. With Sonnen advancing, he will wait to see who wins between Fedor Emelianenko and Frank Mir in April to find out who his second-round dancing partner will be.
The other side of the straight-line tournament bracket kicks off this evening when Matt Mitrione and Roy “Big Country” Nelson square off to determine the second quarterfinalist in the tournament. The winner will go on to fight the winner of the Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal vs. Ryan Bader fight in March.
The Bellator 194 main card tonight features the following scheduled matchups:
- Matt Mitrione vs. Roy “Big Country” Nelson (Heavyweights)
- Patricky “Pitbull” Freire vs. Derek Campos (Lightweights)
- Liam McGeary vs. Vadim Nemkov (Light Heavyweights)
- Heather Hardy vs. Ana Julaton (Women’s Flyweights)
- Tywan Claxton vs. Jose Antonio Perez (Featherweights)
MMANews.com staff writer Matt Boone and MMA News Podcast host Tim Thompson will be giving their picks for this installment of our Staff Predictions Roundtable. Check out their analysis and predictions for tonight’s main card fights below.
Bellator 194: Mitrione vs. Nelson Staff Predictions
Tywan Claxton (1-0) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (0-1)
Matt Boone: In the main card opener, Tywan Claxton gets the “showcase fight” treatment as he battles Jose Perez. “Speedy” Claxton comes into this one the biggest favorite on the card despite only having one pro MMA bout, as he is an enormous -1700 favorite by the folks at BestFightOdds.com. Conversely, Jose Antonio Perez, who is 0-1 in his MMA career, comes into this one a +800 favorite. Clear case of a showcase fight for Claxton, who should get it done by KO or TKO inside three rounds to kick the main card off on the Paramount network. (Prediction: Tywan Claxton)
Tim Thompson: Tywan Claxton is a superstar waiting to happen. While this seems like a bit of a squash match, it’s nice to see Bellator give a little push to one of their wrestlers. Claxton finished his last fight with a highlight real flying knee, look for him to show his hands again tonight. (Prediction: Tywan Claxton wins via KO RD 1)
Consensus: Tywan Claxton
Heather Hardy (1-1) vs. Ana Julaton (2-3)
Matt: This is the return of Heather Hardy, who the executives at Bellator expect to be a future star for the company. Although she lost in her last trip to the Bellator cage, Hardy showed guts and fighting spirit, which gained her even more fans. She is 1-1 in her venture into MMA thus far after coming off of a near-flawless 20-0, 1 NC professional boxing record. Ana Ulaton is a former pro boxer as well, although she didn’t have as flashy a career. She is 2-3 in her pro MMA career, coming into this fight on a two fight losing streak. The odds makers have Hardy favored by a solid margin at -315 to +285 for Ulaton. I think Hardy should pick up her much-needed second MMA win this weekend at the Mohegan Sun. (Prediction: Heather Hardy)
Tim: Heather Hardy was Bellator’s big female signing and in her two pro fights she has lived up to the hype. Even in her loss to Kristina Williams she displayed unreal toughness. Even with the weight mishap, look for Hardy to rebound. (Prediction: Heather Hardy wins via UD)
Consensus: Heather Hardy
Liam McGeary (12-2) vs. Vadim Nemkov (8-2)
Matt: A former Bellator Champion, McGeary comes into this one looking to return to the win track after a loss to Linton Vassell in his last outing. He picked up one win over Brett McDermott back in February of 2017 after losing his title via decision to Phil Davis in November of 2016. Nemkov is looking to improve to a perfect 2-0 inside the Bellator cage as he rides a three fight win streak coming into this weekend’s event. The odds makers have McGeary favored just slightly at -115, with Nemkov at +105. This is a fight I would steer clear from in terms of gambling, but if I’m forced to make a pick, I’d go with McGeary. This could easily go either way, though. (Prediction: Liam McGeary)
Tim: Nemkov looks to continue his success in his second Bellator fight. Drawing former champion McGeary is tough. Even though he has lost 2 of his last 3, McGeary does well against strikers. (Prediction: Liam McGeary wins via TKO RD 2)
Consensus: Liam McGeary
Patricky “Pitbull” Freire (18-8) vs. Derek Campos (19-6)
Matt: Patricky Pitbull is riding some great momentum following his setback against Michael Chandler, having picked up a KO victory over MMA legend Josh Thomson and a decision over former UFC/WEC Champion Benson Henderson in his last outing. Campos comes into this fight 4-0 since back-to-back losses to Brandon Girtz and Michael Chandler, with one of the four wins being a win over Girtz in a rematch in his last outing. The odds makers are favoring Freire in this one by more than two-to-one, and I’d have to agree. Patricky should get his hand raised this weekend in Uncasville. (Prediction: Patricky Freire)
Tim: The common bet here is to put money down on Pitbull by KO, but you shouldn’t look past Campos. Campos is tough and on a great run in the prime of his career. This fight is a big step for him. (Prediction: Derek Campos wins via SD)
Consensus: DRAW (one vote each)
Matt Mitrione (12-5) vs. Roy “Big Country” Nelson (23-14)
Matt: Meathead vs. Big Country part deux. This one should be exciting. Many feel Mitrione is the only one to get a bump wrap with the Grand Prix assignment, as it positions him to need to win three fights to claim the Heavyweight title. For everyone else, it’s a fast-track way to get to the gold. These two fought previously in the UFC when Nelson TKO’d Mitrione way back in 2012 at the TUF 16 Finale. Coming into the fight, Mitrione is riding a three fight win streak, as he remains undefeated inside the Bellator cage, with all of his wins (including his most recent against MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko) coming by way of KO or TKO. Nelson comes into the fight 2-1 in his last three, with a decision over Javy Ayala in his Bellator debut in his last fight. The odds makers have Mitrione a -175 favorite and Nelson a +165 underdog. If you’re betting money, a wager on Nelson is worth it. I like his odds of winning again despite the momentum being on Mitrione’s side coming into the cage this weekend. I’ve got Nelson winning. (Prediction: Roy Nelson)
Tim: It is so hard to predict if you are going to get a war or “touch butt in the park” style fight with the Heavyweights. Nelson had an average Bellator debut while Mitrione is still riding high from beating Decor. Mitrione needs to keep to the outside and stay away from the clinch of Nelson. (Prediction: Matt Mitrione wins via TKO RD 2)
Consensus: DRAW (one vote each)
What do you think of the above analysis for Bellator 194? Do you agree or disagree with the predictions? Let us know by sounding off in the Comments section below. Join us via Twitter @mmanews_com this evening for live Bellator 194 results coverage!