Bellator 131 comes to you live this Saturday night on Spike TV at 9 PM ET/6 PM PT and is headlined by a clash between two UFC Hall of Famers as Tito Ortiz returns to the Bellator cage to face debuting Stephan Bonnar. Also on the card is a Bellator Lightweight Title fight between incumbent interim champion Will Brooks and the former Bellator Lightweight Champion Michael Chandler. Take a look below for predictions on all of the night’s main card action.
Light-Heavyweight Bout: Tito Ortiz (17-11-1) vs Stephan Bonnar (15-8)
Bellator’s featured bout this Saturday is something that is extremely rare: a bout between two current UFC Hall of Famers. The only other time a bout between to Hall of Famers took place was back at UFC 109 when Randy Couture took on Mark Coleman. Adding an extra degree of uniqueness to the situation is the fact that Ortiz and Bonnar are fighting outside of the Octagon and in the Bellator MMA cage. Nonetheless, this bout is as intriguing inside the cage as it is outside. Put away the entire Hall of Fame “masked man” storylines and you’ve got a great bout between a Tae Kwon Do black belt and a ferocious wrestler.
For Ortiz to win the bout, he needs to get Bonnar to the mat quickly. Ortiz is a decent striker but he would best be served taking Bonnar out of his natural element. Once the fight hits the mat, Ortiz has tons of tools at his disposal. While he his mostly known for his legendary ground and pound, “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” has shown off his Jiu Jitsu skills as of late with his last two victories coming by way of submission. Most recently, Ortiz took just under three minutes to dispatch of then Bellator Middleweight Champion Alexander Shlemenko with an arm triangle choke. Should Bonnar not mind his P’s and Q’s with his takedown defense, it will be a quick night at the office for Ortiz.
Should Ortiz fail to get the fight to the ground, it should be all Bonnar on the feet. While Bonnar has favored a more offensive grappling approach as of late, “The American Psycho” brings in a wide array of striking techniques into the cage which would cause problems for many at 205 pounds. If Bonnar is able to keep the bout standing he needs to target Ortiz’s midsection as two of his last three losses have come at the hands of brutal body shots.
Bonnar has all the tools to give Ortiz fits on the feet, but I don’t see the fight staying there for long. While his offensive grappling game has improved, Bonnar still lacks the takedown defense to give me confidence against Ortiz. Look for Ortiz to inflict serious damage on the mat, but have to settle for a decision due to Bonnar’s toughness and endurance.
Prediction: Tito Ortiz to defeat Stephan Bonnar by unanimous decision.
Bellator Lightweight Title Bout: (ic.) Will Brooks (14-1) vs. Michael Chandler (12-2)
In what is easily the most significant fight of the weekend (UFC 180 and WSOF included), Interim Bellator Lightweight Champion Will Brooks looks to rid the “interim” from his title as he rematches former Champion Michael Chandler in a bout to determine the undisputed champ. The first bout between the two was nothing short of an exciting, scrappy affair with Brooks taking home a split-decision victory.
This bout will be much like the first with both men having their significant moments in the bout. For Brooks, he needs to find a way to damage Chandler early and try to grind him down for a finish later in the rounds. In the first bout, Brooks had major success in the third round which led to a strong fourth round. If Brooks is able to defend Chandler’s takedowns, damage him on the feet, and land a few takedowns of his own, he will walk away as the new champion.
For Chandler, his keys to victory are very similar to Brooks. Chandler was able to win the first two rounds of their initial bout with strong wrestling and top control. One thing Chandler may want to exploit is the possibility that Brooks’ chin is cracked. While Brooks only has one loss in his career, it was an absolutely brutal knockout to Saad Awad. If Chandler is able to touch Brooks’ chin much like he did against David Rickels, it might not have to go to the judges’ scorecards.
While Chandler is the popular pick here, I’m siding with Brooks. I think that the American Top Team fighter has extra motivation heading into this bout which will carry him to another razor close decision win over Chandler.
Prediction: Will Brooks to defeat Michael Chandler via split decision.
Middleweight Bout: Melvin Manhoef (29-11-1, 1 NC) vs. Joe Schilling (1-3)
Contrary to what Melvin Manhoef’s and Joe Schilling’s records state, this bout is actually extremely competitive. Schilling is one of the best kickboxers in the world, and in my opinion, a better pure kickboxer than Manhoef. This fight won’t hit the mat so look for it to end quickly and violently. Even though Schilling is a better kickboxer, it doesn’t mean much (Alistair Overeem anyone?). Manhoef will land an epic fight ending punch at round the three minute mark of round one.
Prediction: Melvin Manhoef to defeat Joe Schilling via first round knockout.
Light-Heavyweight Bout: Muhammed Lawal (13-4, 1 NC) vs. Joe Vedepo (17-8)
Joe Vedepo is riding a nice three fight winning streak into his bout with Mo Lawal but in all honesty, he’s just here to get mopped up. After Lawal’s original opponent had to withdraw, Bellator turned to Vedepo, a natural middleweight, to jump up a weight class to face one of the promotion’s biggest stars. Look for Lawal to put Vedepo down with ease, either with ground and pound or a brutal overhand right.
Prediction: Muhammed Lawal to defeat Joe Vedepo via first round TKO.
Featherweight Bout: Mike Richman (17-5) vs. Nam Phan (20-13)
In the night’s main card opener, Nam Phan returns for his first bout in the United States since his UFC release as he takes on long-time Bellator veteran Mike Richman. Both men have had rough patches in their careers recently, but have returned to form in their last few bouts. Phan has picked up two straight finishes in Japan while Richman made his bantamweight debut with a first round knockout of Ed West. Richman has the power advantage between the two but Phan is far more technical. Look for Phan to use some great body shot combinations to wear down Richman en-route to a clear cut decision.
Prediction: Nam Phan to defeat Mike Richman via decision