Bellator returns to SSE Arena in London, England this Saturday with a packed card full of 19 bouts. Below are my predictions for the three bouts scheduled for Bellator London and the five bouts scheduled for Bellator 223 (see broadcast plans here).
Middleweight title bout: Gegard Mousasi vs. Rafael Lovato Jr.
Mousasi (45-6-2) is 3-0 in Bellator and is riding an eight-fight win streak overall that includes notable wins over Rory MacDonald, Chris Weidman and Thiago Santos. He is one of the best fighters in the world and might be a champion in the UFC right now had he stayed there. Lovato Jr. (9-0) is 5-0 in the UFC and perfect in his MMA career with all but one of his wins coming by stoppage. Although Lovato Jr.’s submission game is elite, he is taking a massive step up in competition here against a stud in Mousasi. I just can’t see him pulling off the upset in this one against a fighter as well-rounded and as dangerous as Mousasi is. I like Mousasi to defend the middleweight title in this fight, and considering that it’s scheduled for five rounds, look for him to win by stoppage within the 25 minutes.
Pick: Gegard Mousasi
Middleweight bout: Melvin Manhoef vs. Kent Kauppinen
Manhoef (30-14-1, 2 NC) is 2-3, 1 NC in Bellator and at age 43 appears to be on a significant decline. Once known for his ferocious knockout power, Manhoef hasn’t won a fight since 2015 and is coming off of a brutal knockout loss to Rafael Carvalho in his last fight. His chin just isn’t there anymore. Kauppinen (11-4) is 1-1 in Bellator and is coming off of a brutal KO win over Alessio Sakara. This fight has upset alert written all over it. Although Kauppinen isn’t a big name, he has serious KO power and Manhoef’s chin is gone. The pick is Kauppinen by knockout.
Pick: Kent Kauppinen
Catchweight (160lbs) bout: Aaron Chalmers vs. Fred Freeman
Chalmers (4-1) is 1-1 in Bellator including a surprising submission loss to Corey Browning in his last fight. Freeman (1-1) lost to Kevin Ferguson Jr. in his own Bellator debut. Although I don’t think much of Chalmers, I expect him to get the win here, and he likely does so by submission.
Pick: Aaron Chalmers
Welterweight bout: Paul Daley vs. Erick Silva
Daley (40-17-2) is 6-4 overall in Bellator though he is coming off of back-to-back decision losses to Jon Fitch and Michael Page. He’s one of the all-time greatest knockout artists in welterweight division history, but at age 36 is no longer an elite fighter. Silva (20-10, 1 NC) is 0-1 in Bellator and is a shell of the former great fighter he once was. Now 34, Silva is much older in fight years and his chin is gone. I like Daley in this fight a lot, and I think he wins it by brutal KO.
Pick: Paul Daley
Catchweight (140lbs) bout: James Gallagher vs. Jeremiah Labiano
Gallagher (8-1) is just 22-years-old and has racked up a 5-1 record in Bellator. Aside from a surprising KO loss to Ricky Bandejas, the Irishman has really excelled in Bellator and the majority of his wins have come by stoppage. Labiano (12-6) is 32-years-old and has a 3-2 record in Bellator. The American is coming off of a TKO win over Justin Smitley to bounce back from a decision loss to Noad Lahat. Although Labiano has more experience, Bellator clearly wants Gallagher to win this fight and I expect him do so in impressive fashion. Gallagher by TKO or submission seems likely here.
Pick: James Gallagher
Middleweight bout: Fabian Edwards vs. Jonathan Bosuku
Edwards (7-0) is the brother of star UFC welterweight Leon Edwards and is already 3-0 in Bellator which includes a highlight-reel upkick KO in his last fight. At just 26-years-old the Brit looks like a future star for the promotion. Bosuku (7-4) is making his Bellator debut after five straight wins on the regional scene. Just 23, the France product looks solid but he’s getting a difficult matchup here against a stud in Edwards. Look for Edwards to finish this fight.
Pick: Fabian Edwards
Middleweight bout: Mike Shipman vs. Costello van Steenis
Shipman (13-1) is a perfect 4-0 in Bellator and overall has won 13 straight fights since losing his MMA debut back in 2013. Van Steenis (11-1) is 3-0 in Bellator and is riding a five-fight win streak overall, including a notable split decision nod over Chris Honeycutt his last time out. This is a solid fight here between two top prospects, but I have to go with Shipman here, and he probably gets a finish.
Pick: Mike Shipman
Middleweight bout: Charlie Ward vs. Justin Moore
Ward (6-3) has won three straight fights in Bellator by first-round KO to bounce back after getting released by the UFC in 2017. Moore (7-2) is making his Bellator debut and is coming off of a submission loss, so you can tell who the Bellator matchmakers want to win here. Although I don’t completely trust Ward, I have to pick him here to get another knockout win.
Pick: Charlie Ward
Who are your picks for Bellator London and Bellator 223?